La Paz is the highest city in the world and the capital city of Bolivia. With the surrounding mountains offering beautiful distant views and the traffic rumbling at insane pace along the pot-holed filled roads, La Paz is both enchanting and in-your-face.
We spent about a week in La Paz, in between different day trips and tours, and we really enjoyed it.
6 things to do in La Paz, Bolivia
Visit the Witches’ Market
Yes it’s a tourist market, but it also gives you a fascinating insight into Bolivian culture.
There are dried llama foetuses hanging from the doors of some of the stalls and at first I was grossed out – what the?! But then we learned that they’re bought to be buried under the foundations of your new home as a sacred offering to the Andes goddess Pachamama who presides over planting and harvesting.
Witch doctors running the market sell other things used in Bolivian rituals like potions and even dead armadillos.
We didn’t buy any of those things however – instead we went straight for the stalls selling alpaca clothing.
Alpaca clothing is deliciously warm in the cold climate of the high peaks in Bolivia, and knowing that we’d be travelling to the Salt Flats shortly, we purchased all we needed to keep us warm.
At first we went into a shop that, unlike the market stalls, was a proper building. Dave tried on a jumper and we were told it’d be US$60. It was beautifully made and warm but I encouraged him to keep looking.
Then we went into a market stall and ended up buying four jumpers, two pairs of gloves, two beanies and two scarves for US$75 – bargain! They threw in two cute llama key rings as well.
The quality may not have been as high as in the first stall but I was really happy with the price.
We’ve heard it’s a lot cheaper than Peru so do all your shopping in Bolivia if you’re going there first and need warm clothing for overnight hikes like Machu Picchu.
What to know: The Witches’ Market is located on Calle Santa Cruz and Linares, near the Iglesia de San Francisco.
We went in rainy weather and it wasn’t as much as I expect it would be on a sunny day.
Eat delicious vegetarian food
It is really difficult to be a vegetarian in Bolivia. As I mentioned in my post on what you need to know for visiting Bolivia, Bolivians include meat in almost every meal.
That’s why we were super happy to find a delicious vegetarian restaurant in La Paz, called Namas Té.
We loved it so much that we went there twice – once for breakfast and another time for lunch.
The restaurant calls itself ‘an oasis in the heart of La Paz’ and I have to agree.
The décor fires the imagination with its brightly painted murals and sculptures dotted throughout the building. There’s a central courtyard with a pond, water feature and bar which I’m guessing is used for functions.
And if you’re a vegan there’s many options on the menu for you as well – something that’s rare in Bolivia.
Check out the full review here.
What to know: Namas Té is located at C.Zoilo Flores #1334 casi esq. Almirante Grau (San Pedro), La Paz. Both times we went there we paid around 35 bolivianos (US$4.90) each for a full meal, including drinks.
Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
A visit to La Paz’s Museum of Contemporary Art is worth it just to admire the building. Designed by the same architect who designed the Eiffel Tower, the high ceilings, wooden floorboards and ornate glass work make you feel as though you’re in a spectacular European manor house from the 1800s rather than a museum.
Over the museum’s three floors you will find stunning artworks from metal sculpture to wall-size collages of Che Guevara.
Many of the pieces are for sale – and for a reasonable price too.
If Dave and I had a wall to hang art on, we would’ve certainly bought a painting.
I was impressed by the staff. Although we’d missed the morning tour (in English) a staff member came over to us as we arrived and spent a good five minutes talking to us about the museum and its art.
What you need to know: It costs 15 bolivianos (US$2.10) per person to enter the museum, which is located at Av. 16 de Julio 1698, La Paz.
Stroll down Juan Street and visit the museums
Another place to explore an array of museums is Juan Street. Possibly the most European-looking street in La Paz, Juan Street gives a sense of what La Paz must’ve looked like a hundred years ago.
Up and down the whole street are a number of museums and art galleries. Unfortunately many were shut for the holiday season when we visited in January, but we did get a chance to go inside the Bolivian Museum of Musical Instruments.
Over two floors you can glean an insight into Bolivian music culture and see instruments made out of interesting materials such as turtles and armadillos.
It’s quite a hands on museum and you can play a lot of the instruments too – probably a great place for if you have children.
Check out the short video below of the inside of the museum and Dave releasing his inner child.
What you need to know: It costs 5 bolivianos (US70 cents) to get inside the museum, which is located at Calle Jaén 711, Casco Viejo, La Paz.
Visit Valle de la Luna
Ok, so Valle de la Luna isn’t technically in La Paz but located 20 minutes south of the city. Nonetheless, it’s a great place to go if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for an afternoon.
We lived out here for two weeks and it was much quieter and cheaper than the capital.
When we went for jogs in the afternoon through the mountainous countryside, we came across pigs and numerous stray dogs, all vying for our attention.
The jagged landscape made it easy to see where Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley in English) derives its name from.
But don’t think the earth is made from rock – it’s actually clay that creates these startling formations, carving out formations that looks like red and brown stalagmites.
Wear your hiking shoes, pack a picnic and spend a day exploring the valley.
What you need to know: It costs 15 bolivianos (US2.10) for tourists to enter (it’s much cheaper for locals). You can get a bus from San Francisco square in the centre of La Paz, or it’s 35 bolivianos (US$4.90) one way in a taxi. Bring a hat and sunscreen as the sun can be relentless in the dry season.
Sip on a cocktail at Diesel Nacionale
I haven’t really been to any bar like Diesel Nacionale.
Built to look like an industrial warehouse at the end of the train tracks, stepping inside Diesel Nacionale feels like you’re walking into a cosy factory.
Everything is made from steel but the roaring fire inside a fireplace with a chimney that looks like a giant air vent keeps everything toasty warm.
Rotor blades on extraction fans spin on the ceiling, letting in dappled light and letting out the cigarette smoke (because you can smoke inside the bar).
The cocktails are tasty – make sure you taste the local Bolivian drink called Singani which is like a delicious whiskey sour with a lime twist.
(Although the liquor is actually made from white grape.)
What you need to know:
Cost – Cocktails cost around 35 bolivianos (US$4.90) and a bottle of wine ranges from anything between 90 (US$12.60) and 250 (US$35) bolivianos.
How to get there – Diesel Nacionale is located at Av. 20 de Octubre 2271, La Paz