Bolivia might be one of the poorest countries in South America, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer. Although it is not a traditional tourist destination, it offers truly unforgettable moments. If you are not afraid to pass high altitudes and long to discover the ancient cultures of Bolivia, it is the right destination to visit. From natural or cultural monuments to wandering the narrow streets of the historic center of La Paz, there is a lot to explore. It is not a beach vacation, so you need to prepare for less free time and relaxation at the hotel, but even more interesting experiences.
La Paz – What to see
The official capital of Bolivia is Sucre, but the central city and seat of government is La Paz. It lies at an altitude of 3636 meters and is the highest capital of the world. La Paz is a city with a unique atmosphere and you will not want to leave.
At first, you will be amazed by Plazza Murrilo, where ist Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, and the National Congress, with the clock that turns anti-clockwise. From the church of San Francisco along Sagárnaga Street, you will reach the Mercado los Brujos, the so-called Witch market. It is famous for a wide range of incredible things such as various amulets, medicinal plants, spiritual advice, silver ornaments, and other items. The photogenic street Calle Jaén (Jean Street) is an interesting blend of murals, unique buildings, museums, an art gallery, and cafes. Also worth visiting Plaza Mayor de San Francisco, where street performances take place every evening.
Bolivia, Peru, Equador – road trip around South Amerika
A few kilometers from the center, there is a place called Valle de la Luna, Moon Valley. It is made up of wonderful geological formations that resemble a lunar landscape. A wild area, El Alto is known for its flea markets open at the weekend. There you will find everything from vegetables, cheese to raw meat, various antiques and unnecessary things, and of course, coca leaves. All citizens chew them to reduce side effects, caused by altitude, such as nausea. Be sure to try them.
El Alto is best known for its “death dolls“, which are stuffed dolls, hung on poles, and serve as a final warning to the criminals with whom the locals remember according to their laws (for example, stoning is common).
Tip: It is not uncommon to hear shooting in the streets of El Alto, especially after dark. It is better to book accommodation outside this area.
La Paz – Transportation
Planes do not fly directly to La Paz and you have to get to the city from already mentioned El Alto. The best way to see La Paz is to explore it from above. The sophisticated network of Teleferico, an aerial cable car transit system, is not only an excellent way of transport in this city full of hills but also a great way to see the city from a different perspective. As it is public transport, tickets are very cheap.
The largest bus station is located more in the center, from where you can get to Peru, Chile, and other neighboring countries. You can find the station easily, just follow the minibusses and follow those marked as Bus Terminal, Montes. And of course, if you speak Spanish, you can also ask the locals. It is also possible to travel by train, but tickets are a bit more expensive and it is better to book them earlier.
La Paz – Food and drinks
La Paz is a city that literally eats on the streets. There are thousands of street food stalls throughout the city, serving delicious food at a low price. So what do you eat here when you are hungry?
For breakfast, you can enjoy freshly-baked traditional salteñas, stuffed with chicken or beef. In Bolivia, lunch is the largest and longest meal of the day and usually consists of at least three courses: soup (sopa), main course (segundo) and dessert (postre). A traditional Bolivian lunch begins with a hearty soup such as sopa de mani (peanut soup) or chairo paceño. If you like chicken in Bolivia, you will definitely enjoy Bolivian kitchen. You can choose picante de pollo, very famous here. Vegetarians can enjoy plato paceño, which consists of beans, potatoes, corn, and fried cheese. Refresh yourself with Helado de Canela, cinnamon ice cream. Try Pacay, one of Bolivia’s most unusual fruits. The inside of the fruit consists of large black seeds (not for consumption) surrounded by sweet white flesh, reminiscent of the taste of ice cream.
Empanadas, a dough stuffed with meat or cheese, are also available everywhere. Another typical snack is cuñape, a delicious pastry made of cheese and yuca flour. International food such as burgers (hamburguesas) and hot dogs (choripan) are also common in Bolivia.
Singani, white grape brandy is said to be the Bolivian national drink. If you feel like having a beer after a good meal, have cerveza, which is available in shops, restaurants, or bars. La Paz has also its own Saya Beer Brewery. Sparkling drinks known as refrescos can be found all over Bolivia. This bottled fruit juice from the Cochabamba region is sold under the name ‘Jugos del Valle’.
As a bonus experience for the braves, there is an adrenaline ride on the most dangerous road in Bolivia called Rute del Muerte (Death Road). In about 40 minutes, you will overcome the difference in altitude up to several 1000 meters. It starts from an altitude of 4700 m and ends at 1200 m. The whole ride takes about 8 hours, during which you will have incredible views.
Did you know that…
… La Paz was declared one of the seven urban wonders of the world in 2014?
Machu Picchu – to walk from the hydroelectric power plant