Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in La Paz in Bolivia, along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
La Paz is perhaps the most famous city in Bolivia, surrounded by the Andes with snowcapped peaks all year round. It sits at an average elevation of 3,650 meters (11,975 ft) above the sea.
While the constitutional capital of Bolivia is Sucre, La Paz serves as the seat of government and executive capital of Bolivia, which also makes it one of the highest located capitals in the world. It’s also an important cultural center in Latin America.
In this article, I’m sharing some of the best places to visit in La Paz as well as interesting facts about the city and attractions that shouldn’t be missed while visiting.
Bolivia’s Witch Market
El Mercado de las Brujas, also known as La Hechiceria, is a real-life one-stop-shop for witches. Located in La Paz and run by yatiri, or local witch doctors, one can find everything from potions to ingredients like dried frogs to amulets.
Today, the shop is a tourist attraction, but its roots lie in the demand for ingredients for Aymara rituals. The traditional llama fetuses, destined to be buried under new houses as an offering to the goddess Pachamama, are also available.
La Paz’s mountainous geography begs for alternate forms of transportation. Mi Teleférico is the answer to that, a cable car transit system that crisscrosses its way across the whole city.
A total of 26 stations and 10 transfer stations make up the ten lines of the cable car systems, although they are in constant expansion. In operation since 2014, the system is the longest aerial cable car in the world, covering over 20 miles.
WMDR Yungas Road
Death Road has quite a ring to it, doesn’t it? It is the second name for WMDR Yungas Road, a frightening stretch of mountainous highway that leaves La Paz and goes toward Coroico.
There have been as many as 300 deaths a year on the highway, due to bicycles and vehicles falling off the steep, unguarded sides. It has been officially labeled the “World’s Most Dangerous Road”, which has also made it a popular place in many bucket lists.
Iglesia de San Francisco
The San Francisco church is one of La Paz’s most important historical landmarks. Franciscan monks settled the place in the 1500s, and built a church there by 1581.
However, the heavy snow in the area collapsed the church after just 30 years, until finally it was rebuilt by the mid-1700s. Named a basilica in 1948, the church also holds a convent, which is now a museum.
The church was built by indigenous Aymara people, and the façade is unique in that it mixes Catholic and Aymara art. The interior is mostly neoclassical, with beautiful gold leaf accents.
Cholita is a slang word for indigenous or mestizo women which, once derogatory, has become a claim of pride and Bolivian women. Inspired by lucha libre in Mexico, women’s wrestling has become a popular sport in Bolivia.
These ‘cholitas’ dress in their traditional clothes, long skirts, and puffy sleeves, and wrestle each other. The wrestling is part serious, part comical, resulting in a sport unique to Bolivia.
Museo de la Coca
Coca leaves are chewed day in and day out in the Amazon, and the Coca Museum in La Paz documents the entire story of the coca plant. While the coca leaf is known as the primary ingredient for cocaine, the museum endeavors to also teach about its place in Bolivian culture.
Visit the photographic exhibitions and learn about the importance of this leaf in the local economy and traditional rites. Coca leaves have been used for centuries in South America.
Abandoned Chacaltaya Ski Resort
Once Bolivia’s only ski resort, Chacaltaya was celebrated worldwide as the highest ski resort and home to the world’s highest restaurant. Opened in the 1930s, it was a favorite getaway for residents of La Paz, who would ski down the Chacaltaya Glacier, which was formed over 18,000 years ago.
However, signs of global warming began to take their toll on the glacier, which sits at 17,519 feet above sea level. The glacier began to melt, and by 2009 there was nothing left and the resort was abandoned, where it still stands, stuck in time.
A World Heritage site, Tiwanaku is the most important pre-Columbian civilization that sits near Lake Titicaca, about an hour and a half outside of La Paz. While the date of the site is not certain, many scholars date it as far back as 200 BC.
The settlement includes a pyramid of earth, Akapana, made of columns and blocks; the Gateway of the Sun, which features a carving of religious importance; and many pieces of pottery and other artifacts.
The place was once a bustling city, and the culture was most certainly the one that gave birth to the Aymara Indians, although it had disappeared by 1200 AD.
Jaen Street (Calle Jaén)
La Paz’s most emblematic street, Calle Jaén is pretty with its cobblestones and colorful colonial buildings. Some of the buildings date back to the 17th century, and among the houses and shops lie several cultural treasures, from the Museo del Litoral to the Museo Casa de Murillo. The bars and shops are also worth a visit while strolling the beautiful Calle Jaén.
Parque Mirador Laikakota
Laikakota is one of the most popular lookout points in La Paz. The Mirador sits in a park on top of a hill inside the city center. It is a popular spot for panoramic views over the entire city, Illimani mountain, and the surrounding hills.
Parque Urbano Central also features plenty of outdoor activities, including paths to walk and cycle as well as soccer pitches and outdoor theaters. You can reach the Mirador by cable car or by foot, and the park costs about 50 cents to enter.
Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley)
Just a few miles outside of La Paz sits Moon Valley, a geological formation that resembles the eerie landscapes of the moon. The conglomeration of canyons and sandstone formations was created by wind and rain over many years, and the result is a positively lunar look.
Colors range from brownish to dark purple, and the only vegetation is cactuses, frequented by the occasional lizard. To visit Valle de la Luna, you can walk the tracks, which are short and easy, or explore the trails, which are narrower and require outdoor footwear.
Huayna Potosi Mountain
This is a big one. Huayna Potosi is the most climbed mountain in the area. The 6,088-meter peak is actually quite accessible, with easier faces for less experienced climbers.
First climbed in 1919, the summit is quite steep but the elevation gain from trailhead to summit is less than 1400 meters. The entire climb can take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours and offers incredible views of the Cordillera Real’s snow-capped mountains.
As La Paz grew, and grew, and grew, El Alto was born as the sprawl of the enormous city. Around the airport, overlooking La Paz, sits this former neighborhood that was granted its own city status in 1986.
At 4000 meters above sea level, El Alto features beautiful views of the surrounding mountain, but the city itself is quite destitute. It’s actually more populated than La Paz, with a very young demographic and a high rate of poverty.
Cementerio General La Paz
La Paz’s general cemetery must be one of the most festive, hopeful cemeteries in the world. Built in 1826 to hold the city’s dead, which were previously buried in their churches, the cemetery was later taken over by the government as a charity cemetery.
Today, the cemetery is almost totally full, 95% of its three kilometers occupied. The unique setup of the cemetery features rows and stacks of tombs, held behind glass shrines, each more colorful than the next, decorated with flowers, pictures, and other tokens from loved ones.
If there is one day in the year that is best to visit, it is definitely Día de los Muertos, when visitors are in full celebratory mood—it feels more like a party than a graveyard, and it’s a great celebration of the dead.
National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore
The Bolivian National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore resides in an 18th-century former palace. Though it was founded back in 1925, the museum is actually quite modern, and it is the best place to find out more about the different cultures of Bolivia.
The collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts and fabrics, costumes, and weapons from the entire history of Bolivia is quite impressive, as are the exhibits on the city’s various people groups.
Interesting facts about La Paz
- La Paz has the highest located golf club with tournament standards.
- The city of La Paz has the longest cable car in the world.
- Humans in zebra costumes, locally known as cebritas direct traffic in La Paz.
- La Paz has a population of 816 000 as of 2020 according to the latest estimation.
- The city is named Chuqi Yapu in the Aymara language.
- La Paz was founded by Captain Alonso de Mendoza, a Spanish conquistador in the year 1548 on 20 October.
- The urban area covers 3,240 km2 (1,250 sq mi) at an elevation of 3,640 m (11,942 ft).
- El Alto International Airport is located at 4058 meters, making it one of the highest located airports in the world.
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