Bolivian City of El Alto is a Colorful Oasis

Photo by Grullab/Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve never heard of the Bolivian city of El Alto before, don’t despair. It has only started gaining traction with tourists and architecture lovers in the past few years after architect Freddy Mamani started transforming it into a vibrant oasis.

Before Mamani started bringing some colors to the streets of El Alto, its only claim to fame was the fact it’s one of the highest major cities in the world—at an average elevation of 4,000 meters. Its streets were mostly busy and bleak before Mamani came into the picture and decided to decorate its streets with buildings in the Neo-Andean architectural style.

Mamani’s buildings are inspired by the colors and forms of indigenous folklore. They’re known by the nickname “Cholet” and usually consist of three floors—the first is dedicated to commercial activities, the second serves as the party hall, while the third is residential.

Over the course of almost two decades, Mamani built over 70 buildings all across El Alto. They’re instantly recognizable thanks to their colorful façades, asymmetrical paneling, and quirky shapes, and they’ve been credited for boosting economic growth and the tourism industry in this city.