One of the most stunning and unique neighborhoods in the world is the vibrant barrio of Chualluma in La Paz, Bolivia. If you are reading this, you have probably already heard of Chualluma or have seen this colorful neighborhood grace your Instagram feed. It is eye-catching, without a doubt. However, beyond its beautiful and colorful facade, Chualluma is much more. It is a story of revitalization, rebirth, and the Bolivian spirit.
The project to splash Chualluma with color lasted between March and July of 2019, making it one of Bolivia’s hottest and newest attractions. Overseeing the project was Knorke Leaf, who served as the creative director, concept designer, as well as the urban artist who painted it. The fact that Ms. Knorke Leaf is a Bolivian herself adds a huge amount of significance and meaning to the incredible project.
Like Comuna 13 in Medellin or Maboneng in Johannesburg, Chualluma transformed a struggling neighborhood into a beautiful one that tells the story of its people. La Paz, despite being Bolivia’s most modern and cosmopolitan city, would be very little without the impact and influence of the indigenous people that have lived and continue to live within the confines of the sprawling metropolis. With the collaboration taking place between residents of the neighborhood and professional urban artists, Chualluma is truly a project for the people. It is an initiative that took care in every detail to make sure that the residents would be satisfied and proud of the revitalization was taking place.
How To Get To Chualluma
So how exactly can you visit this massive urban masterpiece? Other than taking a taxi directly to Chualluma, there isn’t much of a direct, easy way to get there from downtown La Paz. Chualluma is situated in between two cable car stations along the red line. However, neither stop makes it really easily accessible. Although some might not recommend it, citing it as unsafe to walk around certain parts of La Paz, here is what I did.
Since I needed to book a bus ticket to Sucre, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I took a taxi to the bus terminal, which is only about a 5-minute walk from the start of the red cable car station, Estacion Central. From most popular hostels downtown, like Wild Rover, Loki, or Adventure Brew, the Estacion Central is about a 10-15 minute walk.
From the Estacion Central, buy a ticket for 3 Bolivianos ($.40) and take it all the way up to 16 de Julio, the terminal station in El Alto. Another option is to take it to the second stop just past the cemetery and then either hike up a monstrous amount of stairs or ask a taxi driver to take you to where the murals begin. Since I was feeling a bit adventurous, I decided to take the cable car to El Alto. Most locals will tell you that El Alto is not a safe place for tourists, but you won’t be spending too much time here.
From station 16 de Julio, exit to your right and walk a couple of blocks until you see a small, caged playground. Turn right and walk down the stairs and onto the blue bridge where you will see an unbelievable view of La Paz. Cross the bridge, walk down and across the highway, find the stairs, and begin your descent. It will definitely help if you’ve got Google Maps or Maps.Me or any other offline map that you can use in case you get lost. Follow the stairs down until you are on the road that leads straight to Chualluma. Follow the road and wham, bam, you’re welcome, fam. You’ve made it to Chualluma.
The way down from El Alto is definitely not one that is frequented by tourists. If you don’t feel comfortable walking through local alleyways and streets alone, then I’d recommend hopping off station Cementerio and taking a taxi. Although I’m certain Chualluma will become very popular among tourists in the near future, for now, you won’t encounter too many other people there.
Is Chualluma Safe To Visit?
I was told by my hostel receptionist that Chualluma isn’t the safest neighborhood. However, I decided to go anyway and find out for myself. I felt no less safe in Chualluma than I did anywhere else in La Paz. I was the only foreigner around, which might cause some people to be uneasy. In fact, I was pretty much the only person around.
The neighborhood was very quiet and I don’t think they’ve quite caught on to the fact that they will soon be one of Bolivia’s most popular tourist attractions. It was a very similar experience to when I found myself as the only traveler roaming around in Comuna 13 in Colombia. These days, Comuna 13 is a massive tourist attraction, and it is hard to imagine anything different happening to Chualluma.
If you don’t want to risk wandering around Chualluma for fear of anything happening, you can still see Chualluma from the skies. The red cable car will give you an amazing aerial view of Chualluma if you take it all the way up to the terminal station in El Alto.
How Much Time Do You Need To See Chualluma?
I spent about two hours there, wandering at a slow pace and giving myself a generous amount of self-timer tripod photo opportunities. Come on Eli, you’re not that photogenic.
I’d say you could wander through the neighborhood in about an hour if you were just strolling right through. Trust me, though. You are going to want to stop for photos. The art here is absolutely stunning. With the cable cars overhead and the mountains in the background, everything is photo-worthy. Give it about three hours total, including the time it takes to get there and back.
Highlights Of Chualluma
Although the entire neighborhood is splashed with sharp swathes of color, there are also many large murals that adorn the walls. If you have wandered through La Paz downtown, you will no doubt recognize the uniquely artistic style of Knorke Leaf everywhere you look.
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If you have a chance to visit Chualluma, do not hesitate. This is one of the most marvelous neighborhoods that the world has to offer.
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