La Paz is a city you cannot ignore if you are travelling in Bolivia. It is captivating and enriched with character. Situated in the mountains, La Paz is a high altitude city at 3,650 metres above sea level. Once you get used to the altitude it is best explored on foot and by the impressive Mi Teleferico, La Paz’s transportation in the sky. It’s the type of city a lot of people have a love hate relationship with however, I did not hate at all, just loved.
If you only have a short time in La Paz here are my suggestion for must see sights.
Morning – Go on a walking tour
On my first day in La Paz I went on the well known walking tour. It used to be a free walking tour however after complaints from other tour companies they now charge 20 bolivianos which is just $3 USD. Can’t complain about that. For me, it was a good introduction to city and the guides were more than happy to share tips and tricks for getting around in La Paz. We covered most of the historical sites and main plazas of the city as well as the fruit market, churches, and at the end of the tour we stopped in a bar for a pisco sour, a drink very popular among the Bolivian people.
Afternoon – Shop in the witches market
It’s an intriguing name isn’t is? The witches market is one of the more unique markets in La Paz. If you need a potion to protect your love, your marriage, friends, children or anything else you’d like healed in your life, this is the place to be. They sell dried Llama which can be upsetting to see. They also sell herbs, folk remedies, and a variety of ingredients used for spiritual rituals. If this isn’t your thing they also have tourist items for sale too.
Late Afternoon – Mirador Laikakota
La Paz is a city that offers many incredible picture-taking opportunities. They use their mountain setting wisely and have created many lookouts. The first one I visited was Mirador (lookout) Laikakota, a park situated on top of a hill. Be prepared to climb some steps to get there. This park overlooks the upscale neighbourhood of Sopocachi and the City Centre. It is a great place to go if you want to see some greenery in this crowded hectic city.
Evening – Cholitas wrestling show
The women in La Paz who wear the traditional clothing of Bolivia are known as Cholitas. Fighting Cholitas are a group of female wrestlers. Up until 2011 it was men who were competing in wrestling competitions and then the women decided they were tired of watching men wrestle and wanted to take part too, a way for them to prove their worth. Every Thursday and Sunday night hundreds of people line up to watch the Cholitas wrestle, tackle, choke, slap, pull eachothers hair. The only way I could describe watching the Cholitas wrestle is it was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen. It is obviously choreographed but there is a lot of energy in the stadium and it makes for a really fun night. It is a big part of the culture in La Paz and although there are a lot of tourists there are a lot of locals as well cheering on the women.
Take an excursion to Death Road. It is a scary thought but just do it. I won’t too much into my experience since I wrote a blog post about it. All I will say is there is no way you can regret this experience. It is a great day trip for an adrenaline junkie. You don’t have to be an experienced mountain biker to do this, just know how to ride a bike. Enjoy the amazing scenery and be careful.
Morning – Cable Car Tour
One of the most spectacular things about La Paz is the Mi Teleferico, La Paz’s transportation in the sky. What a view! It is great for both sightseeing and public transportation, taking people from La Paz to El Alto, the city next to La Paz at 4,000 metres above sea level. The cable cars have been a godsend for locals cutting commute times down from 1 hour to just 10 minutes. Currently there are four lines to choose from with 5 more to be opened in the future. My hostel, Pirwa Hostel, offers free cable car tours on Thursdays and Sundays. If you stay at this hostel I highly recommend the free cable car tour. It was loads of fun and a highlight of my time in La Paz. If you are not in La Paz on a Thursday or Sunday it is easy enough to take the cable cars on your own.
Afternoon – El Alto
I suggest visiting El Also on the same day as the cable car tour because, well, you get there by a cable car anyways. El Alto used to be a suburb of La Paz but it became its own city now adjacent to La Paz at 4000 metres above sea level. It is the second largest city in Bolivia. El Alto is known for its monster market, busiest on Thursdays. You can literally find anything you want at this market. Had your camera stolen the other day? You’ll probably find it there. It is known to be a bit dangerous however, nothing happened to me while I was there but I can see why it has this reputation. It is so incredibly crowded which would make it easy for pick pockets. With that being said go with a friend and pay careful attention to your stuff.
Evening – Mirador Killi Killi
I love a good city lookout especially during sunset. Mirador Killi Killi is free and a good spot to stop for pictures. It can be reached by foot but due to the cities high altitude it is not recommended for everyone. I took a local bus from Plaza Murillo for 1 boliviano. The bus will drop you off by the entrance and you will have to just walk up a few steps to get to the top. Mirador Killi Killi offers 360 degree views of La Paz. It is weird to be looking down on such a hectic city yet it feels so quiet up there.