To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would love La Paz, especially after having already visited Uyuni Salt Flats and Sucre earlier on our trip in Bolivia. My assumption was that La Paz was a huge and crowded city and not particularly a relaxed one (actually quite the opposite).
However, after spending 4 full days there, I can honestly say La Paz is a unique and fascinating city that is definitely worth the time. It is quite chaotic but at the same time, it presents a culturally captivating experience that I’m sure will leave a long lasting impression on you.
On this post, I share the reasons why we loved La Paz (as well as other things we weren’t too impressed about), and our personal recommendations on the best things to do during your stay.
5 Reasons Why We Loved La Paz
1 – Mirador Killi Killi
The best way to appreciate the beauty and grandiosity of La Paz is by admiring it from a mirador (viewpoint). I particularly loved Mirador Killi Killi, which offers a birds-eye view of the whole city with a stunning Illimani mountain in the background. I highly suggest visiting this viewpoint on your first day as it makes a great introduction to La Paz (and it’s absolutely free!)
Tips For Visiting Mirador Killi Killi
- It might be tough to find a taxi on the way back as it’s not a busy area. Some travelers suggest asking the taxi driver to wait for you for 20 minutes or so and take you back to the city center.
- Wear layers as the wind can be cold.
- Wear sunscreen if you visit during day time.
- Avoid staying late after sunset.
How To Get There
By Foot: From Avenida Sucre, take Avenida La Bandera then head uphill (be aware it is a steep climb!)
By Taxi: Just a 5-10 minute ride from Plaza Murillo.
2 – Mi Teleferico
Did you know that La Paz boasts the world’s largest high altitude cable-car system? And it’s not a tourist attraction, it is the main means of transportation for the locals.
I was completely blown away by how futuristic, efficient and affordable the whole system was. Coupled with the amazing views, riding the cable car is a one-of-a-kind experience not to be missed in La Paz.
Interesting Facts about Mi Teleferico
- It is the first example in the world of cable cars being used as a primary transport network.
- Cable cars leave the stations every 12 seconds and run 17 hours per day (5am-10pm).
- Due to the large Aymara population, all of the cable car stations have both Spanish and Aymara names.
- It is estimated that there could be 16 lines in the La Paz Teleferico by 2030.
Tips For Riding Mi Teleferico Cable Cars
- Try them both during day time and night time and you’ll be rewarded with different but equally amazing views.
- Purchase one Teleferico card loaded with credits to avoid massive queues for buying the return ticket once up. If you plan to do both lines remember that you need a new ticket when you change the line.
- Don’t miss the opportunity to take some time-lapse videos during the ride!
3 – Guided Walking Tour of La Paz
I’m usually not a big fan of guided tours (I’d rather explore a city at my own pace), but I’m glad we made an exception in La Paz. I think that we wouldn’t have appreciated the city as much if we hadn’t received some insights from locals in terms of cultural nuances and historical context.
We really enjoyed the 3-hour tour organized by Red Cap Walking Tours. The English-speaking guides bring you to some of the most famous sights and local markets while sharing interesting facts and stories with a touch of humor. They enthusiastically answer random questions that will surely cross your mind, such as “why do they sell Llama Fetuses at the markets?!”.
Red Cap Walking Tours meet every day at 11 am and 2 pm in Plaza San Pedro. Advance booking is suggested but not mandatory. Bring cash with you!
4 – Trendy Vegetarian Restaurants & Cafes
To be honest, we were not impressed with the street food options as there’s not much variety – it’s all about chicken! On the other hand, we were pleasantly surprised and impressed with the vegetarian food scene.
We were walking up and down hills all day so taking a light yet nutritious vegetarian meal was a life-saver.
Some of our favorites:
Namas Te | Visit at lunchtime for the excellent set menu with lots of fresh & colorful veggies, quinoa, and delicious soup.
Café Vida | Hidden gem in the city center serving veggie bowls, wraps and sandwiches. The portions are really generous!
Sultana Cafe-Arte | This was our favorite cafe in La Paz, with a cozy atmosphere and artsy decor. I recommend you try their signature cinnamon tea.
MagicK | Great place to visit in the evening for cocktails or a light bite. There is live music most evenings.
5 – Endless Photography Opportunities
If you’re a photography aficionado like myself, you’ll go crazy in La Paz. You will literally find a photo opportunity at every corner. I personally loved to (discreetly) capture the beautiful Cholitas in their traditional outfits.
For a landscape shot, look no further than Mirador Killi Killi. Calle Jaén is also a beautiful backdrop for that cute Instagram shot.
- Related Post: A Complete Travel Guide to Sucre, Bolivia
Things We Weren’t Impressed By in La Paz…
Mercado de las Brujas (Witches Market)
I wasn’t particularly impressed by the Witches Market. Except for a few shops that do specialize in witchcraft items and traditional remedies, I found that most shops sell the same industrialized souvenirs you could find in other markets.
It feels like it has inevitably become more of an entertaining sight for travelers rather than a local cultural experience. I personally enjoyed the Cholita-run open-air markets way more!
Museo de Coca (Coca Museum)
There’s probably no better place to learn about Coca Leaf (its history, cultural significance and properties) than Bolivia – one of its largest producers in the world.
That’s why I was interested to visit the Coca Museum, which is conveniently located in the heart of the city. Unfortunately, the visit was a bit underwhelming: the exhibition comprises a tiny room with photos and text-filled posters on the wall with information you can easily find on Wikipedia. On top of that, if you’re not a Spanish speaker, you’ll have to read from a binder in your chosen language.
If you’re tight on time, I suggest you skip this one. Hopefully, they will revamp the exhibition in the future!
Admission: Bs 13 ($2 US). Photography is not permitted.
Other Must-See Attractions & Things to Do in La Paz
– Cathedral & Plaza Murillo: The main historic plaza of La Paz where you will find the old & new Presidential Palace.
– San Francisco Church (Iglesia San Francisco): Impressive 16th-century church with indigenous motifs.
– Sagarnaga Street: Most famous (albeit touristy) market street in La Paz. Great for souvenir shopping.
– Calle Jaén: A quiet street with pretty colonial buildings and several interesting museums.
– El Alto Market: A massive and overwhelming market that is open every Thursday and Sunday. Beware of your belongings during your visit!
– Local Markets such as 16 de Julio Market or Mercado Lanza: huge open-air markets selling virtually everything. Great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.
Side note: Many guides recommend Cholita Wrestling as a must-see attraction in La Paz. We were intrigued by it but after reading mixed traveler reviews online we decided to skip it. It looks like it’s not for everyone… I suggest you check reviews first before you include it in your itinerary!
Where to Stay in La Paz
After doing some research, we eventually chose the up-and-coming Sopocachi as our base in La Paz – a lively neighborhood with lots of restaurant options and easy access to downtown.
We stayed at this Airbnb hosted by a lovely lady, Alicia. The location of the property couldn’t be better, being in the center of Sopocachi it’s safe and quiet with some of the best restaurants and cafes within a 5-minute radius. There was also a very comprehensive supermarket opposite the building.
We walked to San Pedro Plaza and Witches Market in 25 minutes and used some public transport as well which is cheap and cheerful. The room is spacious with plenty of storage and a large private bathroom. We had the privacy we needed, which is a crucial factor to an enjoyable Airbnb stay.
Read more guest reviews and book this Airbnb here.
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Popular Day Trips from La Paz
We made a choice to stay in the city during our 4-day stay in La Paz but if you crave some time in the outdoors, here are some popular day trip ideas that you can try:
Death Road | The Death Road is a 60 km long road which links the city of La Paz and the Yungas region of Bolivia that can be explored by bicycle with the guidance of local tour operators.
Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) | Impressive landscape consisting of tall spires and unique geological formations of light brown color.
Tinawaku | Remains of a Pre-Incan civilization surrounded by mountain ranges, aka “the Stonehenge of the Americas”.
How Long to Stay in La Paz
I would say a minimum of 3 days is the perfect length to leisurely explore the local markets, take the cable car, walk to the viewpoints and visit a few historic sites & museums.
Weather in La Paz
Weather is warmest in La Paz between October – December with an average temperature above 15 degrees. The cold season is June – July where the average temperature is 13 degrees.
The key is to always wear warm layers as it gets windy and chilly during the evening all year round, even in the summer months.
Useful Information and tips for your stay in La Paz
La Paz Altitude
La Paz is 3500m above sea level so you might need to be ready to experience some degree of altitude sickness. At the first sign of dizziness, chew coca leaves or buy altitude sickness pills. Walk slowly and avoid strenuous activities. If symptoms continue for a long while, consider seeking medical help.
La Paz Safety
La Paz is not exactly the safest city so you might want to take some precautions.
- In crowded areas be careful of pickpockets and bag slashers.
- Avoid fake/illegal taxis by taking Radio Cabs only – ask hotel or restaurant staff to help you call one.
Getting Around in La Paz
We mainly used minivans (or “trufis”) to get around in the city. They are super cheap and the best thing is that they all have their routes indicated on the windshield so as long as you have a rough idea of where your destination is, you’ll be fine!
To cover distances that can not be easily reached by minivans, you can take taxis. Just be aware that most taxi drivers don’t use a meter so you need to have an idea of what the price should be (you probably want to ask your accommodation host beforehand or compare between a few taxis before riding one).
Having said that, the best way to explore La Paz is by foot or cable car whenever possible!
Hope you enjoyed my personal recommendations on the best way to enjoy La Paz, Bolivia. Which one intrigued you the most? I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with me via the comment section below or Instagram!
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