La Paz is the administrative capital and seat of government of Bolivia. The city is set in a canyon created by the Choqueyapu River, a bowl-like depression surrounded by the mountains of the Altiplano. Lying about 4,000 m above sea level, La Paz is the world’s highest national capital.
City of La Paz
La Paz is the national administrative capital and seat of government of Bolivia. Located in the west-central part of the country, some 68 km (42 mi) southeast of Lake Titicaca, it is also the capital of the La Paz Department.
The city is set in a canyon created by the Choqueyapu River, a bowl-like depression surrounded by the high mountains of the Altiplano.
La Paz is the third-most populated city in Bolivia, with an estimated 816,000 residents as of 2020. Its metropolitan area, which is formed by La Paz, El Alto, Achocalla, Viacha and Mecapaca makes up the second most populous urban area in Bolivia.
Population growth since the latter part of the 20th century has expanded the city up the canyon walls to the edge of the Altiplano. La Paz was Bolivia’s most populous city until the turn of the 21st century, when it was overtaken by the city of Santa Cruz.
Lying between 3,250 and 4,100 m (10,650 and 13,250 ft) above sea level, La Paz is the world’s highest national capital. Overlooking the city is the towering triple-peaked Illimani, the highest mountain in the Cordillera Real (part of the Cordillera Oriental, a subrange of the Andes) of western Bolivia.
The city’s location, about 430 m (1,400 ft) below the surface of the Altiplano, affords some protection from the cold winds of the highlands. Due to its altitude, the city has an unusual subtropical highland climate, with rainy summers and dry winters.
Founded in 1548 as Nuestra Señora de La Paz (“Our Lady of Peace”) by the conquistador Captain Alonso de Mendoza on the site of an Inca village, the city was renamed La Paz de Ayacucho in 1825, in commemoration of the last decisive battle in the wars of independence.
The city was later moved to its present location in the valley of Chuquiago Marka. La Paz was under Spanish colonial rule as part of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata before Bolivia gained independence.
The seat of national government was established there in 1898 but Sucre remains Bolivia's constitutional capital, home to the country’s Supreme Court; La Paz is the seat of the executive and legislative branches.
As the seat of the government of Bolivia, La Paz is the site of the Palacio Quemado, the presidential palace. It is also the seat of the Bolivian legislature, the Plurinational Legislative Assembly and numerous government departments and agencies.
Home to the largest urban cable car network in the world, La Paz is also an important cultural center of Latin America. The city hosts several colonial-era landmarks, such as the San Francisco Church, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Plaza Murillo and Jaén Street.
The Plaza Murillo, on the northeastern side of the river, is the heart of the city and site of the huge modern cathedral and government and legislative palaces.
La Paz’s industries are chiefly food processing and the manufacture of textiles, clothing, shoes, and chemicals. The city is connected by railways and highways with seaports in Peru and Chile and also with Argentina and Brazil. Its international airport is located above the city on the plateau.