Multicolored cable cars with panoramic views, fragrant street food wafting from every corner and the omnipresence of vibrant murals. There are plenty of undeniably cool things to do in La Paz Bolivia, especially if your guide happens to be a local! Time to delve into the various attractions in La Paz.
On a recent trip to Bolivia, I spent a whirlwind 24 hours in the country’s de-facto capital. The frantic energy, kaleidoscopic architecture, and neverending stream of bowler-hatted Cholitas pushing past me left a lasting impression.
One day in city is nowhere near enough to create a proper La Paz Bolivia city guide. Therefore I enlisted the help of a local Paceña (local from La Paz) to help you find the very best things to do in La Paz Bolivia including the various La Paz activities, best street food to try, the hippest neighborhoods, and provide answers to the more practical questions like “how in the world do I get on the bus?”.
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Is La Paz worth visiting?
The highest capital in the world at 3600 meters (11.811,02 feet) is surrounded by the glacier-topped Cordillera Real. Nestled deep within a bowl-shaped river canyon, the ever-expanding urban sprawl has slowly inched its way over the rolling hills spilling over into El Alto.
The amalgam of architectural styles, cultures and peoples that populate Bolivia’s capital are what make the city well worth spending a few days. From top-notch Michelin-starred restaurants to bolthole street food stalls, drab clustered of red-brick buildings standing next to three-story homes built in the shape of a transformer, La Paz has it all.
A word of caution before delving head first into the various places to see in La Paz. Certain neighborhoods (or barrios) are known to be less safe, especially at night. Scroll down to the section on safety for more information.
12 Things to do in La Paz Bolivia
1. Whizz around on the La Paz cable cars
One of the first things I noticed when walking around La Paz was the colorful cable cars flying over my head. Mi Teleférico consists of 10 cable car lines stopping at 31 stations and covering over 30 kilometers (18.6) miles.
Opened in 2014 in an attempt to curb the horrendous congestion in downtown La Paz. This very cool “subway in the sky” has continued to grow in importance and is now a crucial part of the city’s public transportation network, ensuring people of all economic classes are connected to the heart of the city, regardless of where they live.
The system is super efficient, clean and easy to use. Riding around the various cable cars is one of the most fun things to do in La Paz, not to mention the very best way to get unparalleled views over the sprawling city.
TIP: The red cable cars travelers from the northern part of La Paz all the way up to El Alto (located at 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). It is the most scenic line to travel.
FARES: From Bs 1.50 to 3.00 (Transfer Bs 2.00)
TICKETS: Rechargeable smart card (pictures) or single ticket
METRO MAP: https://www.miteleferico.bo/nuestras-lineas
TAKE A TOUR: Spend 4-hours flying over the city while hopping on and off the various cable cars.
2. Visit one of the local markets in La Paz
There is nothing like a visit to the local market to soak up some culture. Markets in La Paz are jam-packed with colorful clothing, ramshackle stalls, wafts of delectable food and Paceñas haggling over prices – a latter an absolute must before purchasing anything.
Practical tip: Either explore with a local or learn a few basic Spanish phrases, English is not widely spoken on the markets (if at all).
La Paz Witches Market (Mercado de las Brujas)
LOCATION: Downtown La Paz || WHAT TO PURCHASE: Handicrafts, Coca leaves, souvenirs || Daily
In recent years it has become one of the most famous La Paz attractions due to the folkloric content of some of its stalls, most notably the preserved Llama fetuses, traditionally used in the foundations of new houses and businesses as an offering to Pachamama (still in use to this day).
LOCATION: San Pedro Neighborhood || WHAT TO PURCHASE: Fruits, vegetables, handicrafts || Daily 07.30 am- 10.00 pm
Mercado Camacho is one of the most important markets in the area. It has remained wonderfully authentic and attracts hordes of locals thanks to its competitive pricing.
LOCATION: El Alto || WHAT TO PURCHASE: Anything and everything || Thursday & Sunday
Feria 16 is one of the largest markets in the world with over 200 stalls lining the zona 16 de julio. The market square itself is surrounded by wildly eccentric buildings designed by the famous indigenous Aymara architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre.
Lanza Market (Mercado Lanza)
LOCATION: Downtown La Paz || WHAT TO PURCHASE: Food || Daily 06.00 am- 08.00 pm
A 3 story marketplace that is the very best place in La Paz to purchase food. Ranging from fresh fruits & vegetables to hearty soul-warming delectable street food.
3. Explore downtown La Paz
Downtown La Paz refers to both the historical center (San Francisco Church, Witches Market, Jaén Street, Lanza Market) as well as the political center which houses the seat of the Bolivian government (Palacio Quemado, Plaza Murillo). The narrow streets are overflowing with street vendors, incessant car honking and rickety minibusses. It is quintessential chaotic La Paz.
This part of town also houses some of the top things to do in La Paz and as such attracts both tourists and pickpockets. Be extra vigilant when exploring during the day. The sprawl of streets around the Witch Market and San Francisco Church is best avoided at night for safety reasons.
This historic square is the central plaza of the city and home to the Presidential Palace, the National Congress of Bolivia and the Cathedral of La Paz.
The prettiest street in all of La Paz with hands-down Calle Jaén. Lined with the most beautifully preserved 18th-century colonial homes, ornate balconies and secret alcoves. It reminded me vaguely of the architecture found on the island of Tenerife.
Aside from being a photographer’s dream, Calle Jaén also has a cluster of four interesting museums: Casa de Murillo, Museo del Litoral, Museo de Metales Preciosos and Museo Costumbrista. Purchase tickets at the later for all four museums.
Last but not least, Calle Jaén is the location of many legends and ghost stories, passed down through generations of Bolivians. One of the most famous legends is the story of the “La Dama de Blanco” or the “Lady in White.” According to the legend, a beautiful woman in a white dress haunts the street at night.
Some say that the woman is the ghost of a wealthy Spanish woman who was killed by her husband in a fit of jealous rage, while others believe that she is the spirit of a woman who died tragically in a fire that consumed her home.
4. Visit the San Francisco Church
Around the corner from Calle Jaén and the Witches Market lies the beautiful 16th-century San Francisco Church. One of the oldest and most important landmarks in La Paz. What drew me to the church was the ornate carvings on the façade, which upon closer inspection displayed a wealth of indigenous symbols: masked figures to snakes, dragons, and tropical birds.
Inside the San Francisco Church, visitors can explore the fascinating museum that houses a collection of religious art and artifacts. A courtyard and cloister are located in the confines of the church grounds and open to the public.
When I visited, the church was sadly closed. Both the opening hours and the entrance fee for the museum are subject to conflicting information online.
OPENING HOURS: Daily 04.00 pm to 06.00 pm
TICKETS: Church free, museum and belltower handful of Bs.
5. Head to the trendy Sopocachi neighborhood
Sopocachi is adjacent to the historical center “downtown La Paz”, San Jorge and Miraflores. This part of town weaves together traditional and modern buildings and covers them in colorful murals in true La Paz style. The artsy neighborhood was once the home of the famous Bolivian painter Walter Solon Romero
The laid-back vibes, live music and street performers combined with an abundance of restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops, make it a popular destination for locals to go for a night on the town.
6. Check out the murals at the Central Cemetery (Cementerio General)
Many of the country’s most prominent politicians, intellectuals, artists, and activists are buried in the Cementerio General. What sets this otherwise eery location is apart is the omnipresence of large, vibrant murals. Yep, you read that right.
Since 2018, the Perros Sueltos artists collective organized the Ñatintas mural-painting festival all over the city. The name of the festival alludes to the pre-Incan Aymara ritual called Ñatitas, where people walk around carrying the skulls of their departed loved ones (traditionally on The Day of the Dead in November). This explains the omnipresence of skulls in the Ñatintas artwork around the cemetery.
Hunting down skull-inspired murals in a cemetery is probably one of the most unique things to do in La Paz! Entrance to the cemetery is free of charge (as is to be expected) and the murals are easily spotted by walking around. Please keep in mind to be quiet and respectful as this is a cemetery.
WHERE IS THE CEMETERY: Max Paredes district
HOW TO GET THERE: Cable car (red line to stop “Cementario”); Minibus with the sign “Cementerio Central”
7. Try some of the typical Bolivian streetfood
One cannot visit La Paz and not try at least some of its delicious street food. The streets are lined with street vendors selling everything from corn to grilled skewers at just about every hour of the day.
There is a popular saying that goes: Those who know how to eat a Salteñas without spilling its juicy content all over, are good kissers. Put those kissing skills to the test by waltzing up and purchasing this popular meat-filled pastry for a few Bolivianos from any of the street vendors.
Other classics include empanadas, anticuchos (grilled skewers) are the famous Tucumanes, originally from Tucumán in Argentina and bought over by Argentinian immigrants, these fried empanadas are typically filled with beef, onion, potatoes and spices. Served with a side of “Llajua” or spicy tomato sauce.
VEGETARIANS BE CAREFUL: Many of these snacks are heavily reliant on meat, as a vegetarian always make sure to ask “¿lleva carne?” (does this contain meat)
TOURS | Streetfood is great if you know which vendor to buy it from. Why not try a 3-hour street food tour which includes a visit to the market, tasting local beers and 6 typical Bolivian dishes.
8. Explore Chualluma La Paz
WHEN TO GO | Go during the day || PRACTICAL INFO | Guide to Chualluma
Located on the outskirts of La Paz, a splash of color clinging for dear life to the side of the mountain, right underneath El Alto, lies the Chualluma neighborhood.
Under the government-funded program ‘My neighborhood, my home’, Chualluma was transformed from a cluster of drab faded orange boxes into a vibrant veritable open-air museum. Professional urban artists adorned the houses with beautiful murals depicting the community and elements of their Aymaran culture.
Various informative panels are spread out across the neighborhood. These “Mapa” (depicted above) include an overview of where the murals can be found as well as what parts of the neighborhood have stray dogs (be very careful of the dogs).
TOURS | Chualluma is one of the most colorful La Paz sights, and I really recommend going there! It is not included in the standard walking tours due to its remoteness. If you do want to take a tour, it will require booking a (surprisingly great value/money) private tour of La Paz.
9. Find viewpoints over La Paz
The city of La Paz is sprawled out across a bowler-hat-shaped basin, the ridges of which are – mostly- accessible, providing photographers a unique opportunity to catch some truly spectacular shots of the city.
El Montículo Viewpoint
LOCATION: Spocachi neighborhood
HOW TO GET THERE: To reach the Montículo Viewpoint, visitors can take a cable car ride (yellow line to Sopocachi station) or hike up the hill from Plaza Abaroa. The area around the viewpoint is also a popular spot for restaurants and bars.
WHAT YOU SEE: Illimani Mountain, La Paz
Killi Killi Viewpoint
LOCATION: Villa Pabón
HOW TO GET THERE: To reach the Killi Killi viewpoint, visitors can take a taxi or bus (sign Villa Pabón) to the base of the Killi Killi hill, and then climb the steep stairs to the top.
WHAT YOU SEE: Illimani and Huayna Potosí mountains, La Paz urban sprawl
HOW TO GET THERE: Red line cable car – stop at station Cementerio Ajayuni. Exit the metro station through Avenida Entre Rios
WHAT YOU SEE: Huayna Potosí mountains with the red cable cars passing in front
10. Hike in the Valley of the Souls (Valle de las Animas)
The Valle de las Almas, (Valley of the Souls), is located on the outskirts of La Paz, Bolivia. What makes this valley noteworthy is the unusual rock formations soaring over it, a result of thousands of years of wind and water erosion.
The valley is an important cultural and spiritual site for the local Aymara people, who believe that the towering rocks are the resting place of their ancestors’ souls.
The Valle de las Almas is a popular destination for hiking and photography, and there are several hiking trails that lead through the valley and up to the surrounding hills for panoramic views of the area. It is definitely a must-visit location for anyone interested in natural wonders and cultural experiences.
11. Traipse through the Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna)
The Moon Valley, or Valle de la Luna in Spanish, is a stunning geological formation located just outside of La Paz, Bolivia. It is a landscape that appears to be from another world, with bizarre rock formations, deep canyons, and surreal, otherworldly colors. The valley was formed over millions of years by the constant erosion of the surrounding mountains by wind and water.
What makes Moon Valley worth visiting are the panoramic views of the surrounding Andean mountains, not so much the valley itself in my personal opinion. The valley can be explored by way of two easy trails (not suitable for visitors with mobility issues).
As you exit the main entrance (Avenida Valle de La Luna) and head across to the rock formations on the opposite side of the street (indicated on Google Maps as Las Banderas de Mallasa). Clamber up the rocks to get a really nice view over La Paz.
ENTRANCE FEE | Bs. 15
OPENING HOURS | Daily 09.00 am – 05.00 pm
GETTING THERE | Minibuses bound for Mallasa (a village near Moon Valley) will drop you off at the entrance gate of the site.
12. Explore nearby El Alto
Lofty El Alto is located at an altitude of 4,061 meters (13,323 feet). The city is oftentimes the first place many visitors set foot in when flying to La Paz as the “La Paz airport” is in fact El Alto International Airport, 15 km from the de facto capital of Bolivia.
What makes El Alto well worth visiting is the exuberant architecture, bustling markets (Feria 16) and the famous Cholita wrestling matches that are held in the city. As the fastest-growing city in Bolivia, El Alto is not the safest place to visit without a local friend or guide.
Visit the Cholets in El Alto
The primarily Aymaran community that resides in El Alto are true entrepreneurs, building successful businesses buying/selling imported goods from China. The Nouveau Riche of El Alto turn to El Alto native Freddy Mamani to design their houses, the so-called Cholets. These colorful buildings are inspired by native Aymara architecture, festival chola clothing and the Transformers cartoons.
Why book a tour: We ended up booking a local tour to see the various Cholets, but mostly to be able to enter a Cholet. As these buildings are privately owned, it is not possible to visit without a guide.
We did not attend a wrestling match, as originally I thought it was somewhat of a tourist trap. Yet after doing some digging it soon became apparent how sorely mistaken I was.
The practice of Cholita Wrestling originated in the 2000s and was put in place as a means to help Aymaran women affected by domestic violence. Wrestling was seen as a way to relieve stress and regain a sense of empowerment in a male-dominated society. Read up on the history before you go.
WHEN TO GO: Thursdays 4.30 pm; Sundays 5.30 pm
WHERE: Multifuncional Ceja de el Alto
HOW TO GET THERE: Ride the red cable car, stop at La Ceja
TICKETS: Book a tour or purchase at the door (US$7)
Where to stay in La Paz
The safest neighborhoods to stay in La Paz are Calacoto, San Miguel and Zona Sur. These however are slightly further away from the main La Paz tourist attractions. If therefore you want to be closer to downtown La Paz (the historical center), consider booking in the Sopocachi neighborhood.
Search hotels in La Paz.
RECOMMENDATION: Hotel Calacoto ($$)
Located in the safe neighborhood of Calacoto, within walking distance from a trendy food court and the cable car line. We had comfortable beds, friendly service and strong wifi. Added bonus is the little outside garden area.
LUXURY: ATIX ($$$)
Located in the upscale Zona Sur neighborhood. Atix is the first 100% Bolivian boutique hotel, using locally sourced materials and showcasing the work of Bolivian artists. Added bonus are the panoramic views and on-site fine dining restaurant serving.
SUSTAINABLE CHOICE: Hotel Rosario ($$)
Located in downtown La Paz and set in a beautiful colonial house. Guests are particularly happy with the friendly staff, the central location and the hotel facilities.
What not to do in La Paz
Do not skip out on La Paz because you heard it was too dangerous or too chaotic. There simply is no place like La Paz, chaos and all.
GET IN AN UNOFFICIAL TAXI: If you are looking to get around town stick to the Radio Taxis, easily recognizable as they have an official sign and telephone number. Do not get into the white cars with a small “taxi” sign.
RELY ON YOUR CREDITCARDS: Many places will only accept cash, make sure to always have a few Bolivianos on hand. If you do want to use credit cards, I found that VISA usually worked while Mastercard for some reason did not.
“WING IT”: Ask your accommodation if the area you are planning on visiting is safe to visit. Most places are perfectly fine during the day, but can get a bit hairy at night. Plan accordingly!
PURCHASE WITHOUT HAGGLING: If you are heading to the market, put on your best bargaining cap because its part and parcel of an authentic experience. Take it from a local.
How to get to La Paz
FLY – Most international flights will make a stopover in Santa Cruz before heading to El Alto Airport (the closest airport to La Paz). All major South American airlines (TAM, LAN, TACA, etc.) and domestic airlines (Boa, TAM Militar, Amaszonas and Aerocon) fly directly into El Alto Airport.
Getting from El Alto Airport to La Paz
TAXI – Fares from the airport to downtown La Paz vary between Bs 60-100. Taxis are located right outside the exit of the airport
MINIBUS – The minibusses run from El Alto airport to Sopocachi and cost Bs 4. To catch a minibus head to the arrivals section of the airport. Mini-buses leave once they are full.
How to get around La Paz, Bolivia
Busses in La Paz
TICKETS | Purchase on the bus, single fair or with a multi fair Smart Card
ROUTES | These busses run 7 official routes with 410 official bus stops
SCHEDULE | Download the app “La Paz Bus” to consult the schedule
FARES | The fare for this bus is Bs 2.50, 2.30
TICKETS | Purchased on the bus
ROUTES | These minivans have fixed routes, they however do not have traditional bus stops where you can hop on and hop off. Therefore if you see one that is going your route, simply flag it down to get on.
FARES | BS 1.5 – 3.00
Ride the cable cars in La Paz
TICKETS | Purchase at the Cable Car Station (single fair or multiride card)
ROUTES | 10 different routes
SCHEDULE | https://www.miteleferico.bo/nuestras-lineas
FARES | Bs 1.5 – 3.00
Taxi and ridesharing apps
TAXI: It is safer to take the radio taxis that belong to a company with a sign and telephone number. Avoid taking white cabs that only have a “taxi” sign. Generally, fares within the center vary from Bs 5 to 20. From downtown to the South Zone between Bs 25 to 35.
TRUFIS: These are shared taxis that operate on fixed routes. They are generally faster and more comfortable than micros or minibusses, but they can also be a bit more expensive.
Fares: from Bs 2.00 to 3.50.
YANGO: Yango is a popular ride-hailing service that operates in Bolivia. Like other ride-hailing apps, Yango allows users to request a ride through their mobile app, and drivers pick up passengers and take them to their destination.
Map of places to visit in La Paz
Have a look at the interactive Google Map to get an idea of where the various La Paz attractions are location as well as the recommended accomodations.
What to eat in La Paz
Salteñas: Empanadas filled with meat but in many places, you can find vegetarian and vegan versions. They are delicious and if you eat them without making a mess, you have passed the litmus test of a good paceño. Best places for vegetarian Salteñas are: Salteñas Paceña, El Hornito and Salteña Mania.
Marraqueta: A round, white bread with a crispy crust and a soft, fluffy interior. The bread is typically eaten for breakfast or as a snack, and is often served with butter, jam, cheese and a hot and delicious coffee.
Api with buñuelos: Api con buñuelos is a traditional Bolivian drink and dessert, especially popular in the city of La Paz. Api is a hot drink made from purple or white corn, cinnamon, cloves, and sweetened with panela or sugar. It is usually served with buñuelos, which are small dough balls fried and sprinkled with sugar. One popular place to try this is Api Mani (21 Street San Miguel)
Tucumanas: A deep-fried empanada that is typically filled with beef, onion, potato, and spices Tucumanas are typically sold by street vendors or in small eateries known as “tucumanerías.” They are usually served with a spicy tomato sauce called “llajua” and are often eaten as a snack or a light meal.
Vegetarian-friendly restaurants in La Paz
- Namas té – (Zoilo Flores 1334): Vegan restaurant offering wide variety of plant-based dishes including salads, soups, sandwiches and smoothies. Be sure to try the vegetarian Tucumanas here.
- Go Green – (Montenegro Avenue 1188 2. Sanchez Lima 2326): Although the lunches are delicious, this restaurant is characterized by its vegetarian and vegan fast food. They have everything from burgers and fries to nuggets and tacos.
- Aguacate – (Bloque N3, Jaime Mendoza, San Miguel): A vegan restaurant which specializes in (vegan) Among its specialties are anticuchos (grilled skewers), nuggets, choripanes (Chorizo on a bun with salad) and its famous healthy bowls.
- Lupito – (Cardón 14 Sopocachi): Affordable vegan food
- HB Bronze Coffee Bar – (Plaza Tomas Frias 1570, La Paz, Bolivia): Excellent national coffee, cozy vibes and a good selection of sweet and salty nibbles.
Day trips from La Paz
Salar de Uyuni
READ | Mirror effect on the Salar de Uyuni
The Salar de Uyuni is one of the most visited places in all of Bolivia. The vast white expanse of salt stretching out endlessly is quite unique. Day tours include an overnight bus from La Paz to Uyuni, and back. Time permitting I would highly recommend investing in a multi-day tour which not only includes 2 nights on the Salar (stargazing anyone?) but also the beautiful colored lakes surrounding it.
Los Yunges – Bike the Death Road
Thrill seekers will want to look into the highly popular day tour from La Paz to Los Yunges, known for its lush vegetation and the 69 km (43 mi) winding route known as “Death Road”. The bike ride is one of the most scenic, and hair-rising adventures Bolivia has to offer.
One cannot visit Bolivia and skip beautiful Lake Titicaca! Take a day tour that leaves from La Paz, combine sailing on Lake Titicaca with a visit to Copacabana and Yumani as well as hiking on Isla del Sol.
Best time to visit La Paz
La Paz can be visited year-round and does not vary much in terms of temperature, regardless of the seasons. Average temperatures in summer hover between 17°C (62°F) and 7°C (44°F) while winter temperatures are around 19°C (66°F) and -1°C (30°F).
While many La Paz guides say to avoid the rainy season (December to March), personally I would highly recommend visiting around Carnival (traditionally held 40 days before Easter). We went in February as we wanted to see the UNESCO-classified Oruro carnival.
During Carnival, La Paz is awash with Carnival celebrations which included brightly colored folkloric costumes, street parties and millions of cans of spray foam, which you will be covered as you walk through the city.
Alternatively, time your visit with the Feria de Las Alasitas (January and February). The fair is a celebration of the indigenous Aymara culture and is centered around the sale of miniatures representing people’s wishes and aspirations for the coming year.
Altitude La Paz Bolivia
La Paz is the highest capital in the world, located at a staggering 3,600 meters (10,650 feet) above sea level. Upon landing I immediately had a headache and experienced shortness of breath. If La Paz is your first stop of an extended Bolivia trip, consider planning in a few days to acclimatize.
Make sure you drink lots of water or coca tea and if need be head to the pharmacy and ask for Sorojchi pills, which will help with altitude sickness.
Is visiting La Paz safe
La Paz, like any large city, has its share of safety concerns, but it is generally considered safe for tourists if you take the necessary precautions. The crime rate is lower than in some other Latin American cities, and violent crime against tourists is relatively rare.
However, there are still some areas of La Paz that are best avoided, especially at night. These include El Alto, Villa Fatima, Sagárnaga Perez Velasco and the areas around the bus terminal and the cemetery. It is also recommended to avoid walking alone at night, and to keep a low profile and avoid wearing flashy jewelry or carrying expensive items.
Recap of the best things to do in La Paz
Ever-bustling La Paz is a city that is well worth spending a few days exploring – albeit to acclimatize from the breathtaking altitude. Spend one day navigating the chaotic downtown of La Paz with an (obligatory) visit to the Witches Market, Caille Jaén and the San Francisco Church.
Grab a drink or some fragrant streetfood in the hip Sopocachi neighborhood before hopping on and off the colorful cable cars to visit the outskirts of La Paz including the Chualluma neighborhood and Moon Valley. Time permitting book a tour to visit the Cholets and the Feria 16 market in El Alto.
MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING BOLIVIA
South America: 10 Vibrant Carnivals in Latin America
Bolivia: 10 Reasons to visit Bolivia
Bolivia: Complete guide to Oruro Carnival
Bolivia: Complete guide to Salar de Uyuni in rainy season
Bolivia: 15 Unmissable places to see in Bolivia
Bolivia: Explore the colorful Chualluma neighborhood in La Paz