8 of the best things to do in La Paz, Bolivia | Travel guide
Updated: Jun 9
We have been to La Paz three times but each time we arrive I am still amazed by the sight of the city. Set high in the Andes at an altitude of 3625m. With very little greenery to break up the buildings, the enormous city sprawls as far as the eye can see with the snow-capped mountains looking almost superimposed in the background. I am normally unimpressed with city skylines, and I hate the term concrete jungle, but there is something very unique and almost beautiful about La Paz that I cannot quite put into words. You will just have to go and see it with your own eyes and come up with your own description.
Table of contents
Things to do in La Paz
1. Take a free walking tour
We have done two different walking tours, both were good and followed a very similar route round the city and ‘script’. They generally take roughly 2 hours and will include the main square, the cathedral, Mercado Lanza, the Witches Market and San Pedro prison.
2. Visit the Witches Market
Whilst you will stop by here on a free walking tour you will likely want to come back and spend a bit longer looking round here. It is not huge but fascinating! Dried baby llamas, ‘medicines’ for every ailment or issue you may be experiencing and everything you need to make offerings to the Goddess Pachamama (Mother Earth) in order to bring luck and goodwill in the hope that your dreams and desires will be realised.
3. Take a tour on the Teleferico (cable car)
With La Paz sitting at such a high altitude taking a tour on the La Paz (and El Alto, the neighbouring city) cable car system is a must! The Teleferico is considered the largest cable car system in the world, currently (as of November 2022) having 26 stations across 10 lines, with the current plan to finish with 30 stations & 11 lines.
Although the Teleferico was constructed as a public transport system rather than tourist attraction, sitting at such a beautiful spot in the Andes for any tourist visiting La Paz it gives a great vantage point to appreciate the huge scale of the city and surrounding mountains.
Tickets cost 3BS per journey per line but if you are planning on travelling multiple lines in one day you can inform the person at the ticket desk and pay 7BS for three journeys.
Free downloadable interactive La Paz Teleferico map
We struggled to find an interactive map for the Teleferico, with the official site https://www.miteleferico.bo/ offering a moving map but you can't see where you are with a GPS point. Therefore I have 'drawn' an interactive map on google you can use. Click this link to download the map below to your Google maps so you can easily see your closest station at any point during your stay in La Paz.
Here are a couple of 'circular-ish' routes you can take on the Teleferico;
Take the linea rojo (red line) up to El Alto. This line arguably offers the best views, including Chualluma barrio with its beautiful colourful houses. You will also see the enormous General Cemetery and the sprawling El Alto market if passing over on a Thursday or Sunday.
Next take the linea plateada (silver line) across the top & be prepared to be astonished at the buildings clinging onto the sheer mountain side.
Jump off at the first station, Estacio Faro Murillo, and take the linea morada (purple line) back down to the city centre.
Take the linea naranja (orange line) giving great views of the mountains.
Change to linea blanca (white line), which is actually black on our map as you wouldn't be able to see a white line! This line flies directly above Avenue Busch.
You can then take the linea celeste (light blue line) towards Estacio Prado back down to the city centre.
4. Mercado de Las Brujas
Right next to the Witches market is Mercado de Las Brujas, two adjacent streets lined with brightly coloured shops piled high with souvenirs. Here is where you will find the classic gaudy alpaca jumpers that is every travellers right of passage to own!
5. Mercado Lanza
Visit Mercado Lanza to drink fresh juice and eat avocado sandwiches
An indoor market housing rows of juice and food stands. Animated ladies will shout to you offering their produce, choose a stall, take a seat (or ask for it to go(para llevar)) & enjoy huge fresh juices* and delicious avocado sandwiches.
*When you order a juice the lady will ask you if you want natural, con aqua or con leche. Natural is only fruit juice squeezed/blended from the fresh fruit with no added liquid – a delicious, vitamin packed option but slightly more expensive. Con aqua, with water – don’t worry in our experience the ladies always use bottled water so there is no concern about getting ill but if you are unsure just ask if the aqua is embottellada or filtrada. Con leche, with milk – if you choose to drink the milk here there is no harm in having it added to your juice, as long as you can see the milk is stored in a fridge you should have no problems.
6. Cholitas wrestling
An extremely random but fun night out! The indigenous Bolivian ladies, known as Cholitas put on an entertaining show in the ring. WWE style, the female fighters battle it out to cries of joy and encouragement from the crowd. We had thought this would be a solely tourist event, don’t get me wrong a large number of tourists do attend, but there was also a large local representation; adults, teenagers and families with their young children waving posters of their favourite Cholita fighter! Probably something you only do once but if you have time it is worth it for the pure comedy value.
7. Death road
We haven’t done this as I am completely useless on a bike and so apart from the probable risk of death, I don’t think I would enjoy it. However, absolutely tonnes of people we have met on the road have done it and not one person has said they didn’t enjoy it. In fact most have said it was a highlight of their trip. So if you are confident on a bike and fancy it – go for it!
Here are a few tips others have given us:
Pick one of the top-rated tour companies to do it with. We were given the names Xtreme Downhill & Altitude Travel.
Don’t skimp on the bike. Companies will offer you a selection of different prices of bike hire *** go for the most expensive, with the best suspension.
The minibus follows the cyclists down the road so if you aren’t enjoying it as much as you thought you are allowed to jump in the bus ***no one is going to force you to go all the way down.
Wear gloves. Even in summer the early mornings are cold and you don’t want your fingers cramping up and restricting your breaking action.
Despite the name, whilst the trip is not risk free, it is unlikely you will die (if you can ride a bike & have any sense of balance – unlike me!)
8. San Pedro Prison
If you have read the book Marching Powder, you will know all about San Pedro prison and may even been keen to delve deeper into its bizarre story. The free walking tours will take you to the square outside the prison and explain what makes this prison unique. Tours inside the prison did used to be an option and were one of the top-rated attractions in South America! However, since the release of Thomas McFadden, the inmate whose memoire is detailed in Marching Powder, tours inside the prison have been banned and whilst there is rumour you can pay your way in, it is strongly advised against and very much unsafe!
Couple of things to note:-
If you do wander past the prison on your own. It is now illegal to take photos of it, getting caught doing so will see your phone confiscated by the prison guards outside.
The book Marching Powder is banned in Bolivia, so if you haven’t yet read it, maybe wait until you are safely out the country on a beach somewhere!
Where to stay in La Paz
Wild Rover Hostel
(private double/shared bathroom 200Bs/£25/$29)
This is a party hostel, there is no doubt about it. You may get lucky with the positioning of your room and be able to get a good nights sleep here (depending on your roommates if you opt for a dorm) or you could end up near the bar/common areas and struggle to get 4 hours – no joke! There is a on site bar that is open until 1am and hosted themed nights, beer pong & other activities every night of the week – Ideal, if you are extremely social/solo traveller and up for a good night out.
The location of the hostel is good, with restaurants and cafes within a 5 minute walk. Only a 15 mins walk from Witches Market but about 30 mins from the bus station.
There is also a well rated travel agent on site that organises city walking tours and day trips such as Death Road.
The rooms & shared bathrooms are clean and large lockers are available in the dorms (own padlock needed) but there are no kitchen facilities.
(we paid 110Bs/£14/$16 for a private double ensuite including breakfast)
Only private rooms available as this is a hotel rather than a hostel. The rooms are nice and have private bathrooms. Breakfast is included but we found it rather uninspiring with a very limited selection and quantity available. I would say the location is slightly better, being only a 15 minute walk from bus station & 5 minutes from Witches Market area.
Places to eat in La Paz
We’ll admit we’ve been missing some of our home cuisine and so you may notice we sampled some less than local eateries whilst in La Paz!
The Lucky Llama Irish pub
Sadly, not a very authentic Irish pub but it has a stab at western food. I wouldn’t rush here but if you are fed up with local cuisine, it’s an option; obviously a more expensive one than eating local food.
The English pub
Another western option, we didn’t actually eat here, just popped in to watch football but again they offer a western menu and the food we saw come out for others looked nice.
Curry House Bolivia
Food here was pretty good, we had a chicken curry that was very nice (although not at all spicy despite the waiter saying it was) and a veggie option that was okay but a little tasteless. The curry place we went to in Cusco was much better than this but if you are desperate for curry I would give it a go.
I think this place is actually an upmarket hostel so is marked as a hotel on google maps, but it also had a rooftop restaurant open to the public. We had the menu del dia here and it was really good. The classic soup to start but a few more varied options for main such as pasta. Dessert was an odd little chocolate moose type thing, not to our taste. We paid 20Bs each for three courses.
Where to get good coffee in La Paz
If you have read any of our other South America blogs you will know we like to hunt out at least one nice café to get good coffee. We have learnt that although South America produces a lot of coffee, all the good stuff is exported and making a good brew is not necessarily a skill all waiters/waitresses possess! Here are the two places we found in La Paz
I think this is a chain so there are a few dotted across the country. They make a decent coffee at very reasonable prices (9Bs for a cappuccino) and I can also vouch for the muffins being very nice!
Hb Bronze Coffee bar
A lot more expensive but better coffee. A pretty fancy place, I must admit we felt a little scruffy in our backpacker attire but the staff we welcoming none the less. We also shared a chicken sandwich served with potato wedges, all of which was absolutely delicious. The waitress described the sandwich and its ingredients/recipes origin to us as it was served – an example of the fanciness! Two coffees and the sandwich came to 108Bs, so like I said, a lot more expensive, but also much