Its metropolitan area, which is formed by La Paz, El Alto and Viacha, makes up the most populous urban area in Bolivia.
The city, located in west-central Bolivia 68 km (42 mi) southeast of Lake Titicaca, is set in a canyon created by the Choqueyapu River. It is located in a bowl-like depression surrounded by the high mountains of the Altiplano.
La Paz was founded on October 20, 1548 by the Spanish conquistador Captain Alonso de Mendoza at the site of the Inca settlement of Laja as a connecting point between the commercial routes that led from Potosí and Oruro to Lima; the full name of the city was originally Nuestra Señora de La Paz (meaning Our Lady of Peace) in commemoration of the restoration of peace following the insurrection of Gonzalo Pizarro and fellow conquistadors against the first viceroy of Peru. The city was later moved to its present location in the valley of Chuquiago Marka. La Paz was under Spanish colonial rule as part of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, before Bolivia gained independence. Since its founding, the city was the site of numerous revolts. In 1781, the indigenous leader and independence activist Túpac Katari laid siege to the city for a total of six months, but was finally defeated. On July 16, 1809 the Bolivian patriot Pedro Domingo Murillo ignited a revolution for independence, marking the beginning of the Spanish American Wars of Independence, which gained the freedom of South American states in 1821