La Paz Stories and Tips

Anti-Killi Killi

Mount Mururata Photo, La Paz, Bolivia

In Killi Killi I presented what probably is the best viewpoint in La Paz. Yet, the city is located on a very broken terrain; meaning there is no single point allowing seeing everything. Killi Killi is gorgeous but it provides a wrong impression of the city and its surroundings. From there, Mount Illimani looks as an isolated mountain. The city looks as constructed in a closed amphitheatre facing the mountain. The Andean High Plateau is reduced into a thin line separating ground from skies. Fabulous, but deceiving.

Thus the best is complementing the visit beginning this journal with another one to the Andean High Plateau rim. The rim is long and offers several access points (almost endless if using the ubiquitous stairs along the cliffs). The upper end of the La Paz - El Alto Highway is the easiest to reach and offers superb views. This fifteen kilometers long road is the only highway in Bolivia. It offers just two lanes in each direction, is of low quality and local drivers use it in dangerous ways; yet, the views are distracting enough to forget the dangers. To reach its top, take any minivan from downtown La Paz marked "La Ceja" ("The Eyelid," the local name to a large chunk of missing rim, which looks like an eyelid built into the rim) and leave it just after the toll gate at the end of the highway. If boarding from the General Cemetery area, the highway would be bypassed in favor of the Kollasuyo Avenue. Yet, the highway would eventually appear at the right side of the vehicle. Leave it after the toll gate is spotted or at the "multifuncional" building (just say the name, the car would stop). Prices vary with our and route; don’t be surprised to pay different fees on the way up and down (yet, they shouldn’t exceed 2.5 BOB). Timing the visit is crucial. Avoid dark hours, avoid rush hours and crowds. Avoid friendly locals; honest Bolivians would never engage an obvious foreigner. Stay close to the minivans and buses departure point and be ready to board a vehicle and leave on short notice.

Once there, approach the rim and take a look on one of the most amazing city views. A walking bridge above the highway allows a few additional angles. However tempting, don’t walk along the rim and do not linger in the area. This is one of the most dangerous spots in a very dangerous country.

If arriving after visiting Killi Killi, then the first thing the visitor would notice is the disappearance of the plateau rim. Standing on it, some parts can be obliquely appreciated, but here the rim slopes steal the show. The highway zigzags can be appreciated along the slopes, providing a scale in which to measure this unearthly view. The vertical range of La Paz is impressive. Its formal upper limit is along the now unused railway on the plateau, which is roughly 4020m above the sea level (everything beyond this point was transformed in the 1980s into El Alto). The lower neighborhoods are more than 800m below them. From the rim, almost all the way down is visible.

The odd sight of endless buildings pouring from the plateau into the downtown area – a solid river of red bricks – is captivating. In its dimensions and altitude is a unique sight in the world. Killi Killi can be seen from here. The large forest that could be appreciated from the last is practically invisible from here; but new mountains can be enjoyed.

The flat Mururata snowed summit tastefully balances Mount Illimani’s spikiness. Then, the Chacaltaya is worryingly close to the viewer. Once the world’s highest ski resorts, now it is almost without snow. Yet, it is the easiest to climb 5400m peak in the world; with an access paved route up to 5300m. Next to it is the striking Huayna Potosi, similar to the Ama Dablam in Nepal, which many consider the most beautiful mountain in the world. This was the point of this complementary visit. From here, the southern side of the Cordillera Real – a subrange of the Andes – becomes visible, putting the visit to Killi Killi into a wider context.

Those willing to experience another awesome angle are encouraged to visit the Mount Illimani slopes, described in that journal.

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