We weren’t sure what to expect of La Paz, as we heard various things about it – good and bad. But we spent a few days there, and it’s an impressive city. It’s about 3600 m above sea level and is set in a narrow valley, with the city climbing the steep walls. Very impressive to look at, but a nightmare to walk around – steep hills and a lack of air at high altitude is exhausting!!!
We also checked out the San Pedro prison made famous by the book “Marching Powder”. Unfortuantely, they don’t run the prison tours anymore as they got too dangerous, but it’s right in the centre of the city, so we went for a look from the outside. It’s a mental place – we saw lots of little kids coming out all dressed up ready for school. Crazy!! If you haven’t read the book, definitely read it before heading to Bolivia.
After leaving La Paz, we headed for Copacabana, a little town on the edge of Lake Titicaca – the largest high altitude lake in the world, at 3800m. The view of La Paz as the bus headed out was stunning, crazy Bolivians building their Capitol in a steep valley!
Copacabana is so pretty! We found a great hostel with a roof terrace with amazing views of the lake. On our second day there, we decided to climb up the hill overlooking the town. Apparently it’s a very religious place and people from all over Bolivia come to climb it. Half way up, puffing and panting because of the steepness and the altitude, we realised it was Sunday – which explained why it was really busy! At the top the view was amazing, you could even see the Isla del Sol. There were all sorts of statues up there, and people were burning incense and leaving offerings and praying.
The next day we caught a boat out to the Isla del Sol, an island out in the lake that was very important in Inca times. Once out there, we climbed up a hill to check out some ruins and then started the 3 hour hike across the island. The views were amazing, but walking at 4000m was a challenge – every slight uphill left us puffing – all good practice for the Inca Trail! At the other side of the island we reached a little town with very steep steps down the side of the hill to where all the boats stopped – these were also built by the Incas. It was pretty crazy walking around the town and seeing these really old men and women carrying huge bundles and building materials up the steep steep steps on their backs.