From the Most Dangerous Road in the World to a Frankly Scary Lunch: La Paz Never Bores
How many places have you been to which scared you a little? To be fair, getting scared on your travels isn’t something which appeals to everyone.
However, if you want to add a frisson of excitement to your next trip then I can definitely recommend La Paz in Bolivia for the following reasons.
An Awe Inspiring Arrival
Even the arrival to the city of La Paz tends to be pretty memorable. If you arrive by plane then you might get lucky and get a close up view of the snowy peaks of Illimani Mountain as your pass it. You then see the weird Lego-like houses in the giant, improvised and impoverished city of El Alto from up high. After you land, a taxi or bus takes you to the edge of the bowl in which La Paz sits and then down. You will be treated to the dizzying sight of the city appearing below you and in front of you from out of nowhere. It is an awe inspiring sight and will probably make you feel very far from home and just a little bit scared. Of course, the arrival also coincides with the onset of altitude sickness for many travellers.
The Dangerous Road
A lot of the travellers who spend time in La Paz end up taking part in adventurous sports. The area around the witches market is filled with lots of travel agencies, so you won’t have too much trouble finding a trip to go on. The one which stands out for many people is the so-called Most Dangerous Road in the World. This is the Yungas Road, which you can cycle down as far as the town of Coroico. The good news (or bad news) is that it is now no longer so widely used, as a newer road was built to cover the same route. This means that you stand less chance of being pushed onto the edge of a scary drop by a giant truck or getting caught in slow moving traffic. However, you can still get a giddy feeling of excitement as you plunge down 1,200 metres in altitude in a matter of hours. Be sure to check the brakes on your hired bike before you set off. It can be a fun outing but the sad white crosses which line the edge of the road next to terrifying plunges ensure that you won’t take it too lightly. Some people will tell you that hundreds of people die every year on this road, which might or might not be true. You don’t need to worry about pedalling back up, as most trips involve some time in Coroico and then a bus trip back to La Paz.
The Dangerous Food
I need to start off by saying that you can eat incredibly well for very little money in La Paz. The main thoroughfare here is called El Prado. The most central stretch has some classy restaurants where you can eat a great 3 or 4 course lunch for 2 or 3 US dollars in a relaxed environment. If this is too rich for your taste or you want to live life on the edge then you don’t need to travel too far to find little eateries which serve a fixed lunch for as little as 1 dollar. This is a fantastic way to eat with local workers, as the more expensive restaurants are generally frequented by tourists and well-off locals. However, eating in a cut price restaurant like this means running the risks of a stinker of a meal or a mystery meat soup which you don’t dare touch. I once got served a soup which had what I think was the meat of a giant rodent in it. Ten minutes after being served it I was comfortably sitting in a far more expensive establishment in El Prado. Being stuck in your bed in La Paz with gut rot as well as altitude sickness would not be a great thing to happen. It is probably best to steer clear of the scary restaurants, as well as the tiny fast food kiosks which pop up all over the place in the evening.