The Bolivian capital La Paz is a huge city nested between hills and mountains. It is also the highest capital in the world at 3,660 metres above sea level.
The old historical part with its centre around St. Francisco church is a tourist favourite – lots of restaurants, tour agencies and shops.
The easiest way to get a sense of the city’s massiveness is to take the teleferico. But what to do on foot?
Plaza Estudiantes was introduced to us as the bellybutton of La Paz. From there, there is an easy walk to the historical centre. Just a few blocks from St. Francisco is the famous witch market. I imagined it like a spooky place, full of old women who could lay a curse on us, dead and alive animals (ever heard of frog smoothies?). But no. Just a few stalls with bored “witches”, starfishes, talismans and the classic highlight were dead llama babies. We went into a shop and asked a few questions. “What are the llamas for?” – “As a sacrifice to pachamama. We burn them and burry under a house.“
“And those funny men?” – “They are for richness.”
“And these colourful bottles?” – “Those are talismans. Every symbol in it is for another cause; like money, love, children, safe travels.” The last got our attention and for 10 BOB (1,5€) we bought one with multiple effects.
As in almost all capitals, we had to visit the football stadium. Unfortunately we missed the game, but we were motivated to visit the stadium although they don’t offer tours. We just went there and at the main entrance asked to see the stadium. The friendly men sent us to gate 6 where we should knock on the window. So we did and without paying anything they let us in accompanied with a friendly “Bienvenido”. We had all the time we wanted, we were almost alone (just few athletes were training) so we really enjoyed it.
Not far from the stadium is a viewpoint called Killi Killi. The view is really nice, but we still prefer the view from El Alto, which can be reached by the yellow teleferico.
After so much sightseeing we got hungry. Bolivia is known for food poisoning and stomach problems, so we decided not to eat street food. But we also didn’t want to go to a western restaurant. We walked the streets until we found a restaurant full of locals. We took a look at the menu – pricey. We asked about “menu del dia” and he explained something extremely fast in Bolivian Spanish. We understood soup, rice and chicken. OK, we’ll have 2 menus del dia and 2 cokes. First we got an appetizer (potato like vegetable with sauce), then a big bowl of soup with noodles and then rice with egg and chicken. Delicious. Price? 18 BOB (2,5€). Good, ha?
One day we went to Toby – Bolivian fast food chain. Compared to the local restaurants it’s pretty expensive – 32 BOB for a menu. But we have to admit, it was good.
If you are in La Paz on a Thursday or Sunday, visit the Cholita wrestling. Bolivian women fighting in traditional clothes, but it’s more like a show than an actual fight. Unfortunately we couldn’t go, but if you do, let us know, how it is.
On the same days as wrestling El Alto hosts a huge open air market, reachable by the red teleferico. Read more about this topic as well as how to explore La Paz with the teleferico, here.
After the very European feeling in Argentina’s cities, we finally felt like we were some place exotic.
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