La Paz: Discovering the Moon and the Highest Cable Cars in the World

In the last weeks, we have come and gone from La Paz, our first major city in Bolivia.
It was mostly an event for paperwork. When we went entered the country we were only granted a 30-day Visa. This is fairly typical, and we needed to apply for an extension in the capital city.

We also had to visit the American Embassy, because my passport is reaching the end of its life. In order to enter Argentina at the end of the summer, I need to show more than 6-months left of validity.

It was a mix of good news and bad news. At the Amerian Embassy, we learned that my new passport will take 20 days to issue. Good news: we can pick up it later in a different city! No hassle at all, an easy peasy transition to get my new passport.

Then, we went to Bolivia Migration. We asked for an extended Visa to allow us to tour the country extensively and write about tourism. Well, the guy with the stamper decided that meant that I am working in Bolivia…not a tourist. Apparently, that is a bad thing. He denied us our ambition and actually shortened our request. We were expecting at least 90 days in Bolivia…we only got 60. And the clock is already ticking from the day of our entry.

So, now we have to cram the entire country into the remaining 6 weeks. And…hope that in the next major city, we have better luck. Maybe, just maybe, the next person with a stamper will appreciate our incentive to see more of Bolivia. Perhaps we will get a little more time here.

But, for now…we are off to start exploring! We have left La Paz now, but before doing so we stopped to see one of the only tourist attractions in the city.

If you have been the Badlands in the USA… you might have seen this photo and thought that we had come for a visit to South Dakota.

The scenery is quite similar but on a much smaller scale. The interesting part is that the entire city of La Paz seems to be have been built on this terrain. You can see the pillars and canyons tucked into random corners of the city, between skyscrapers and neighborhoods.

This small remaining section is on the far outskirts of town, although you can see the new neighborhoods slowly but surely approaching.

The park is known as the Valley of the Moon. It is surprisingly hot up here, above the chilly city of La Paz.

While in La Paz, we took several trips across the city, on a fun cable car ride. It is the highest cable car system in the world, dangling at 13,000 feet above sea level. (La Paz, Bolivia is also the highest administrative city in the world)

It is fairly new system and has only been running for a few years. It is actively expanding, and will likely be the most extensive cable car network in the world, one day.

Currently, it has 7 lines that run over 10 Km. But, they are just getting started. 4 more lines are expected to go up this year.
The complex web is coordinated by colors. Different colors take people to different neighborhood and areas of the expansive city.

What I love most about this is that it was not created as a tourist attraction. In fact, it is largely an effort of the city to cut back on pollution AND to cut the costs of public transport for the local people.

It is essentially a subway in the sky. Right now each color section costs about 30 cents to ride and10 minutes to transverse. This about 1/10th the cost of a taxi during a commute that would take approximately an hour on the ground in high traffic times.

The different routes connect at central stations, allowing riders to continue across the city for as long an hour in the cable car. Locals and frequent travelers are also offered a pass that allows passengers to board at an additional discount.

The cable cars run on zero emissions, operating with electricity mostly powered by solar energy.

The ride is clean, quiet, smooth, and comfortable. It also offers outstanding views of the city the surrounding mountains and unique landscapes like the Valley of the Moon, the Devil’s Molar, The Valley of the Souls, and Palca Canyon.

It is especially nice in the evening when the sun sets and all the lights of the city sparkle across the valley.

Of course, it was a favorite activity of the kids. They could ride along in the sky, all day long. 

7 Replies to “La Paz: Discovering the Moon and the Highest Cable Cars in the World”

  1. We decided not to go to La Paz at all not being a fan of big cities, but now I wish we had just to ride the cable cars!
    Too bad about the visas. Don’t tell the next guy that you’re writing, just say you want to explore his wonderful country! Fabulous photos, esp the one of the kids in the cable car.

    1. We probably would have skipped La Paz also, but only stopped because we had to pass through on our route. It was the ideal place for me to do the passport paperwork. We did end up getting 30 more days added to our Visa recently in Santa Cruz. In the past, we have been pleasantly surprised by some big cities (like Cusco and Arequipa), but have flat out hated others. We are trying to stop assuming that we hate every city, to be more versatile travelers.

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