Things to do in La Paz, Bolivia – 5 Unbeatable Experiences
Nestled among the Andes Mountains, the striking city of La Paz is the seat of the Bolivian Government, but not its official capital. In addition to its beautiful scenery and colonial architecture, the city has a rich indigenous heritage. Here we provide a list of five surprising and fun things to do in La Paz that speak to the rich cultural diversity of this small Andean country.
The Witches’ Market:
Without a doubt, one of the most popular tourist destinations in La Paz. As you walk through El Mercado de Las Brujas, you’ll appreciate a great variety of homemade remedies, herbs and odd items used in Aymara (indigenous) rituals. Fo example, it is not uncommon to see dissected frogs or even llama fetuses for sale. These are symbols of purity and are used in offerings to the Pachamama or Mother Earth.
The Yatiris or Aymara Witch Doctors are a staple of the market providing healing services and performing rituals to help people overcome their troubles. It is certainly a bizarre experience. However, no matter your beliefs, a walk through this market will connect you with the mystical side of the Aymara culture, which is very much alive to this day.
This is the most picturesque street in La Paz preserving its charm from colonial times. Its colorful buildings and cobblestone street set the stage for bohemian restaurants, cafes and bars often visited by the city’s artists. Plus, you’ll find these well-respected mini-museums, all of which can be explored in just one day:
- Museo de la Casa Murillo
- El Museo Costumbrista Juan de Vargas
- El Museo de Metales Preciosos Precolombinos
- Museo del Litoral
- Museo de Instrumentos Musicales
In surprising contrast to La Paz’s traditional flair, the city boasts a grand exhibit of innovativeness which is the cablecar public transportation system, connecting various points in La Paz and El Alto. Built only three years ago, in 2014, this cable car system is the highest and longest in the world. It operates at nearly 4,000 msnm (13,123 ft. asl) and runs a distance of more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). Phase 2 of this project, which will add more lines, is already under way. Mi Teleférico has quickly become the preferred method of transportation for many residents wanting to shorten their commute times. However, for people visiting the city, it provides unparalleled views of La Paz and its surrounding Andean landscape.
The Cholets of El Alto:
Cholets are colorful and intricately adorned buildings symbolizing the new wealth of the Aymaras. The iconic Cholets were conceived by famous architect Freddy Mamani who created a flamboyant “neo-Andean” baroque style. In addition, these “homes” are massive and sometimes include internal soccer fields, malls and even gigantic ballrooms, which are rented out as a source of income.
Cholets are only found in the city of El Alto, near La Paz, where most people are of modest means and indigenous origins. However, for those who have amassed wealth, the Cholets are a testament to their economic success. They are proud of their indigenous heritage, and rather than move to a “nicer” neighborhood, they prefer to stay in their own communities and build these extravagant structures.
Moon Valley is situated at only 10 kilometers from the bustling city of La Paz. Yet, it offers a beautiful and peaceful landscape that will leave you breathless. It boasts distinct and formidable rock erosion patterns that feel like something from out of this world. It was precisely this feeling that drove first-man-on-the-moon Neil Armstrong to visit and name this special place.
For more information about itineraries in La Paz or other destinations in Bolivia, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Contact Us with any questions.