My first week in La Paz has left me breathless. Quite literally. At nearly 12,000 feet (3600 m), La Paz is the highest capital in the world. The lower-altitude Sucre remains the official capital, but La Paz is the de facto power center in the country housing both the executive and legislative branches of government.
The magnificence of the setting is striking: the towering Andean peaks of the Cordillera Real to the east, crowned by Mount Illimani which soars to over 22,000 feet (6465 m). The dense city center flows downwards through the canon along the mostly covered Choqueyapu River.
The wealth of the residents increases as altitude decreases, from the ever-expanding shantytowns of El Alto on the high altiplano rim and down through the dangling Aymara neighborhoods perched precariously on the steep slopes.
Below is El Centro a.k.a. la hoyada (the hole), the crowded heart of the city and home to the government buildings and the scant colonial architecture that remains after decades of rapid change resulting from mass migration from rural areas.
The city sinks further to the upscale neighborhoods of Miraflores and Sopocachi, home to expensive apartments and a wealth of chic bars and restaurants.
Finally, La Paz comes to rest in the newly-minted Zona Sur neighborhood where most of the expats, diplomats and rich paceños live in gated communities.
Standing in the bowl of La Paz at the city center at sunset, millions of lights from the buildings and homes sprawl in every direction. At night the city glimmers and shines with all the energy of a modern metropolis.
This is my new home for the moment and in my first week I started to settle into the rhythms of my new world.
Below are ten morsels of my first week in La Paz.