What To See And Do In La Paz - Our Guide To The World's Highest Capital City

Friday, 16 March 2018

La Paz, meaning peace in Spanish, is in our opinion a misleading name, as you’ll struggle to enjoy peace and quiet on these streets. It is, rather, a hectic and honestly more stressful city, which might be why you never really hear people raving about it or describing it with excitement or passion. But don't let this put you off. Amongst the chaos you’ll find a fascinating city, full of history, culture and new experiences to be had. It truly couldn't be more Bolivian, with cholitas selling alpaca apparel on every corner - most still rocking the classic bowler hats (still wandering how these stay on their heads)! At first look it is a city with not much to offer beyond its cables and cable cars but look a little deeper and you might find yourself wanting to extend your stay. Here’s how we spent our time in La Paz, Bolivia.


All around Bolivia you’ll find shops and stalls selling alpaca made clothing, but nowhere in Bolivia will you find as much choice and as low a price as in La Paz. Having come from the more tropical climates of Santa Cruz and Samaipata, it’s fair to say we didn’t take to La Paz’s colder climate well and buying a warm jumper and a woolly hat came in use. 

We found the best shopping opportunities to be found around Calle Sagarnaga and the Witches market so be sure to check this area out!

Witches market

One of La Paz’s most famous attractions, the witches market consists of a couple of pedestrianised streets, selling anything from herbs to mascots to dried llama foetuses in order to heal you or bring you luck! Although a little disturbing in places, it’s interesting to have a walk around - however don’t expect much! (Being a regular in La Paz’s top 5 we expected lots of streets with vast amounts of shops and shoppers but this is not the case).

The Cable Cars

Being the losers that we are there is little more exciting to us than getting in a small box and travelling from one end of the city to the other through the sky. That said, the cable cars are a really efficient way of getting around the city and super affordable at only 3bs a ride. We therefore took the orange then the red cable cars heading towards El Alto (the city above La Paz outside of the valley) - simply for the experience and to get a decent view of the city.

El Alto market

To our luck, when we arrived at the end of the red cable car line at the start of El Alto we found a huge market selling absolutely everything. It turns out El Alto market is the biggest in South America. The market runs on a Thursday and Sunday so we were lucky to have stumbled upon it and we would definitely recommend visiting if you are in the city on one of these days!

Dine like a king

One of the best things about being in a big city in a cheap country is that you can eat out all the time at a whole range of different types of restaurants. Here are some of our favourites...

Delhi Curry Lounge - We’ve missed curry and this place did not disappoint! They have a great menu of the day option available all day for only 50bs. 

El Cubano - Cuban restaurant. Don't be put off by the pictures, the food was great! 

Mozzarella - Decent and very cheap pizza! 

Cafe Mundo - our favourite! Opened by a Swedish woman several years ago, this 3 floored resaurant/cafe serves up really high quality food and is surprisingly cheap. They also do great snacks to take away. We'd recommend getting the pancakes for breakfast - you’ll see why!

Writers coffee - A cute coffee shop of plaza Murillo, this is your spot for high quality coffee and cake. 

Green Wood restaurant - we went here purely because we were given free drinks by our hostel but we found it to be really pleasant inside and it serves lots of good vegetarian food. 

La Cuevas - A great choice if you fancy some Mexican food, although beware of the chillies, they have a real kick!

Food markets

La Paz has 2 great food markets Mercado Lanza and Mercado Rodriguez, the latter being the biggest. Although you might not fancy buying much food from here it’s a great place to grab a snack or a drink, as well as to simply wonder around the madness!

Plaza San Franscisco, Plaza Murillo

Wanting to know where the centre of the city is? Well these two squares feel like the central points more so than anywhere else. If you’re into churches, the cathedral at plaza San Francisco is pretty impressive, but if not, these two squares make a great starting point for wondering around the city. Walking tours go from Plaza Murillo both in the morning and afternoon at 11am and 2pm.

General Cemetery La Paz

Of all cities in Bolivia the cemetery in La Paz is definitely the most impressive we've seen. It's so interesting to see the difference in cultures in the way we represent lost loved ones, as here the lives of the dead are celebrated in small boxes full of meaningful ornaments. There is also some great art to be seen in the cemetery grounds, which feels like a city in itself due to its vast size.

Museum street!

Keep seeing pictures of colourful buildings in La Paz but wondering where on earth they are? Well, if you head to Calle Jaén you'll find them, along with a selection of the city's best museums - my favourite being the national museum of musical instruments!

Where to stay in La Paz?

We stayed at a hostel called York Vintage B&B based on a recommendation from a blog (hillsandwaves). The rooms were really big, reception was helpful and the location was great. It wasn’t the cheapest accommodation at around 180bs a night but the WiFi was excellent (always an important factor!) They will
also help you book tours such as Valle de la Luna and Death Road (which we wanted to do but thought that Lissa would make it live up to its name.)

So...why come to La Paz??

Apart from all of the reasons previously mentioned, La Paz makes a great jumping off point for visiting Lake Titicaca on the way to Peru, or The Yungus and Northern Bolivia. Equally if you’re coming from Peru and want to visit Bolivia’s famous salt flats you’ll have to come to La Paz first. (Although just a quick note on this - it’s much better value to book a salt flats tour from Uyuni in the South rather than an all inclusive tour from La Paz.)

Altitude in La Paz

La Paz is high. With the heart of the city being at 3650m (12000ft), you’ll soon get used to a constant feeling of being out of breath. Don’t let this scare you though. Before travelling to high altitude areas we read so much about AMS (acute mountain sickness/altitude sickness) and how it can ruin your trip. For us though, it is only a small inconvenience when carrying your bags upstairs or walking up a big hill etc! We know that it affects everyone differently but have yet to come across anyone who has really suffered.

How to get to La Paz?

Being the people’s capital of Bolivia, buses run all day from all major cities in Bolivia to La Paz. Note that you may not be able to book buses in advance and may have to simply turn up on the day as we did from Cochabamba - but this is not something to worry about (we turned up at 9:02am and still got on the 9:00 bus with no problem at all). If travelling from Lake Titicaca look forward to a water crossing where the bus is driven onto a small and basic barge to get to mainland Bolivia!

Hope this is useful! Any questions? Write to us in comments or contact us via Instagram,

Thanks for reading!

Will & Melissa

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