La Paz Bolivia - Travel Planning Guide

The city that touches the sky

La Paz Panorama
La Paz Panorama.

La Paz Bolivia, the city, that touches the sky, is an apt description. Located high above sea level, La Paz sits in a bowl surrounded by the high altiplano. La Paz as it grows climbs the hills resulting in varying elevations from 3000 to 4100 m. Overlooking the city is towering triple-peaked Illimani, always snow covered and majestic.

La Paz is the legislative capital of Bolivia, the largest city. The legal capital, home of the Supreme Court, is in Sucre. Not as often visited as other countries, Bolivia is the most Indian country in South America, and you'll experience the language, primarily Quechua, the culture and customs first hand.

Getting There and Getting Around

  • By air to El Alto Airport, 25 minutes from the center of La Paz. Take a taxi or minibus into town, or make arrangements with your hotel to send a taxi for you. The airport is on the altiplano above the city, and planes come in fast, due to the thin air of the 4100 m elevation. Check flights from your area. You can also browse for hotels and car rentals.
  • By bus to the main bus terminal on Plaza Antofagasta at Avenida Uruguay
  • By taxi around town, although if you can manage it on the up and down streets, the center of La Paz is very walkable. Residents of La Paz, paceños, are used to the altitude and walk fast, but you'll probably enjoy a slower pace
  • The trains in Bolivia are slow but inexpensiveWhen to Go
  • April to October is recommended, though La Paz has an average year round 35-65F temperature. No matter when you go, be prepared for wind and cold nights. Buildings are not always heated after dark. Summer is the wet season.
  • Be prepared to feel the altitude. Follow these tips to Acclimatize to the Altitude.
  • Check the current weather.Things to Do and See
  • Plaza Murillo, originally the Plaza de Armas, was after General Murillo, one of the heroes of the Bolivian independence movement. The center of La Paz, it is bordered by the cathedral whose towers were completed only in time for a papal visit in 1997, and by the Government Palace, or the Palacio Quemado for the number of times it has burned. Guarding the entrance are the guards in red uniforms in honor of the soldiers of the Pacific War (1879-84) (background) in which Bolivia lost its seacoast to Chile. Across the plaza is the Congress building that before 1904 housed a convent, a jail, and a university. Photos
  • Iglesia de San Francisco - reconstruction from 1784 of the original 1548 church. Note the combination of Christian and indigenous figures and animals carved on the stone facade
  • Museo de Oro - objects from pre-Columbian era
  • Stroll narrow, cobbled-stoned Jaen Street, a walk back in time to colonial days.
  • Casa Murillo Museum - carved furniture, colonial paintings, coins and silver
  • Museo Nacional de Arqueología - items from Tiwanaku, Bolivia's premiere archaeological site. If you have the time, go to Tiwanaku itself
  • Feria de Alasita - celebrated in various cities on January 24, the Feria focuses on the display and sale of miniature figurines
  • Carnaval - annual Carnaval celebrations include the famed Devil's Dance, or diablada, in Oruro
  • Attend a peña - musical folklore show with singing and dancing. Some offer a meal as well as drinks
  • Casa Museo Nuñez del Prado - once a family home and now a private museum displaying the works of sculptor Marina Nuñez del Prado, her sister Nilda, a painter, and other family members
  • Mirador Laikakota - lookout and children's park, offering panoramic views of La Paz Bolivia. Great place to photograph Illimani
  • Sidetrips:
  • Lake Titicaca and Copacabana
  • Valle de la Luna - Moon Valley
  • Play golf, go mountain biking, go skiing at ChacaltayaShopping Tips
  • Mercado de las Brujas - Witches' Market for charms, potions and herbal cures
  • Silver and textiles
  • Hand knitted Alpaca wool garments
  • Hand made painted wood carvings
  • Masks for dancers

This post for La Paz Bolivia was edited by Ayngelina Brogan, May 2, 2016.

Food and Drink

Cuisine in La Paz is both native Bolivian and international. Try all the local dishes, and try a snack of salteño, or tucumano, empanada-like pasties originating in Argentina.

Order the special of the day which is usually reasonable in cost and consists of soup, entree and dessert, sometimes with an added salad and coffee. You'll probably have one of the foods mentioned in these Recipes from Bolivia. Lunch, or almuerzo, is the main meal of the day, followed by a light dinner with anticuchos, or skewered beef hearts as a favored appetizer.

In addition to tea, coffee and maté, paceños drink soft drinks, Paceña Beer, chicha in several forms, such as Chicha de mani, and for breakfast, a sweetened corn and cinnamon drink called api. Bolivian wines aren't as good or as popular as Chilean and Argentine wines, but do try them.

Try a chuflay cocktail, a mix of 7Up, lemon and singani, a distillled grape liquor.
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