Bolivia’s de-facto capital is a crazy, colourful place. It’s noisy, sweaty, dirty, and the altitude (second highest major town in the world!) makes it all that more frenetic. Beyond the pricey Death Road, it’s not especially well known for tourist attractions. A large proportion of the population live in poverty, for example, 60% of Bolivians don’t have access to clean drinking water or sewage systems however it’s certainly a city with friendly locals and a lot of up and coming restaurants using local Andean produce. We had a pretty great time doing these things:
1. Ride the Mi Teleferico.
You can spend many good hours travelling Mi Teleférico, the cable car public transport system – the longest in the world. A ticket is 3B (30p) per ride (you have to pay again for each line). The views – particularly up towards neighbouring city El Alto on the red line – are incredible. It won a LATAM Smart City award this year for Sustainable Urban Development and Mobility. (Lauren loves this kind of stuff after her masters degree at UCL). It was pretty amazing to see the impact the Teleférico has had on the people living in informal housing built on the hill slopes with La Paz enabled to be more connected throughout and also with the urban sprawl on the altiplano.
2. Explore the witches and tourist markets.
On the streets above Calle Murillo, you can see/buy alpaca jumpers, boxed spells through to llama foetuses… Or just soak it up. We learned that a lot of Bolivians have combined their indigenous belief system, Pachamama, Mother Earth, with Christianity after the Spanish colonisation. Some of the Pachamama rituals still practiced are for a llama foetus to be buried under the foundations of any new house or building as an offering for good luck or for the ground to be “fed” with a special food called tijtincha that is sprinkled on the land.
The stalls all have a pretty similar selection and no doubt you’ll see the same cheap alpaca jumper worm by countless travellers. With some hunting, you can find some cool souvenirs like jewellery or fun printed tote bags.
3. Seek out the lunchtime menu del Dias around Calle Murrillo.
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in La Paz, and you can keep it both cheap and good by finding the menu of the day. For example, try Popular Cocina Bolivar: the 60B menu of the day is fantastic value for 3 delicious courses using local produce and a juice. The restaurant is walk in only and they add name to a waiting list. It’s open from 12.30. We arrived around 1 and were asked to come back at 2 for our table. The staff are great and explain all the elaborate dishes really well. It’s worth noting that this restaurant is inside a courtyard off the Main Street. It took us a good 40 minutes of wandering in circles trying to find it.
Take a day or two to acclimatise! This might seem boring but it’s sage advice, as we’ve discovered. A well-deserved rest day with plenty of water is key. Headaches and feeling breathless are normal for a day or two and should subside as you acclimatise.