La Paz : La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, looks like a moon crater. The city is 4km (2mi) above sea level, situated on a canyon floor which shows only a hint of greenery. Even oxygen is at a premium. Fortunately, the life and colour of La Paz is found in its people and culture, not its landscape. Find a good vantage point and simply watch the passing throng: women wearing bowler hats (worn on the side if they're single and on top if they're married) and voluminous skirts; white-shirted businessmen and politicians; machine-gun toting military; and beggars asleep under awnings, wrapped up like sarcophagi.

People congregate around the splendid Iglesia de San Francisco (construction began in 1549) with its arresting blend of mestizo and Spanish styles. Behind the church is the Witches' Market, where you can buy a bizarre assortment of goods including amulets, potions, delicately crafted silver jewellery, sweets and dried llama foetuses. La Paz also has a number of museums, including the Museo Costumbrista Juan de Vargas, which contains some superb dioramas of the city, and the Museo de Metales Preciosos Pre-Columbinos, which houses three impressively presented salons of pre-Conquest silver, gold and copper works. Standing guard over all this is Illimani (6460m/21,188ft), some 60km (37mi) to the east, which is arguably Bolivia's most famous peak.

Most of the budget accommodation and cheap eateries can be found in the area between Calle Manco Capac and the Prado. For entertainment, there are folk-music shows, bars (generally with incoherent patrons), several good discos and numerous cinemas. Because of the often chilly temperatures, warm clothing is essential throughout the year.

Around La Paz is the aptly named Valle de la Luna, which is an eroded hillside maze of miniature canyons and pinnacles 11km (7mi) east of the city; the spectacular Zongo Valley, 50km (31mi) north of the city, which has ice caves, turquoise lakes and the peak of Huayna Potosí and the historical ceremonial centre of Tiahuanaco, 70km (43mi) west of the city, which is Bolivia's most important archaeological site.

Lake Titicaca : Traditionally regarded as the highest navigable body of water in the world (though there are higher lakes in Chile and Peru), Lake Titicaca is immense: its dimensions measure 233km (145mi) from northwest to southeast and 97km (60mi) from northeast to southwest. The lake has an indented shoreline, 36 islands and exceptionally clear sapphire-blue water. Titicaca is revered by the Indians who live on its shores, and the Islas del Sol and Islas de la Luna, two islands in the lake, are the legendary sites of the Inca's creation myths. The main town in the area is Copacabana, which has a sparkling white Moorish-style cathedral and is host to the Fiesta de la Virgen de Candelaria. Isla Suriqui is world-renowned for its totora reed boats, Isla Kalahuta for its stone tombs and Isla Incas is reputed in legend to have an underground network of passageways linking it to the old Inca capital of Cuzco in Peru. Travellers should wear protective head gear around the lake because the thin air results in scorchingly high levels of ultraviolet radiation. Half of the lake lies within the borders of Peru; Puno is the principal settlement and main centre for excursions on the Peruvian shore of the lake.


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