La Paz, Bolivia

Photo: Stannum Boutique Hotel
Photo: Stannum Boutique Hotel

The highest capital city in the world. The highest airport in the world. The highest soccer stadium in the world. Add “the highest” to almost any phrase, and you’re bound to end up in the same place: La Paz, Bolivia.

This landlocked South American country doesn’t receive as many visitors as some of its border neighbors, like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. But those who make the journey are rewarded for their effort with raw natural beauty and traditional customs. Minus the parade of tourists. Visit Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world and the largest on the continent. Explore the pre-Incan Tiwanaku ruins. Drive the dangerous North Yungas Road–also known as Death Road–to the Amazon rainforest. Or head into the Andes. You used to be able to ski on the Chacaltaya glacier, but it melted. Hiking is the popular activity now.

Before you start exploring the diverse countryside, you first need to acclimate yourself in La Paz. Since “the highest” is the most common description, altitude sickness is a real concern. Anything from headaches to nausea to nose bleeds can quickly dampen a well-planned trip. While you may be staying in cozy inns and remote lodges during the rest of your visit, you’d rather stay in a modern hotel while you adjust and wander the tree-lined El Prado. Even in Bolivia’s capital though, modern used to be difficult.

Photo: Stannum Boutique Hotel
Photo: Stannum Boutique Hotel

Until the Stannum Boutique Hotel opened. Centrally located near Plaza Murillo and the Cathedral, La Paz’s first boutique hotel has oxygen tanks–again, the altitude–rainfall showers, and iPod docks. The staff goes out of their way to make you feel right at home. But you’ll appreciate the down bedding and the espresso machine later. You just saw the view from your room. You’re 12 floors up. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out over the city. The clear blue sky looks like water. Mount Illimani is in the distance. Always capped with snow, the triple peaks stand guard over the city. A reddish glow settles around the mountains as the sun starts to set.

Spend the next few days wandering the street markets–you can buy almost anything here–photographing the Colonial Spanish architecture, and drinking mate de coca. The light-headed feeling slowly starts to dissipate. Until you take in the view from your window again. And you’re breathless.

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