Set against a striking backdrop of snow-capped mountains, Nuestra Señora de La Paz, commonly known as La Paz, is Bolivia’s third most populous city and the world’s highest seat of government.
Juxtaposed with the colorful lifestyle and traditions of the Aymara people, is a cosmopolitan city full of modern cafes, museums, clubs, bars and restaurants. One of the highest cities in the world, La Paz is best explored at a slow pace, taking the time to soak up the city’s rich culture and fascinating history.
With its numerous fascinating sights, free events, and cool places to go out, La Paz truly is an amazing city to visit and explore!
Top Things to See and Do in La Paz
Witches’ Market – For those suffering an ailment, searching for wealth or looking to exact revenge on a cheating partner, La Paz’s Witches Market is the place to go for a variety of potions, medicinal plants, spells and spiritual advice. Taking up only a small section of La Paz’s lively tourist area, this is the part of the city where ancient Aymaran beliefs are still practiced.
Cycle Death Road – One of the most popular activities in La Paz is the exhilarating and death-defying bike ride along one of the world’s most dangerous roads. If you’re looking for a truly exhilarating, world-class bike ride through some of Bolivia’s most beautiful scenery, don’t hesitate to book a Death Road Tour. Fingers crossed you’ll live to tell the tale!
Guided Walking Tour – Those traveling to La Paz for the first time will be shocked to discover how congested and chaotic the sprawling city is. To alleviate the stress of trying to navigate the narrow alleys on your own, we recommend exploring La Paz using Red Cap’s Walking Tour.
Cholita Wrestling – Bizarre, crazy, empowering and hilarious are just some of the words used to describe one of La Paz’s most unusual attractions. Inspired by America’s WWF and Mexico’s famous lucha libre, Chollita Wrestling is a one-of-a-kind event, featuring Bolivian women battling it out in spectacular fashion.
Party – Low alcohol prices, all-night dancing, and an eclectic mix of night-time hangouts, are just some of the reasons why La Paz is one of the most exciting cities in South America to party. Here we have listed the ultimate bars and clubs in Bolivia’s capital to enjoy a drink, meet new people and dance the night away!
Zip Lining – If braving The World’s Most Dangerous Road wasn’t scary enough, travelers can now push their adventurous side to the limit with a ride along one of Bolivia’s best ziplines. Operating daily, Zzip the Flying Fox is a high-quality, safe, not to mention fun, activity perfect for those seeking a thrill in Bolivia.
Ride the highest ski slope in the world – Snow enthusiasts traveling to Bolivia are in for a treat with this one-of-a-kind adventure allowing skiers and snowboarders of all levels to experience the majestic Bolivian Andes while ripping it up on beautiful 5000m+ glaciers tucked in the mountains surrounding La Paz.
El Alto – Known for its high altitude, cold climate, frequent protests, bustling streets and heavy traffic, El Alto is not for the fainthearted. That being said, the city is a fascinating place for travelers looking to experience local Bolivian life. Activities on offer include shopping at Bolivia’s biggest open air market, riding the Mi Teleferico cable car and attending a Cholita wrestling match.
San Francisco Church – One of La Paz’s most important and historical landmarks is the San Francisco church (Iglesia de San Francisco). The beautifully decorated church, admired for its intricately carved facade and blending of catholic and native art, was built entirely by indigenous Aymara workers. Entry is free and tours are available for Bs 20 ($3 US).
Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) – Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, Tiwanaku is an ancient archaeological site named after one of the most important civilizations prior to the Inca Empire.
Jaen Street (Calle Jaén) – Representing historic La Paz is a quaint, cobble-stoned street, home to a range of shops, bars and restaurants as well as five of La Paz’s most important and interesting museums. Visiting picturesque Jaen Street gives visitors a chance to enjoy a stroll through one of the city’s more tranquil and traffic-free lane-ways, and appreciate the colorful and historic remnants of a bygone era.
Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) – Situated 10 kilometers from downtown La Paz is a unique area featuring lunar landscapes and bizarre geological formations. Not actually a valley at all, but a maze of canyons and giant spires, the surreal and moon-like landscape of Valle de la Luna is a sight to behold and definitely worth a look when visiting La Paz.
Sagarnaga Street (Calle Sagarnaga) – One of La Paz’s most popular streets is Calle Sagarnaga, an area dedicated to all things touristy. This bustling strip, located just south of San Francisco Church, is lined with hostels, tour agencies, cafes, souvenir and clothing stalls. For those looking to purchase a Bolivian musical instrument, silver jewelry, fluffy alpaca sweater or even a salteña or two, this is a unique place to shop ’til you drop.
Parque Mirador Laikakota – One of the best views in La Paz can be seen from Mirador Laikakota, a magnificent lookout point offering not only clear panoramic views of the city center, but a place for children to play and adults to relax. Upon reaching the park’s summit, visitors will be rewarded with stunning views of La Paz as well as play equipment, a little cafe, ice-cream vendors and a Children’s Museum.
Huayna Potosi Mountain – With its spectacular views, accessibility to beginner climbers and close proximity to La Paz, it’s easy to see why Huayna Potosi is the most popular mountain to climb in Bolivia. Upon reaching the summit, you will be rewarded with incredible views of the Altiplano, La Paz, Lake Titicaca and the entire Cordillera Real await. A must do for avid adventurers and mountain climbers.
Mi Teleferico: La Paz’s Cable Car System – Taking La Paz’s public transit system to new heights is Mi Teleferico, a cable car network providing fast and and reliable transport between the city’s major attractions. Operating at 4000 m (13,000 ft) above sea level, the world’s highest cable car ride is a fun way to get from A to B while experiencing impressive views over La Paz.
Cementerio General La Paz – A vast necropolis, La Paz’s Cementerio General is a unique place of mourning, one which evokes a sense of celebration and hope rather than grief and loss. While visiting a cemetery on your travels may seem a little morbid, La Paz’s cemetery is unique in that it’s more bustling and lively than quiet and sombre.
Plaza Murillo – Located in La Paz’s Casco Viejo, or old town, is a lively plaza framed by some of the city’s most important political buildings. The plaza is Bolivia’s most important public space and is a tranquil place where visitors can contemplate the country’s tumultuous history while observing a rich culture that lives on through the city’s locals.
Where to Eat & Drink in La Paz
Contrary to what you may have heard (bland, meat-centric, unhygienic), food in Bolivia is both varied and satisfying. La Paz offers up a wonderful selection of dining options where travelers can not only sample the local cuisine, but satisfy their cravings at a number of international, vegetarian and fine dining restaurants.
And one needn’t worry about the food budget whilst in La Paz; it’s often just as cheap to eat out as it is to cook at home
Here is a selection of wonderful places to grab a bite to eat and drink:
Where to Stay in La Paz
Accommodation options in La Paz range from cheap and cheerful hostels to 5 star luxury hotels.
Hostels and B&Bs are a great option for shorter stays and are generally priced based on quality and location. If you’re looking to stay long-term in La Paz, there are a number of lovely and well equipped apartments to choose from.
You can find a bed in La Paz for as little as $7 a night and, if you plan on staying for more than a week, the hostel or B&B will usually be open to negotiating a better price.
Shopping in La Paz
La Paz plays host to several bustling, colorful markets including the one-of-a-kind ‘Witches Market‘ as well as the Mercado Lanza and the Mercado Rodriguez where you can sample all kinds of fresh fruit, vegetables and juices.
For those looking to purchase a Bolivian musical instrument, silver jewelry, fluffy alpaca sweater or even a salteña or two, Calle Sagarnaga is a unique place to shop ’til you drop. This bustling strip, located just south of Plaza San Francisco, is lined with businesses catering primarily to tourists, featuring hostels, tour agencies, cafes, souvenir stores and clothing stalls. Due to its popularity, Calle Sagarnaga sees new shops opening on a weekly basis, offering more and more goodies for travelers to buy.
Events & Festivals in La Paz
Alasitas Festival – Taking place just before Carnaval, Alasitas Fair, or Feria de las Alasitas in Spanish, is a month-long festival, where locals purchase miniature items to give to Ekeko, the Aymara god of abundance, in the hope he will bring fortunate and happiness to their lives.
Jisk’a Anata Carnaval – Every year, on the third day of Carnaval, the streets of La Paz overflow with colour and delight as the Indigenous people of Bolivia dance and sing in celebration of Pachamama (Mother Earth), thanking her for all she has provided them throughout the year.
Fiesta del Gran Poder – Translated as “Festival of the Great Power”, Fiesta del Gran Poder is a religious celebration paying homage to Señor del Gran Poder or Jesus Christ. The dramatic festival features thousands of dancers parading down the sprawling streets of La Paz, flaunting their colourful costumes while thousands of spectators cheer in delight.
Aymara New Year – One of the biggest events in the Bolivian calendar is the Amayra New Year. On the 21st of June, Bolivia observes a national holiday in recognition of the Aymara who inhabit the West of Bolivia and Southern Peru. Coinciding with the winter solstice, the New Year holiday marks the start of the Aymaran year.
Achocalla Festival – Featuring a colourful parade of traditional dance and music, Ancocalla marks the time in Bolivia’s harvest calendar when potato fields begin to bloom. Locals wear bread on their heads and chains of pears around their necks while dancing the “tarqueada”.
Getting To, From & Around La Paz
There’s no denying that navigating La Paz can be both daunting and overwhelming. Discovering the city on foot is a great way to see the sights, however there are times when taking public transport is the preferred, not to mention more sensible, option.
Most long distance connections to and from La Paz operate from its main bus station; a striking yellow building bearing the distinctive hand of its designer, the famous French architect Gustave Eiffel. Located in Plaza Antofagasta, the bus terminal is a 15-20 minute walk uphill from the main tourist area, so usually best reached by taxi. A taxi to / from the tourist area should cost around 4 Bs ($0.60 US) and take 5 minutes.
Located in El Alto, La Paz’s international airport is the highest airport in the world at 4,058 m (13,313 ft). The distance between El Alto Airport and the centre of La Paz is around 20 kilometres with an estimated travel time of around 30 minutes. Be aware that during peak hours busses fill up fast, so factor in plenty of time in order to secure a seat.The price of a taxi to and from El Alto airport is Bs 70 ($10 US). Minibuses leave every 5 minutes from Plaza Isabel de Católica and pass by Plaza San Francisco. The cost is around Bs 4 ($0.60 US per person) and busses run daily from 6.15am to 9pm.
Transport within La Paz is safe and reliable. Traveling anywhere by taxi within the city center will cost around $0.60 per person and local buses are even cheaper again. There is also the option to take the Cable Car which is a fun way to see the city. As in any city, make sure to only take marked taxis and avoid walking by yourself at night.
The following links provide information on how to travel between La Paz and other popular destinations in Bolivia:
Finding Wifi in La Paz
La Paz is wifi friendly and growing more so every day. Many cafes and hostels have WiFi, and while not boasting the fastest speeds in the word, it does the job for those looking to get some work done or even Skype home.
Because La Paz is largely an offline city, much of the essential information you need for planning your trip is buried in obscure blog posts and Spanish news articles. La Paz Life, is our attempt to bring to light the best the city has to offer and its many hidden gems. Through a combination of thorough research and personal experience we hope to make La Paz as accessible as possible to travelers.