Top 10 things to do in La Paz

Mirador Kili Kili, La Paz, Bolivie

What to do in La Paz, Bolivia’s administrative capital?

La Paz, the city that touches the sky, is an apt description. Perched high above sea level, La Paz lies in a basin surrounded by thealtiplano. As it grows, the city climbs the hills at altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 4,100 m. Bolivia‘s administrative capital is overlooked by the majestic, snow-capped Illimani, a three-peak peak. Not as often visited as other South American cities, La Paz nevertheless offers plenty to do, including a strong indigenous culture.

Here are 10 must-see places to visit during your stay in La Paz:

Read also about the La Paz guide :

1. Mercado de las brujas (witches’ market)

Foetus de lamas sur le marché des sorcieres de La Paz, mercado de las brujas, Bolivie

Flickr – Darinka Maja

South America is famous for its markets, but few are quite like the witches’ market in La Paz. The Mercardo de Hechecería or Mercado de las brujas is an open-air market whose aisles are lined with stalls manned by cholitas traditionally dressed in bowler hats and petticoats. You’ll find everything from herbal medicines to superstitious objects and trinkets. Each stall is overflowing with objects that are important in traditional Aymara culture. In particular, you’ll be surprised to find things like mummified llama foetuses hanging on the stalls. The Aymaras believe that if you bury one under your house, it’s a powerful way of bringing blessing to your new home and offering your family good health. Not sure customs would agree…

The Aymara are the indigenous people of Bolivia, who by some estimates have lived here for 2,000 years. The current president, Evo Morales, comes from a poor Aymara family and became Bolivia’s first indigenous leader.

2. Revisit La Paz’s colonial past in Calle Jaén

Calle Jaen, rue Jaen, La Paz, Bolivie

Flickr – Gatol fotografia

Nuestra Señora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace) was founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1548 on the site of an indigenous settlement. The architectural heritage of the Spanish is still very much alive in Calle Jaén, a preserved pedestrian street in the heart of La Paz. The narrow, cobbled street is magnificent for its colorful facades, lanterns and wrought-iron balconies. There are several museums along the street, including the Museo Nacional de Arte, with works from the colonial era to the present day, and the Museo de Litoral, which focuses on the War of the Pacific (1879-1884), which cost Bolivia access to the Pacific coast. There’s also the Museo de Instrumentos Musicales (or Museo del Charango).

3. Plaza Murillo (Murillo Square)

Plaza Murillo, Place Murillo, La Paz, Bolivie

Wikimedia – Elemaki

In the heart of La Paz, Plaza Murillo is the city’s central square. It is dominated by a huge Cathedral, the Presidential Palace and the National Congress. Plaza Murillo is populated by statues of historical figures from every era of Bolivian history, including a statue of Pedro Domingo Murillo, after whom the square is named. Plaza Murillo is one of the city’s best places to mingle with the locals or nibble on a famous Bolivian empanada, known here as a Salteña, a kind of puff pastry.

4. Encourage cholitas to fight

Cholitas, El Alto, combat La Paz, Bolivie

Flickr – José Fernandes Jr.

We’ll be in El Alto, a suburb of La Paz, to watch a cholitas fight. Although violent, these « chola » fights (chola means country girl, and is a pejorative) are attracting more and more people. These fights are similar to Bolivian or Mexican Lucha Libre. In the Centro Multifuncional del Alto, women dressed in traditional Aymara and Quechua outfits wrestle. Fights take place on Sundays, with the best time usually around 5pm. An excellent idea if you want to immerse yourself in the local culture.

5. Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna)

Valle de la Luna, vallée de la lune, La Paz, Bolivie

Flickr – Leonora Enking

Valle de la Luna is just 10 km from the center of La Paz, and well worth the trip. Visit the surrounding area to see an extraordinary landscape created by the natural process of erosion in the mountainous desert area south-west of La Paz. Over thousands of years, the elements have sculpted the clay into strangely shaped pillars of various colors, with crater-like formations that give the valley its name. There are giant stalagmites, jagged gorges and a series of trails winding through the park. Grab a good pair of hiking boots and follow the trails to see the valley from every angle, and even get a great view of La Paz on a clear day.

6. El Alto market

Marché El Alto, La Paz, Bolivie

Flickr – cliff hellis

El Alto is sometimes described as a city in its own right, and sometimes as a suburb of La Paz. What is certain, however, is that El Alto has the highest concentration of indigenous peoples in Latin America: among them the Aymaras, who make up 76%. Every Thursday and Sunday, Plaza Ballivián is transformed into an enormous market, with stalls selling such a wide range of products that it’s easy to make a list of things you don’t want to buy. The Aymaras of the Altiplano still speak their native language and wear traditional dress. So a visit to the El Alto market is a great cultural experience, as well as a great shopping opportunity. However, some say it’s not a very safe place.

7. Admire La Paz from the Kili kili viewpoint

Mirador Kili Kili, La Paz, Bolivie

Flickr – Manuel Menal

One of the best things to see in La Paz is La Paz itself. The city is spectacular when viewed from above. Long used as a lookout by both the army and revolutionaries in Bolivian history, the Kili Kili (or Killi Killi) viewpoint offers the best panorama of the whole city. To catch your breath after hiking up there (it’s free), there’s nothing like a 360° view of La Paz and the surrounding area.

8. Explore the ancient ruins of Tiwanaku – City of the Sun

ruines et vestiges les plus impressionnants du monde

Flickr – Cata Bravo

Approximately 1h30 or 2h from La Paz, the pre-Inca ruins of Tiwanaku lie at an altitude of over 3,800 metres. Researchers consider Tiwanaku (also known as Tihuanaco) to be one of the most important pre-Incan civilizations in this region. The empire of which Tiwanaku was the capital flourished from 300 to 1000 CE.

9. The Museo de la Coca (Coca Museum)

Museo de la coca, La Paz, Bolivie

Flickr – Carlos Vieira

This is one of the most intriguing museums in La Paz, and therefore one of the most visited. Discover the history of the coca plant, from its medicinal use and religious significance in ancient Andean cultures, to its prohibition by the Catholic Church, to the everyday concerns of today. The museum is an interesting way to spend an afternoon in La Paz, and you can be sure of giving yourself food for thought on a long drive to another destination on your Bolivian adventure. For another unusual museum, you can visit the Museo Nacional de Etnografia y Folklore.

10. For the more insane, check out the Yungas or Death Road.

Route de la Mort Bolivie, Death Road, Bolivia

Wikimedia – Warren H

Once the world’s most dangerous road (by death toll), the « Road of Death » (El Camino de la Muerte) is now reserved for mountain bikers. The road descends almost 3,600 meters to the town of Coroico. You’ll find travel agencies to take you there on Calle Sagarnaga.

La Paz: getting there, staying there

Please note that flight prices to La Paz can vary greatly. From France, they can range from €900 to €1,700! Flights are cheapest from August to October and January to March. To find your flight, compare prices and airlines on Skyscanner.

If you’re looking for accommodation in La Paz, you can choose from several neighborhoods: from the historic center to the very upmarket Zona Sur, the city is full of pied-à-terre! Of course, it all depends on what you’re looking for when you stay in the capital. If you’re looking for a cheap hotel in La Paz, you can always use this hotel comparison service to find the best deals available.

Map of hotels and accommodation – La Paz,bo