La Paz is the world’s highest capital city at 3,600 meters and even on the warmest days, most residents wear long sleeves and pants to protect against the intense sun. It’s undoubtedly one of the most chaotic and unique cities in South America while also being one of the last big cities with a thriving indigenous culture. It’s a shame that many visitors only pass through La Paz for a couple of days before heading to the Uyuni Salt Flats. This city is so unique and there are a variety of exciting things to do that cater to different interests. Here are 11 awesome things to do in La Paz, Bolivia!
1. Climb Huayna Potosí
Climbing Huayna Potosí was one of the coolest things I did during my 8 months in South America. It’s one of the easiest 6,000-meter peaks in the world and most climbers reach the summit. The 3-day climb requires no previous mountaineering experience and costs less than $200 US.
2. Learn About Life Inside San Pedro Prison
This unique prison in the city center is run by the inmates and their families can still live inside with them. It’s one of the world’s craziest prisons and they even produce cocaine in there. “Crazy Dave” is an American who was incarcerated at San Pedro for over a decade, and he gives a tip-based tour detailing what life on the inside was like. Crazy Dave very much lives up to the nickname, and he’s outside the prison every day at 1 PM.
3. Bike the Death Road
Before they built a highway, the Death Road claimed the lives of over 500 motorists a year and was the world’s most dangerous road. Now it’s used for thrilling bike tours where you’ll reach speeds of 50 km/h while descending from 4,700m to 1,600m.
4. Ride the Teleférico
Nine cable care lines connect La Paz with El Alto, and this is the best way to avoid the horrible traffic. The views are spectacular and riding the teleférico is a great way to see the city from above. The green and celeste lines between the city center and south zone and the red line are the most scenic.
5. Admire the Art
Bolivian art is unique in the way it incorporates indigenous themes, and it’s my favorite in South America. The Museo Nacional de Arte has a fantastic collection featuring colorful paintings and folkloric masks.
6. Watch Cholitas Wrestling
Every Sunday night in El Alto indigenous women, known as cholitas, take part in a lucha libre wrestling show. Parts of the show are a bit dramatic, but the moments that have you dying of laughter more than make up for it.
7. Visit La Paz’s Most Colorful Neighborhood
You won’t find Barrio Chualluma on a map, but from the teleférico its colorful houses stand out. The neighborhood is full of street art, and its location high up in the hills means you’ll have some peace and quiet away from the constant horn honking in the city center. To get here, take the red line to El Alto and walk down to the sea of color.
8. Shop at the Largest Market in South America
Every Thursday and Sunday the 16 de Julio market takes place in El Alto. The size of the market is staggering and the best way to appreciate it is from above on the teleférico. You’ll find just about everything here including crafts, coca leaf readers, and even a street full of cars for sale.
9. Go on A Free Walking Tour
Bolivia’s culture and political history are incredibly fascinating to learn about, and Red Cap gives a fantastic tour explaining this in detail.
10. Take in the Incredible Views
The landscape of La Paz is spectacular. The city seems to go on forever and the snow-capped mountains in the background are the cherry on top. La Paz and El Alto are full of incredible viewpoints and Mirador Killi Killi is the best one near the city center.
11. Go to the Witches’ Market
Alternative medicine and Pachamama are still very relevant in Bolivia. At this exotic market, you’ll find everything from llama fetuses to “cures” for Alzheimer’s.
That wraps up the 11 awesome things to do in La Paz, Bolivia!