La Paz is a city of energy, exuberance and mountain vistas. In a word, the city is busy! A cauldron of bustling activity from morning to night, we fell a little bit in love with the place – in fact it’s our favourite city in South America. Heading there soon yourself? Here are our ideas for fun things to do in La Paz, Bolivia.
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Things to do in La Paz: exploring the city
1. Take a city walking tour
Whenever visiting a city for the first time, it’s a great idea to begin by taking a walking tour. We did this all over South America, and we found it was the perfect way to find our bearings, learn about the place and its history, and get some ideas for our stay.
The free walking tour model popularised in Europe is being replicated in South American cities. In La Paz, you can take a city centre walking tour with Red Cap for just 3 US dollars (booking via GetYourGuide with free cancellation). Not quite free, but it nearly is!
The tour meets every day at 11am in Plaza San Pedro, next to the prison made infamous by the book Marching Powder. From here the tour takes in some of the city’s most distinguished features, weaving through Rodriguez Market, San Francisco Church, Plaza Murrillo and more.
2. See the city from Mirador Killi Killi
The lofty setting of La Paz high up in the Andes mountains makes for some incredible sweeping views of the city. One of the best spots is at Mirador Killi Killi, a viewing point perched on a hill in the Villa Pabón neighbourhood.
It’s easy enough to walk up to the mirador from the city, but depending on your starting point you may want to take a taxi or bus to the base. At the top, you’ll be greeted with a panorama of the sprawling city, with Illimani Mountain looming in the background.
3. Explore the Witches’ Market
One of the more outlandish attractions of La Paz is the Witches’ Market. Where else can you buy llama fetuses, dried frogs and exotic potions from women in bowler hats?
The Witches’ Market is located on Calle Jimenez in one of the tourist hotspot areas of the city. The street is lined with rows of shops selling bizarre trinkets that hail back to the old rituals of the Aymara indigenous people.
Aside from the strange medicines, owl feathers and dried amphibians, which are believed to bring good fortune and prosperity, you can also find more conventional souvenirs such as local craft and jewellery.
4. Take the world’s highest cable car
Another way to absorb La Paz’s spectacular mountain scenery is by hopping aboard Mi Teleférico, the city’s cable car system. Reaching higher than 4,000m altitude, it is the highest cable car ride in the world.
With the mountainous setting not conducive to a metro system, the electric cable cars have proved a brilliant alternative for getting around the city. They’ve also helped to bring down air and noise pollution.
There are few city transit systems in the world that provide as pleasing a visual experience as Mi Teleférico. For the best views, take the red line from Estación Teleférico Central up to El Alto via Jach’a Quathu.
5. Visit El Alto and go shopping at Bolivia’s biggest market
Stepping out of the Mi Teleférico station in El Alto on a Thursday or Sunday, you will emerge into the organised chaos of El Alto’s open-air market.
Covering an area of over 5 square kilometres, it’s the biggest market in Bolivia and a great place to get immersed in local life. We were taken aback by the seemingly limitless range of goods on offer in its hundreds of stalls. Old tyres, tools, medicines, building materials, car parts, you name it – they had it.
It’s possible to take a guided tour that combines a trip to La Paz’s famous cemetery, a cable car ride and a tour of El Alto, including the chance to have your fortune read by a local shaman. Alternatively, you can also book an Andean architecture tour of El Alto for an insight into life in the city.
6. Go to a cholita wrestling night
Cholita wrestling in La Paz is a truly one-of-a-kind event. Held every Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon at Multifuncional Ceja de el Alto, Bolivian cholita woman take to the wrestling ring clad in full traditional dress.
‘Cholita’ was once a derisory word, but women of the indigenous Aymara and Quechua cultures have reclaimed it. The wrestling nights are a showcase of cholita pride, power and athleticism.
The style is inspired by Mexican lucha libre wrestling, but with an authentic Bolivian twist. It’s a night of entertainment and high drama the kind of which you won’t find anywhere else in the world. For more background, read our article on cholita wrestling.
7. Look out for street art
One of the most striking features of La Paz is its vibrant colours. From above, the scene of houses and rooftops looks like something from a Leonid Afremov painting. The city has a colourful soul, and this is embodied in the street art that you can find throughout its winding back-alleys and passageways.
When out walking in the city, keep an eye out for the captivating murals on walls and buildings that show off this artistic spirit.
Things to do in La Paz: food and drink
8. Eat local food at Mercado Lanza (and try a giant ice cream!)
Back in the city, there is much more to explore and experience. Get lost in the labyrinth of Mercado Lanza, a multi-floor market and food hall that epitomises the fast pace of local life in La Paz. From the outside, Mercado looks more like a giant car park than a market.
Skip past the craft and clothes vendors on the lower floors and head up to the top floor for the grub. There is a great choice of stalls where you can find some of the cheapest Bolivian food in the city.
Best of all, a small handful of stalls serve giant fruit cocktails and ice creams. Ours were just 10 bolivianos each, and would probably have been enough for lunch on their own. Good luck eating them without making a mess!
9. Have a fancy coffee in HB Bronze
On our trip to La Paz, lost in the suburbs and in need of a drink, we stopped for a coffee at HB Bronze. The wooden chic interior oozed luxury, and we soon saw on the menu that the prices were reflective of that.
This is a place where it’s definitely helpful to know a little Spanish. Struggling with the language barrier, I mistakenly ordered a tiny shot of coffee while Lisa lucked out with a giant mug that dwarfed mine.
If you’re looking for somewhere to get your head down and do some work, HB Bronze is a good option. If you don’t mind paying a bit of a premium for the artisan coffee, it’s one of the better spots for wifi in the city.
10. Take an evening foodie tour
For a true insight into the food culture of La Paz, you can take an evening foodie tour with a local guide to discover the city’s culinary traditions.
Food is an integral part of life in La Paz, and this tour gives an introduction and a chance to taste local delicacies. It incorporates visits to a selection of popular local restaurants, and winds up with a drink in one of the city’s café bars.
11. Go for a night out
No visit to La Paz would be complete without seeing how it comes to life at night. Bolivians like to party, and the capital city is where it’s at.
The Sopocachi district is one of the best areas of the city for bars and clubs. All over the city, though, you can find party joints that are open until the small hours and beyond. For some of the best nightlife spots, check out Culture Trip’s recommendations.
Day trips from La Paz
12. Mountain-bike down Death Road
One of the most popular activities within the vicinity of La Paz is the challenge of mountain-biking down the notorious Yungas Road.
Sometimes known as ‘Death Road’, it has often been touted as the world’s most dangerous road due to its soaring fatality rate before safety measures were introduced in 2006. In the most part it is a narrow, uneven gravel track that winds through miles of mountains, with terrifying precipices just inches from the edge in places.
We took on the 64-kilometre route with Barracuda Biking, a top local tour company with an excellent safety record. It’s all downhill, so there’s very little exertion required, and the views are jaw-dropping all the way. To round it off there’s a cold beer waiting for you at the bottom.
13. Ascend to the snowy peak of Chacaltaya
There aren’t many cities of the world where you can easily access mountain peaks higher than 5,000 metres. One such summit near La Paz is Chacaltaya, which stands at 5,486 metres and is just a couple of hours’ drive from the city.
Tour agencies in La Paz run group trips to Chacaltaya, or it’s possible to take a taxi and go independently. Don’t forget to negotiate! You can find more about getting to and from Chacaltaya on Wikitravel.
There isn’t a lot of climbing required. The road leads close to the summit, leaving just a couple of hundred metres for you to scramble up. Beware of the altitude, though. If you’re flying to La Paz from a low-altitude destination, you should allow a couple of days to acclimatise before going any higher. Wrap up warm, too – it gets chilly up there.
14. Climb a 6,088-metre-high mountain
If you want to take peak-bagging to the next level, then you could consider scaling Huayna Potosí, which is close to Chacaltaya in the Cordillera Real range.
Huayna Potosí is reputedly the easiest 6,000m+ mountain to climb in the world. If you’re passing through La Paz and mountaineering is your thing, you may never get a better opportunity to reach such heights.
Although Huayna Potosí is accessible to novice climbers, it still requires proper training and preparation. Don’t try this if you’re expecting a walk in the park. Make sure you’re in expert company too, and book a climb with a local guide.
15. Visit Valle de la Luna
We combined our trip to Chacaltaya with a tour to Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). It’s not really a valley in reality, more a riddle of strange rock formations and canyons.
A path weaves through the clay crags and steeples, which were created after Andean weather eroded the mountain away. High on a rock above, we saw a man in traditional dress playing the charango, a miniature Bolivian guitar.
Valle de la Luna is a peaceful place to explore colourful and intriguing scenery. It’s not bad for your photo collection either.
16. Visit the Pre-Columbian ruins of Tiwanaku
Pre-dating the Incas by hundreds of years, the Pre-Columbian civilisations of South America played a formative role in the history of countries like Bolivia. The Tiwanaku Empire thrived during this period.
Located around 75 kilometres west of La Paz, with stunning scenery along the way, lies a scattering of remarkable ruins that marks the site of the empire’s centre. On a day tour to the Tiwanaku archaeological site from La Paz you can explore crumbling structures of temples and pyramids, and learn about the culture and significance of this ancient civilisation.
17. See the deep blue waters of Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is one of the great natural landmarks of South America. At 3,800 metres above sea level, it is the world’s highest navigable lake, and is drenched in spectacular Andean scenery of hills and mountains.
The picturesque small town of Copacabana stands on the shore of the lake, and is a popular base to explore it from the Bolivia side. If you pass by on your travels, check out our quick guide to visiting Copacabana and Lake Titicaca.
it’s also possible to take guided tour to Copacabana and Lake Titicaca from La Paz, including ferry trips out the historic islands of Isla Del Sol and Isla de la Luna. You can either take a day trip or a two-day one-night package.
18. Witness the stunning landscapes of Sajama National Park
Bolivia is packed with incredible sites of nature, from the Amazon jungle to the legendary salt flats of Uyuni. Sajama National Park is another example, and home to the imposing sight of Nevado Sajama, a giant sleeping volcano.
The journey there passes through the Bolivian Altiplano, some of the wildest scenes in the Andes. On a two-day tour to Sajama National Park you can experience one of Bolivia’s great offbeat road trips and come into close contact with unique Andean wildlife.
The tour also includes a morning dip in the park’s natural hot springs, stops at ancient ruin sites, and a taste of some local wine.
Things to do in La Paz: map of attractions
You can locate the sites and attractions highlighted in this article on the map below:
Where to stay in La Paz
La Paz is a huge city that welcomes a lot of tourists, and so there is a wide range of accommodation options to suit any travel style. It is not an expensive city, and your money can go pretty far even if you’re on the tightest of budgets.
During our trip we stayed at Loki Hostel. This is a big place with several floors and a fun atmosphere – there’s a themed party every night in the top floor bar (with great city views), and good food on during the day. Even though it’s a party hostel, we found it easy to get a good night’s sleep, as the dorms are well separated from the noise. You might get unlucky with roommates, but that can happen anywhere.
These are our top picks for a range of budgets and travel styles after researching more options around the city:
- Budget: The Rooftop Bolivia, Wild Rover Hostel, 3600 Hostel
- Mid-range: Loki Boutique, Estrella Andina Hostel, El Prado Capsule Hostel
- Fancy: Hotel Rosario, Qhini Hotel Boutique, Hotel Mitru Sur
Planning a trip through Bolivia? Check out our Bolivia itinerary and travel guide for inspiration.
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