The descriptions of La Paz in the guidebooks should be enough to make the hair stand up on the top of your head. However, to miss La Paz would be the miss one of Bolivia’s most exciting and cultural destinations. Read on to discover ten reasons why you should not miss La Paz…
At 3500m above sea level and surrounded by mountains, take the cable car to El Alto to get a bird’s eye view of the world’s highest capital city. If only all public transport could have the same views…
La Paz Markets
The markets are a shopper’s paradise. Wander through markets where you can stock up on cheap clothing and gifts for the family. The area around Calle Linares and Calle Sagarnaga is packed with shops selling all kind of alpaca articles to keep you warm on a cold ‘altiplano’ night.
Calle Jaen is like a trip back to the colonial days of Alto Peru. The cobblestones and the painted colonial buildings will transport you back to the city’s Spanish colonial past. Look out for Casa de la Cruz Verde on the corner of the street, the green cross marks the spot will a demonic ghost used to terrorize drunken revellers during colonial times.
La Paz Witches Market
Where else can you shop from real witches? The Witches’ Market is where you’ll find all those offerings you want to make to Pachamama, Mother Earth in the local culture, proof that indigenous culture and beliefs are still alive despite centuries of Spanish Catholicism. An unmissable stop during your stay in La Paz, it borders Santa Cruz and Linares. To avoid a witch’s curse, it might be a good idea to ask for permission or even buy something before taking a photo!
Perfect Travel Base
La Paz is an excellent base for onward travel. As the de-facto capital of Bolivia, there are buses going everywhere in the country. A return plane trip to Rurrenabaque will cost about 190 USD or you can brave the perilous 24 hour bus ride for much less. There are also flights to Uyuni or you can make the journey by bus via Potosi, another bus journey for the brave, particularly on the road from Potosi to Uyuni. Tired of Bolivia? Fear not, Bolivia Hop buses will take you all the way to Peru.
Bike Death Road
You can boast to your friends that you survived the Death Road bike ride. The road, which actually owes its name to the Paraguayan prisoners who constructed it, takes you from a lake high up in the mountains down to the tropical area of Los Yungas. The views on the way down are spectacular, but don’t take your eyes off the road because the drops are vertiginous. For safety, it would be good to use a reputable agency such as Gravity Assisted whose office is located at Calle Linares 940.
La Paz is culture writ large. Calle Jaen may be a small cobbled street, but it has five museums- Museo Costumbrista Juan de Varga, Museo del Litoral Boliviano, Museo Casa de Murillo, Museo de los Metales Preciosos and Museo de los Instrumentos Musicales. The tickets for the first four of the above can be purchased at Museo Costumbrista (entrance on Avenida Sucre) and the musical instrument museum is a separate entity. It should not be very hard to find since they seem to have impromptu concerts throughout the day.
You can abseil down the side of a building. Urban Rush at Hotel Presidente on Calle Potosi offer you the possibility of abseiling down the side of a downtown skyscraper. This should be a definite port of call for all adrenaline junkies out there.
The Food in La Paz
You can eat like a king for a pittance. Let’s face it, Bolivia is cheap and La Paz is no exception. Foodies will love Café del Mundo on Sagarnaga. Open every day from 8am to 7pm, this is where you’ll find everything from all day breakfasts, pancakes, waffles and delicious ice cream creations.
Explore the Surrounding Area
There are excellent side trips available in the area. Visit the Pre-Inca ruins at Tiwanaku, Moon Valley or Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca. There are agencies offering these tours and more throughout the downtown area, although Hanaq Pacha on Calle Jaen is highly recommended.
About the Author: Gearoid travelled in Argentina and Bolivia in June/July 2015. To read more about his travels in the Latino World, see his website unlatinoverde.com.