Bolivia: La Paz top 5 by Geerard
Located at 3500 meters of altitude, La Paz is dizzying in many aspects. Once you step out of the airport, the altitude, warmth and the noise grabs you by the throat. Give yourself a few minutes to get used to the initial chaos and stop worrying: La Paz is a safe and actually a very laid-back city.
When visiting La Paz, plan at least 3 days to explore the city. There is so much to see and do that you can stay for 2 weeks and still will not be bored. In this blog I will guide you through the must do’s and must sees of La Paz, so that you get the maximum out of your visit to this extraordinary city! Below you’ll find my top 5. But first, watch our travel video for a cool impression:
1. Exploring the city with Red Cap Tours
The best way to get to know the city and the unbelievable history behind it is to join the free Red Cap Walking Tours. We have been on many guided walking tours during our various trips, yet this was the very best! The tour starts at the infamous San Pedro prison, located in the middle of the city and known to offer guided tours by prisoners to tourist until a few years ago. The life in (and out) this prison has been described in the book ‘Marching Powder”, a must read if your are visiting La Paz.
Another highlight of the tour is visiting the local market. The guide tells you all ins and outs about the sales ladies (caseritas) at the markets and their lifestyle.
Everyday meetings at 11:00 am and 14:00 pm at Plaza San Pedro. Interesting spots, history and culture. Also Foodie Tour, Extended Tour, Football tours and more.
2. Attend a football match in South America
This is something that has been on top of my to do list for a long time! When the famous Argentinian side River Plate was scheduled to play The Bolivian team The Strongest in la Paz for the Copa Libertadores, I took my chance.
We bought the ticket a few hours before the match from a ticket tout outside the Stadium and we were 90% sure that is was a fake ticket, but decided to go anyway. We did not need to worry, when entering the Stadium we did not get checked once, not for a ticket, not for anything else, we just walked in… But maybe we were just lucky.
The atmosphere in the stadium was upbeat and hectic: the Strongest fanatics were jumping and singing for 90 minutes, as did the River Plate fans on the other side of the Stadium. Though the whole thing may seem a bit uncoordinated and chaotic at times, attending a football match in La Paz is actually save. Bolivian football fans are passionate but not violent, they will make you feel welcome. The match ended in a draw (1-1) by the way.
La Paz has several football teams, the two biggest clubs are Bolivar and The Strongest.
Purchasing a ticket is easy: on match day, go to the stadium early and purchase a ticket right there and then. Be aware to check the section you are buying a ticket for: ask for a neutral or family section, unless you like to jump for 90 minutes.
3. Cycling the Death road
The long North Yungus Road, also know as the Death Road, is the worlds most dangerous road, claiming 300 lives per year. Starting at 4633 meters high you will bike downhill on a rocky, small and sometime wet 70km long road until you reach the end of the road, 3000 meters lower hours later! This was more or less the sales pitch which made us decide to book the adventure in one of many booking offices in La Paz.
For somewhere between 70-110 euro you will can join a group including transport, lunch, bike, materials and a T-Shirt. The adventure will take the whole day and your guides will take photos and shoot videos, which you will get later on DVD. We joined one of the cheaper options, as we heard that there is not much difference in quality between the various agencies and it was simply great and well organised.
Though it may sound very dangerous, cycling the death road actually is quite safe. If you stay focussed and keep a firm grip on your brakes, you will be fine! After an hour or so you become more relaxed and start noticing the beautiful surroundings. While you undergo various climates during the descent you start to realise: I am riding the worlds most dangerous road.. and I am loving it!
How to book: there are various offices in La Paz centre where you can book a Death Road adventure. Book at least one day before you want to go. We chose for Barro Biking located at Sagarnaga 288, Galeria Las Brujas Of. 10.
4. Bolivian Women fighting: Cholita wrestling
This is something you must see for yourself: Bolivian women in traditional dresses wrestling each other in a Lucha Libre manner. Cholita (Bolivian indigenous woman) is both popular with tourists as locals and the reactions of the crowd are equally as entertaining as the wrestling itself. The show takes place in the El Alto area every Sunday and Thursday. It’s possible to go the Wrestling event by yourself, however I would advise to join the Extended Red Cap Tour which includes a tour through one of South America’s largest flea markets at El Alto.
Before arriving at the market, you’ll make a stop at the cemetery district where you’ll learn about local culture, visit famous tombs and hear local ghost stories. The authentic witch market is also included in the tour. Local people often visit these places for spells and ceremonies. Meet a local Yatiri Shaman and if you’d like get your fortunes read in coca leaves! After visiting all these unusual but interesting places, the guide takes you to the Cholita Wrestling. It’s part of the tour and it doesn’t cost that much more.
More info: www.cholitaswrestling.com
5. Ride the highest Cable car in the world
Enjoy La Paz on a 4000 meters height by riding the cable car (teleferico). The three lines connect La Paz with neighbouring El Alto and by using the cable car the travel time between the two cities is shortened by 50 minutes. The fee for a ride on the cable car is 3 bolivianos only. Besides offering great views on La Paz, the teleferico is the perfect way to explore the different parts of La Paz. Tickets can be purchased directly at one of the many Teleferico stations.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Stay at Rendezvous Guest House
Why go: Excellent service and insider tips, Extensive and divine breakfast, Great amenities
We did not book any hotels in advance in La Paz (Bolivia), except for the first night. We were glad we did, because the first hotel we stayed had a strange vibe and we didn’t really like it. By chance we booked a room for a night at a guest house nearby, called Rendezvous Guest House. This ended up to be a great guess!
Because of this guesthouse we prolonged our stay in La Paz with 3 nights, it simply was that good. And there was so much more to explore in the city.
Rendezvous is located in Sopocachi, one of the safest areas at night in La Paz. There are various restaurants and bars in the area, however the hotel itself has an excellent restaurant. The bustling city centre of La Paz is a pleasant 30 minutes walk, which for us was a good way to start the day.
We got a room in the top of the building, with a magnificent view over La Paz. The room was beautifully decorated with paintings and other artifacts. Our room had a large TV with DVD player, so we spend at least half an hour a day in the Lounge/Kitchen. Hundreds of DVD’s were displayed so we had plenty of options to choose which movie to watch during the evening. The kitchen is well equipped and we actually ended up cooking two nights there. We enjoyed our dinner on the rooftop terrace with some local Bolivian wine whilst seeing the sun set on La Paz. Need I say more?
We loved La Paz as a city, but for a great deal thanks to Rendezvous Guesthouse.
Pasaje Carranza Num. 461 | Final Sanchez Lima, Sopocachi, La Paz 3165, Bolivia