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Sightseeing in La Paz - Indian Chief Travel
BOLIVIA  |  La Paz, Bolivia Travel Guide
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Sightseeing in La Paz

City Sights

Vesty Pakos Zoo, just past Valle de la Luna, is the world’s highest zoo. It houses 63 species that include snakes, birds, llamas, lions and even a jaguar. The zoo sits at 10,740 ft/3,265 m in an attractive landscape. The animals have spacious quarters and the care given them is fair. However, as with many zoos, money is scarce. The 50¢ admission hardly covers the birdseed needed for one parrot for one day. The zoo is open from 10 am to 6 pm daily. To get there, take a bus from Plaza Estudiantes to Zoologia. At time of writing, the veterinarians affiliated with the zoo were trying to get an “adopt the animal” program going so outside interests could help improve the facilities and the life of the animals.

Historical Churches

Most churches are open all day and visitors are welcome as long as they don’t disturb services. There is no charge for this, unlike Peru where one must pay to visit historical churches.

San Francisco, on the plaza of the same name, was the inspiration of Francisco de Los Angeles. Construction was completed in 1549. The original building was of mud brick, but it crumbled under a heavy snow fall. The replacement was built between 1743 and 1753 of stone from the quarry in Viacha. The outside of the church is designed in mestizo-baroque that includes mythological creatures, pumas, fruits, birds and flowers that are integrated with ornate European design. Over the entrance is a carving of San Francisco himself, welcoming the peasants to prayer. The interior is ornate and has a gold altar, numerous paintings and richly dressed statues.

At the top end of the plaza is a stone carving known as Pucara, where meetings (usually political) are held and hundreds of people gather. The carving represents the melding of all Bolivian cultures.

Santo Domingo on Calle Ingavi Yanacocha was completed in 1760 and, like San Francisco, is a mestizo-baroque design. By 1760 the design was nearing the end of its popularity. San Pedro Church on Plaza Sucre, built in 1790, has a façade that shows the end of the baroque period and the beginning of the neoclassic style.

For examples of neo-gothic architecture, visit the San Calixton church on Calle Pichincha near Avenida Jaen. It was built in 1882. La Recoleta, on Avenida America between Calle Pando and Plaza Alonzo de Mendoza, was finished in 1894 and is also an example of neo-gothic architecture.

The Nuestra Señora de La Paz Cathedral on Plaza Murillo was started in 1831 and completed in 1925. It sits next to the palace that is guarded by men in antique red uniforms. The cathedral is an imposing structure known mostly for its stained glass windows. Set on a hill, its entrance on Calle Potosi is 39 ft/12 m lower than the main entrance on the square. The interior features Corinthian columns at the entrances and five naves in all.

Architecture

Templete Semisubterraneo is across from the stadium at the end of Avenida Bolívar. This is a reproduction of the temple at Tihuanaco. At one time the main statue was the original, but that was moved to the Archeological Museum and replaced with a reproduction

The Presidential Palace on Plaza Murillo is also called Palacio Quemado (Burnt Palace) because of the many fires the building has endured in the past. Most were set in rebellion against the presiding government. The Spanish, in 1810, hanged Don Pedro Murillo for treason in the square now bearing his name. Then, in 1946, a mob of angry women, mostly widows, grabbed President Gualberto Villarroel and hanged him from a lamppost in the same square. He was held responsible for the deaths of their husbands. There is a statue of Villarroel in the square commemorating his life, rather than his death. Outside, the guards dressed in colorful uniforms have a difficult time not smiling when you take a photo. They have a ceremony every day at dusk to remove the flags from the flagpoles across the street. 

Last updated November 20, 2007
Posted in   Bolivia  |  La Paz
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