La Paz Destination Guide
La Paz Holidays
The first sight of La Paz from a distance will make even the weariest and worldliest of travellers sit up straight and pay attention. Hugged by the tall mountains of the altiplano and sitting at elevations ranging between 3,200 and 4,100 metres above sea level, La Paz is a city in the sky. The only thing that has the power to make this sprawling metropolis shrink in comparison is the grand snow-capped magnificence of Mount Illimani, which towers at 6,438 glorious metres above sea level in the background. Culture, cuisine and stunning architecture enthral visitors at every turn, making La Paz a spirited and dizzying destination.
For sensational views over La Paz, head to Mi Teleferico. This urban cable car network offers incredible views over La Paz while simultaneously getting you where you need to go. This isn’t exactly a tourist attraction; the system was designed to ease traffic congestion and connect La Paz with the neighbouring city of El Alto, so it’s a practicality for locals. But for visitors, it offers an unbeatable way to view the city and its surrounding landscapes for a very small fee.
Presiding over the Plaza San Francisco, Iglesia de San Francisco, the Spanish-colonial Catholic church, dates back to the 16th century and features beautifully ornate stone carvings on its facade. Be sure to climb to the roof for great views of the city.
The Metropolitan Cathedral on Plaza Murillo is also a must-see. Don’t forget to get your fill of the National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore. Housed in the Marquis de Villa Verde Palace, a stunning example of romantic 18th century architecture, this museum offers a surprisingly contemporary interior space. Step inside to discover the history of Bolivia’s ethnic cultures, with exhibits that showcase Andean ceramics, masks and artefacts. Don’t miss the sensational 3,000 Years of Textiles exhibit.
Eat and Drink
For a cheap, delicious and authentic foodie experience head to Mercado Lanza, one of the city’s biggest food markets. Shop for local produce and groceries and sample excellent hole-in-the-wall Bolivian eats, including sandwiches, soups and fresh juices.
The local must-eat is saltena, a Bolivian-style empanada. These snack-sized pastries, which come golden brown and filled with juicy beef, chicken or vegetables, will quickly become a favourite.
For up-market dining, browse the restaurants at the bottom of the Prado, around Plaza Isabel La Catolica and Plaza Avaroa. For a dose of nightlife La Paz style, explore the bars in and around Sopocachi.
Where to Stay
The hotels in the charming Sopocachi area offer close proximity to restaurants, bars and movie theatres. If luxury is the name of the game, trendy Zona Sur and the lower Prado area will deliver. Downtown La Paz is home to the main tourist strip, Calle Sagarnaga (Sagarnaga Street) where you can find the odd boutique hotel amid budget accommodation, as well as an abundance of touristy restaurants.
Get your souvenir fix on Calle Sagarnaga, which also hosts a great range of cafés perfect for refuelling throughout the day. For something a little different head to the Witches’ Market on Calle Linares. Probably one of the most curious markets you’ll ever visit, this place sells herbal and folk remedies, charms, talismans and more unusual items like dried llama foetuses (naturally aborted), which the locals bury for good luck when building a new house. La Paz locals take the Witches’ Market very seriously so, while tourists are welcome, it’s wise to be polite and respectful. For those seeking luxury boutiques and shopping centres, the up-market area of Zona Sur will satisfy.
La Paz Like a local
Head to Calle Rodriguez and get set to explore Mercado Rodriguez, the largest food market in La Paz. Here the local women in colourful dress tend to their stalls, with fresh produce, local meat and seafood and an abundance of potato varieties on offer. This is the place to try some authentic and exotic Bolivian dishes including the regional specialty, caldo de cardan. Just one word of warning – it’s not for the faint hearted.