Perched on the edge of the altiplano, La Paz overlooks a landscape of great—if stark—beauty. If you fly into Aeropuerto Internacional El Alto, the plateau breaks without warning and reveals the deep, jagged valley that cradles the town. At dusk, as the sun sets on the bare flatlands that surround La Paz, a reddish glow envelops the city's greatest landmark: the towering, snow-capped peaks of Illimani.
The city is nestled in a bowl-shape valley and ranges in altitude from 10,168 to 13,450 feet above sea level. The altitude might make things difficult at first, but it also ensures that La Paz is free of heat and humidity, and devoid of mosquitoes and other pesky insects.
Nearly half of La Paz's 1.3 million residents and most of its indigenous inhabitants live in poorly constructed adobe and brick homes on a barren plateau called El Alto, which has grown so much it is now a separate city with 800,00 residents. Downtown La Paz is more cosmopolitan, and the south of the city, the Zona Sur, is extremely European in flavour.