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La Paz

A mad carnival of jostling pedestrians, honking, diesel-spewing minivans, street marches, and cavalcades of vendors, La Paz surrounds you: you'll love it, you'll hate it, but you can't ignore it. The city seems to reinvent itself at every turn – a jaw-dropping subway in the sky brings you from the heights of El Alto to the depths of Zona Sur in the blink of an eye. Standing hotels are remodeled at a manic pace, and new boutique hotels are springing up like rows of altiplano corn.

Coming from the Bolivian countryside, you’ll be struck by the gritty city reality. It’s the urban jungle, baby: diesel, dust, and detritus; blinding altiplano sun, cold cavernous corners of Dickensian darkness. Sharp-suited businessmen flank machine-gun-toting bank guards and balaclava-camouflaged shoeshine boys. Lung-busting inclines terminate in peaceful plazas. A maze of contradictions, where cobblestones hit concrete, and Gothic spires vie with glassine hotels, La Paz amazes and appalls all who enter.

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