El Alto International Airport is located 13 kilometres from La Paz, a city in the South American country of Bolivia. It is mainly settled in the city of El Alto, and has served since the first half of the 20th century. It was modernised in the late 1960s, when its facilities underwent facelift.
El Alto International Airport was previously a primary hub to former Lloyd Aereo Boliviano, Bolivia's flag carrier, until it ceased operations in 2007. Transporte Aereo Militar took over the former's hub in the airport, with the airport also serving as a focus city for Boliviana de Aviacion. From the year 1997, the airport was managed by TBI plc which owned concessions of the three biggest airports in the country: the El Alto, the Viru Viru International, and the Jorge Wilstermann International.
Today's El Alto International Airport features an elevation of 13,325 feet above mean sea level, placing it as the highest airport in the world. This prompted a unique feature to the airport where in several aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing take advantage; airlines are allowed to test high-altitude and cold weather flights here. Modern aircraft such as the A350 and the 787 have visited El Alto to perform flight tests for their certification processes.
Further, the airport has two runways: one Asphalt runway that measures 13,123 feet long, and another 6,725-feet runway that has a grass surface. Passenger statistics hit 833,000 in the year 2006, increasing steadily in the years that came. It also features several commercial shops, including Bolivian handicrafts stores, bookstores, and duty-free shops. There are also restaurants and cafes in the main lobby and in both domestic and international departure areas.
What to see & do
Mi Teleferico – Rated as the number one tourism destination and growing transport mode in La Paz. The Mi Teleferico is an aerial cable car urban transit system that is opened in 2014, with three lines in operation and six more in planning stage. The system was planned in order to address a number of problems in the area, including a precarious public system that tends to be overcrowded, chaotic traffic, and a growing demand for gasoline and diesel, which are currently subsidised by the state.
Death Road – The Death Road, also known as the North Yungas Road, is a 69-kilometre stretch of road from La Paz to Coroico, 56 kilometres north-east of La Paz in the Yungas region of Bolivia. It is legendary for its extreme danger, and is subsequently called as the “world's most dangerous road” in 1995 as named by the Inter-American Development Bank. The road includes cross markings on many of the spots where vehicles have fallen. Although many travellers avoid passing through the route, some tourists, including mountain biking enthusiasts have deemed the road a favourite tourism destination especially for downhill biking, primarily due to its 64-kilometre stretch of continuous downhill riding. Sights through the road are breathtaking as well, that many tour operators cater to the activity – providing information, guides, transport, and equipment.
Calle Jaen – One of the few places in the city with preserved colonial buildings, Calle Jaen is one of the picturesque areas in La Paz, housing several interesting museums and buildings that are reminiscent of the olden days.
How to get around within La Paz
There are several types of transport in the area, mainly comprised of buses and mini buses, trufis, taxis, rental cars, and bicycles. Walking is also suggested, especially if you are lost – just walk to the downtown area to hail a cab and find your way back.
How to get there
El Alto International Airport is one of the most important airports in the country. Airlines that fly to the airport include Aerocon, Amaszonas, American Airlines, Avianca, Avianca Ecuador, Boliviana de Aviacion, EcoJet, LAN, LAN Peru, Peruvian Airlines, Sky Airline, and TAM.
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