As described in the first entry of this journal, if choosing to make a comprehensive tour of modern Bolivia, then the Trident Approach is recommended. If picking it, then advancing from Cochabamba - the epicenter - to the northwest is the way to explore the northern Bolivian Andean High Plateau, Oruro and La Paz are the main destinations along this path.
Carnival is the main - and some say the only - attraction in Oruro. UNESCO recognized it as a Human Heritage event and since then the city is called the Folkloric Capital of Bolivia. La Diablada - (The Devilish) as the event is usually called - takes place on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday and is a huge parade of devils performed by dancers in elaborate masks and customs, which attracts crowds from the whole country.
Plaza 10 de Febrero is the town's focal point. It features less important buildings that its counterparts in La Paz or Sucre, but that creates a good opportunity for enjoying the stylish Spaniard plaza itself. Beyond that and the fact nowadays Oruro is the northernmost stop of the Altiplano railway, there is one more site worth visiting: Socavon. If the traveler has time to see only one attraction in Bolivia, then the Socavon should be it. In this small enclave, the visitor can get a pretty good view of the Bolivian society: an extraordinary church, a mine turned into a museum, a museum of local sacred art, a monument to Bolivian miners and comprehensive views of the downtown area. All in one; reviewing this demands an entire journal.
Roughly halfway between Potosi and La Paz, and halfway between Cochabamba and La Paz, Oruro is too close to be connected to them with flights. Buses and cars make the way from La Paz in roughly three hours; a trip by bus costs less than three dollars. The road to La Paz is fully paved but narrow and features the highest number of fatal accidents in Bolivia; driving it at night is not recommended.
La Paz is one of the few world cities you won't forget your first view of it; like Rio de Janeiro, Venice and Hong Kong, it was built on a unique environment. This effect is especially true if you arrive to the city by bus from the south (like from Oruro); then, after passing its twin city, El Alto, which sits flat on the plateau, the land breaks down and you will see a city occupying a crater-like space. That combined with the lack of oxygen at that extreme altitude, you would experience a perfect illusion of having landed on another planet. After recovering your breath you will take a second look and discover that the crater is open in one side and just there, filling the whole of that opening is Mount Illimani. You will fail not to fall in love with it at first sight; its snow-covered trinity of peaks is the permanent stage of that huge amphitheatre called La Paz. Dusk or dawn, rain, sun or clouds, the mountain always provides an ever-changing focal point of beauty.
The city's last sight - if departing by air - is not less dramatic. El Alto International Airport is on the plateau's edge; thus, seconds after the take off, the ground drops below the airplane and La Paz appears on the tortuous slopes; not unlike Lukla in Nepal. The view is especially beautiful if leaving at night, when the city lights create a yellow on black topographical map of the area.
Mallasa - the lowest borough of the city - is 3100 meters above the sea level, while the upper part of the city touches the plateau at 4020m. Downtown La Paz is around 3600m. The altitude span is immense and unmatched by any other city on the globe, causing some of the odd effects described in Seasons. Kathmandu - at the Everest feet - is much lower, and Lhasa on the Tibetan plateau is about the height of downtown La Paz but below its upper neighborhoods. Care should be taken until the body acclimatizes.
In the context of the Trident Approach presented in this journal, La Paz is the last point in the visit. Even if not including Inca related sites (see next entry) there is plenty to see and do here. I reviewed the city in many other journals, - including Calacoto, Apaña and other less common destinations - so I won’t repeat myself here. Yet, it is worth to remark possible tours to the immediate vicinity – depending on the time available. Those could include the Mount Illimani area, El Alto, Chacaltaya and Huayna Potosi and if having more time, venturing also a bit into the Bolivian Amazonian Basin: Coroico and the Death Road and Sorata provide unforgettable views of tropic rainforest blending with snowed mountains in perfect – though unusual – harmony. Finally, reaching the area and not visiting the marvelous Titicaca Lake and the famous town next to it – Copacabana – would be almost unforgivable.