Mi Teleférico: La Paz’s brilliant urban cable car network
The world’s highest and longest urban gondola system has transformed the way people commute in Bolivia’s capital.
At 11,913 feet, La Paz is the world’s highest capital city. Clinging to the sides of a natural depression in the Andean escarpment, it really is one of the most incredible cities on earth. Endless shanties and skyscrapers hang from ochre cliffs and canyons, with snow-capped Illimani an ever-present backdrop.
But its dramatic location, coupled with decades of poor urban planning, mean that it’s also a commuter’s nightmare. When I lived there I took hour-long walks in the thin altiplano air to avoid having to use city’s the overcrowded and sluggish buses, minibuses and trufis (more about the these some other time!).
That’s all changed with the introduction of Mi Teleférico, a network of fast, silent cable cars that criss-crosses the city and connects La Paz with El Alto – a massive satellite city that’s more than 1,500 feet higher than La Paz! Since the system opened its first three lines in 2014, it has given over 70,000 rides every day, and plans are already underway to establish a further eight lines. The cabins each seat ten people and feature free wi-fi powered by solar energy.
The system, which slashes travel times between La Paz and El Alto, saved Bolivians 652 million minutes in 2015 alone. It’s also prevented more than 8,000 tons of carbon emissions and generated over 6,000 jobs. Plus, there have been only two (minor) incidents since the system was opened – quite something when compared to the 10,000 motor vehicle accidents which take place in La Paz every year.
Usually Bolivia lags several decades behind the rest of the world, but in this case they’re light years ahead of us. Why not come and experience the ride of a lifetime for yourself? It'll only cost you 40 cents...