La Paz is a bustling city full of local life, spread out in a canyon and overlooked by the Illimani mountain.
Sat within a giant canyon and overlooked by the stunning Illimani volcano, La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia, and as such is comfortably the highest capital anywhere in the world. The altitude though is not the only thing here that will have you catching your breath. The streets of La Paz buzz with activity, whilst buses painted every colour of the rainbow chug back and forth as somewhere overhead cable cars glide silently over the city. La Paz is a complicated and far from picture-perfect city, but amid the seeming chaos though there is real beauty in the architecture and, after you get oriented, there is a disarming charm which belies La Paz's somewhat unfair reputation.
Sucre is Bolivia's prettiest city, defined by shady plazas, quiet side-streets and the pristine whitewashed facades of its elegant buildings. In contrast to fast-paced La Paz, Sucre's laid-back atmosphere invites you to linger at cafes and indulge in its famed chocolate or ice cream. From here you can visit the extraordinary limestone dinosaur wall at Cal Orcko, experience the colourful Tarabuco textile market or take a day trip to historic Potosí.
The city of Potosí is one of the most important in Bolivia, as it bares the scars of the most prosperous but traumatic period of the country's history. It is here, or more specifically in Cerro Rico which overlooks the city, that the Spanish conquistadors found sudden wealth upon discovering the silver deposits hidden inside the mountain. What followed was a period of boom, in which the city was decorated with ornate buildings and churches filled with gold, however there was a human price to be paid as millions lost their lives, thanks to the unimaginable conditions experienced within the infamous mines. Conditions have improved dramtically, but mining is still a perilous business and a trip to Potosí is a humbling and moving experience.
Santa Cruz, situated close to tropical rainforest back down at low altitude, is surrounded by wonderful national parks and close to the famous Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos. It is one of Latin America's fastest growing cities and mixes busy markets and lively bars with quiet squares and interesting colonial architecture.
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