La Paz Holidays
Step off the plane slowly. At 4,058 metres above sea level, the air in La Paz is noticeably thin and it’ll make it all the harder to breath after you catch a glimpse of Huaya Potosi towering over the city. Once accustomed to the high altitude, you’re really in for a treat for all senses. Built in a canyon created by the Choqueyapu River (now mostly built over), La Paz is now firmly on the tourist map thanks to it’s unforgettable beauty, tremendous value, and the low crime rates that help make Bolivia a much safer place to visit than many neighbouring South American countries.
Start your tour of La Paz’s sights by following the narrow, cobbled streets along Calle Jaen to admire the city’s Spanish architectural heritage. Aside from the beautiful buildings, several museums can also be found along the street, including The National Museum of Art, The Museum of Musical Instruments, and The Museum of Ethnogrophy and Folklore. You’ll no doubt be making a few stops at the numerous market stalls while you wander (remember those bargaining skills). Mirador Killi Killi is the place to go if you’ve packed your walking shoes. From here you can get yourself a postcard view of La Paz. There’s no entrance fee and it’s probably a good idea to walk there then take a bus or taxi back to town or vice-versa - that thin air!
Eat and Drink
Street food is a seriously cheap and delicious way to taste local La Paz. Start by working up an appetite sampling the mouthwatering meat, chicken or egg salteñas in Plaza San Francisco. If you’re missing home you can visit one of the popular pizza and hamburger bars located just south of Plaza del Estudiante. Most of La Paz’s hippest restaurants and cafes are located at the bottom of the Prado, close to Plaza Isabel La Catolica and Plaza Avaroa. Though one of the most expensive areas to dine in La Paz, even a meal at the best restaurants will cost you less than a cheap one back home. For those with a thirst, weeknights are unfortunately down tempo away from the hotel and tourist focused bars but come weekend the best place to join the locals on the dancefloor is at the market district along Max Paredes and Avenida Buenos Aires.
Where to Stay
If you’re in La Paz on a budget, look no further than Sagarnaga Street. This is La Paz’s main tourist strip and not only is it home to many local art and souvenir stores, it’s also where you’ll find countless hostels and budget hotels. If you’re staying somewhere on the lower end of the scale, it’s a good idea to ask for a room with a heater as things can get chilly. For a few extra bolivianos you can really treat yourself in La Paz. Hotel Rosario is a charming Spanish-style hotel that has recently had a tasteful renovation and there are a growing number of boutique hotels scattered around town too. These offer excellent value and something a little more homely than many of the unimaginative mid-range options in La Paz.
La Paz can at times feel like one massive marketplace so it’s unsurprising that the city is one of the best places to shop for handicrafts in South America. Sagarnaga Street, just south of Plaza San Francisco, is where you’ll find the best range and Eloy Salmon is the place to go for cheap electronics. If you’re in La Paz on a Thursday or Saturday, be sure to visit El Alto’s huge market - there aren’t many like this in the world. The Witches Market between Illampu and Munillo is another one not to miss. It’s filled with an unbelievable array of items, namely those dehydrated llama fetuses – definitely pack the camera.
La Paz Like a local
Cholitas are the typical elder traditional women you’re probably most likely to see a photo of in a Bolivian tour brochure but the story goes that one La Paz theatre company had the genius idea of introducing them into their stage show ‘Titans of the Ring’. Now one of the liveliest La Paz’s experiences is watching Cholitas wrestle WWE style in bowler hats and long decorative dresses. Matches take place every Sunday in El Alto. Tickets are available from most travel agents in town but it’s just as easy to grab some tickets on the door.