The largest city in Bolivia, La Paz is a lofty affair.
Situated at over 3,650m this really is a city in the clouds, indeed it is the highest capital in the world!
And while this elevation can leave you a little out of breath, so too can the amount of things to do in La Paz… because there’s a lot of them!
Most people don’t spend long in this city, meaning they have to run around like crazy trying to see everything in La Paz in one day.
And for those of you this applies to, I have included a ‘La Paz in 1 day’ section at the bottom of this article to help you out.
However, if you want my advice, take 2-4 days to enjoy this city and everything it has to enjoy both within its centre and its surrounds.
To give you some ideas, here’s my list of the 21 best things to do in La Paz, Bolivia.
- The 21 Best Things To Do in Bolivia
- 55 Best Things To Do in South America
- How to Travel from La Paz to Uyuni in Bolivia
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#1 Start in Plaza Murillo
To kick off this list, we’re going to start in the heart of La Paz, the central square of Plaza Murillo.
This is always a centre of action in La Paz and is very connected to the political life of Bolivia.
Indeed, the square is named after the Bolivian hero Pedro Murillo, who was a strong figure in the movement for independence.
Situated in the city’s historic old town, the square is surrounded by many colonial grand buildings, including the National Congress and Presidential Palace.
To get a sense of La Paz as the capital of Bolivia (or at least one of them), Plaza Murillo is a great place to start and always buzzing with both locals and tourists.
#2 Visit San Francisco Basilica
Next up, after Plaza Murillo, it’s time to visit another flagship and important place in the historic centre of the city and that is the San Francisco Basilica.
Located alongside San Francisco Square, this religious structure was built around 1750 (actually this was the second version as the first had already been destroyed) and is famous for its mix of colonial and indigenous iconography.
As far back as the 18th Century many different groups of people worshipped here and left their mark.
The church is free to enter, although to access the roof and the bell tower you’ll need to pay the small fee for a guide.
It’s well worth it for the views though!
#3 Shop at the Witches Market
And moving on, just slightly away from San Francisco Square, we come to La Paz’s famous Witches Market.
Essentially a collection of narrow streets that move steeply up and down the hilly geography of this city, the centre of the action is around Melchor Jimenez street.
Translated in Spanish as El Mercado de las Brujas (literally market of the witches) you may have to search this name on Google maps if you’re trying to find it.
But try to find it you should because this busy, bustling place is alive with hocus pocus cures, spells and potions that will delight and amaze you.
Once a place of traditional healing remedies, this has now become something of a tourist trap however and so while I do still recommend visiting here, it’s worth checking out #12 on this list for info about where a more local and authentic Mercado de las Brujas can be found in La Paz!
#4 Take a Walking Tour
And if you want to see all 3 of these first entries on my list together, in one morning, then a great option for you is to take a free walking tour of La Paz, which covers the historical centre.
There’s a few options to choose from, and as always, these walking tours can be made (or unmade) by the guide.
As such, my best advice is to always consult with other tourists about the one they enjoyed the most and follow their lead.
Most start around 11am in one of the historic centre plazas.
Alternatively, the great Hostel 3600, where I stayed in La Paz, offers free walking tours on ad-hoc basis.
If you can get a small group together in the hostel, like we did, this is a great option which takes you to some very local and alternative spots.
This hostel is a super place anyway, so I highly recommend staying here if you’re travelling in La Paz on a budget.
For more top tips about visiting this country on a budget, check out my list of the 19 things you need to know before you backpack Bolivia.
#5 Stroll Calle Jaen
Sticking the city centre theme here in La Paz, but just moving slightly away from the Old Town, we come to another one of the best things to do in La Paz, and that is stroll Calle Jaen.
This will often form part of a walking tour in the city too, because it’s just too pretty and quaint to miss quite frankly!
Home to an array of museums, cafes, shops, bars and restaurants, this is certainly a touristy part of town, but there’s no denying it’s lovely too.
The bright colours of the preserved houses, which date from the 18th century, provide a real mix of heritage and modernity with a distinct Bohemian air thrown in for good measure… my kinda place!
Definitely don’t miss taking your camera along to this street to snap the gorgeous scene, but as always, just be careful of pickpockets.
#6 Check Out a Museum or 2
And while we’re on the subject of Calle Jaen, one of the things you should definitely do while you’re here, aside from souvenir shop, eat and drink, is check out a museum or 2.
And that’s because, on this street alone, there are 5 of them!
- Museum of Precious Metals
- Museum of Musical Instruments
- The House of Murillo Museum
- Museum of the Coast (about the Bolivia – Chile war)
- The Juan de Vargas Customs Museum (traditional custom and culture)
These museums are all quite small, meaning you can easily cover them in a few hours and then get back on your sightseeing way.
Otherwise, some of La Paz’s bigger museums that are well worth paying a visit to are:
- National Art Museum
- Ethnography Museum
- Coca Museum
- Tambo Quriquincho Museum
- Central Cultural Museum
#7 Laugh at The Cholita Wrestling
And once you’ve finished in Calle Jaen, it’s time to head to one of La Paz’s most bizarre, but most loved spectacles, and that is the Cholita Wrestling.
Featuring women in traditional dress, this entertainment is based on WWF and employs an amazing mix of stunts and great costumes in front of beer-fuelled crowds!
Matches are usually held on a Sunday at El Alto’s Multifunctional Centre (see #12 for more info on this area) and while you can take a tour here, it’s just as easy to enter the show, buy a ticket and join the madness yourself.
Expect lots of audience participation in this 3 hour spectacle, which initially developed as an act of protest against domestic violence and has now become one of South America’s most well-loved tourist attractions.
So with a lot of the city centre sightseeing and shows out of the way, it’s time to get down to the real business of eating and drinking in La Paz.
In a country that grows coffee, there’s no question sampling some of the best beans was on my list of things to do in La Paz and I quickly learnt that the top place to head was the city’s district of Sopocachi.
A wealthier suburb, this is where many of the city’s best coffee shops are located and Roasters on Avenida Arce certainly gets a special mention from me!
#9 Sip on a Craft Beer
But what about for later on in the day I hear you cry.
Yes, well don’t worry folks, I’ve got you covered on that front too.
Because when it comes to enjoying a bit of Bolivia’s best beer, there’s no finer spot to head than Adventure Brew Microbrewery.
Doubling as a hostel, as well as a place to tour the hops and learn about this very Bolivian production venture, there’s now 2 Adventure Brew hostels!
Perfect for those that love a drink before bed!
Close by, Sol Y Luna is another hotspot that deserves a shout out for its range of craft beers too.
Oh and did I mention it has great vegetarian food too!
#10 Eat at the Food Markets
Which leads me nicely onto #10 on this list of the best things to do in La Paz, which is eat!
Sol Y Luna is a great spot to head for if you’re vegetarian, otherwise, vegans should make a beeline for Wellness Food in Sopocachi.
For everyone else, it has to be the food markets, for while Bolivia might not be an epicentre of culinary excellence, they do know how to stage a freaking good market!
This is definitely going to give you a full local hit in La Paz so get yourself ready!
Mercado Lanza is my top pick!
#11 Ride the Cable Cars
Ok, I’ve been saving this one, because I didn’t want to give you everything on a plate too early on, but let me tell you that riding the city’s cable cars is absolutely on the best things to do in La Paz.
Essentially the capital’s metro system, this aerial transport method is just perfect for a city that is not only very high, but also has a great many hills!
Known as Mi Teleferico, this super system began with just 3 lines, but has another 7 in the pipeline.
When I visited, there were 6 in operation and depending on when you make it there, there might be even more.
A super easy system to use, with each line coloured like a Metro network, you can hop on and off these cable cars, switch between the lines at various interchange stations and generally get a great aerial view of the city for next to nothing!
Running for 17 hours a day, from 7 am to 11 pm, you pay for rides using a simple card system, which you can buy and top up at just about any station!
#12 Hit Up El Alto
And one of the best places to visit in La Paz, that you absolutely can’t miss taking a Cable Car to is El Alto.
Literally translated as the heights, this area on the edge of la Paz sits on a great cliff above the city and boasts amazing views down onto the metropolis and the bizarre, dry altitude desert landscape around.
Situated near to the borders with both Peru and Bolivia, El Alto has long been a key trading port and nowadays it’s home to one of the biggest markets in South America – if not the biggest.
Seriously, getting the cable car up here, you’ll ride over street after street of crammed in stalls and once you get down on the ground, you could literally walk for hours and still find yourself in another new market street!
Known as Mercado de Plaza 16 de Julio, my favourite bit here was the far more authentic Mercado De Las Brujas, which you certainly shouldn’t miss.
El Alto is also the place locals come to party and is home to the Cholita Wrestling, so you can tell it’s a good kinda place!
#13 Pause in a Park
And with all this hilltop action, you’ll notice that walking anywhere in la Paz will quickly have you out of breath.
So do the sensible thing and ensure you take enough rest if you need to.
There’s plenty of green spaces, parks and squares you can enjoy a short pitstop.
Seriously, if there’s one thing you need to know about in advance of your visit to La Paz, it’s altitude!
Being in the Andes and situated at 3,6500m above sea level, La Paz is high and altitude sickness is a real and serious thing here.
As such, you must, ABSOLUTELY MUST, take altitude issues seriously when you come to La Paz and spend at least 1 day here (better 2) acclimatising if this is your arrival point into the Andes.
This is especially true if you’ve come from the coast i.e. Lima in Peru or Buenos Aires in Argentina, as you must allow your body to get used to the lower levels of oxygen in the air.
I’ve had altitude sickness myself in Ecuador and can definitely attest to the fact it is not nice!
Actually, it can be very serious and sometimes lead to hospitalisation and even death.
Do not take this issue lightly when travelling to Bolivia therefore, and if you start to suffer any symptoms then take the necessary precautions.
You can learn more about altitude sickness, what causes it, what the symptoms are and how to avoid or treat it in this useful article.
Always make sure you have appropriate travel insurance too in case anything happens.
I wouldn’t dream of travelling to Bolivia without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads who I’ve ever used during my time in the country and across South America.
World Nomads are actually one of the few companies that will insure you for activities at altitudes above 3000m – essential for a country like Bolivia where many destinations, including La Paz, are situated above this height.
#14 Be Amazed at the Houses on Hill
And while we’re on the subject of altitude, we can’t go further and not mention that the amazing buildings of this city, which seem to cling to the sides of the valleys and hills in a way which defies gravity.
Being amazed by, and snapping, the hilltop-clinging houses in La Paz is definitely one of the best things to do here and probably the best area to head to see some super colourful ones is Chualluma – part of new social art project.
Learn more about safety issues and how to get to Chualluma here.
#15 Take in the View
And combining both the idea of resting in a park thanks to the altitude and marvelling at the city’s lofty architecture, it’s time to mention some of La Paz’s best lookout where you can chill and enjoy the views.
The most famous is the Killi Killi Mirador, but personally I preferred the lovely Monticollo Mirador, which features its own romantic square and scores of young lovers!
#16 See Bolivia’s Biggest Cemetery
It might not sound like a very fun thing to do, and you might be thinking, that’s a bit morbid Steph, but seriously seeing Bolivia’s biggest cemetery, the Cementerio General La Paz is a great thing to do in La Paz.
Unlike the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, which is generally reserved for the city’s movers and shakers, this cemetery in La Paz is for everyone and is much more a place of bustle and chatter as people come to remember, share and celebrate their deceased loved ones.
Offerings are regularly left, along with flowers, and many of the graves have been painted bright colours, but the time this place really comes to life is during the annual Day of the Dead festivities.
If you want to take a tour to the cemetery, check out this top-rated option, which also includes time in El Alto.
#17 Party at Wild Rover At Night
And if we’re getting into the slightly more sinister vibes here, it seems the perfect time to introduce Wild Rover.
A famous backpacker chain in South America, Wild Rover La Paz is perhaps the best known for its wild parties in this pretty raucous hostel chain.
Personally not my cup of tea – because let’s face it, I’m old! – but if you do want to let your hair down with other travellers (as I certainly did in my day!) this is the best place in La Paz to do it.
#18 Cycle the Death Road
And now we move onto the best day trips that can be enjoyed from La Paz.
And top of the list is the famous Death Road – a mad cycling day adventure that sees you peddling one of the world’s most dangerous roads as part of a wild bicycle tour.
It’s certainly worth choosing a reputable operator for this dangerous undertaking, as well as reading reviews carefully.
Check out this option for some ideas.
#19 Hike in Valle De La Luna
While less popular than cycling death road, heading to Valle De La Luna for a spot of hiking and snapping was definitely higher on my list on La Paz day trips.
This amazingly surreal landscape, with its startling sandstone spires, has been created by erosion, but it a lovely place to wander and has 2 well-marked trails that lead you to good lookout points.
Situated about 10km from downtown La Paz, taking a day tour to this beautiful part of Bolivia is a winner and usually very affordable!
#20 Get Your Archaeological Fix at Tiwanaku
One of the largest pre-Colombian archaeological sites on South America, Tiwanaku is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located 75km from La Paz, on the way to or from Lake Titicaca, this site was once the centre of a major agricultural empire.
Older than Machu Picchu, it’s estimated that 50,000 people lived in this settlement during its height and the level of preservation you can find in the stone sculptures and buildings is absolutely astounding.
Having been abandoned since around 1000 AD, the site was rediscovered in 1549 and is home to an amazing array of stone monoliths as well as palaces, temples and towers.
You can visit this place either via a tour from La Paz or using public transport.
#21 Be Mesmerised by Lake Titicaca
And finally, we get to number 21 on this list of the best things to do in La Paz and it’s another trip out of the city – albeit one that you should probably spend longer than 1 night at!
Lake Titicaca, which forms part of the border between Peru and Bolivia is absolutely incredible and taking a trip from La Paz to spend a few nights here is a must.
The highest navigatable lake in the world, you can either spend your time in the Bolivian town of Copacabana on the lakes edge and day trip onto the water and the islands from there, or pack your bag and head to Isla Del Sol for a few nights of isolation and tranquillity.
While you can visit Lake Titicaca from Peru, I enjoyed the Bolivian side and its islands of Isla Del Sol and Isla De La Luna way more!
Learn more in the post I wrote about the experience in the Bolivia part of Lake Titicaca here.
One Day in La Paz
With just one day in La Paz, I’d advise spending the morning in the city centre, enjoying a walking tour to fill in the details for you.
Enjoy lunch along Calle Jaen and then head out to Sopocachi for the food markets, coffee and green chilled vibes.
After that, hop on the cable cars up to El Alto.
Enjoy the market here and finish up with a seat at the La Cholita Wrestling if your visit falls on a Sunday.
With a second day in the city, head out on one of the great day trips I list above.
Where to Stay in La Paz
When it comes to places to stay in La Paz on a budget, I highly recommend the Hostel 3600.
Set in a heritage building in a safe part of the town, there’s a guest kitchen here, a lovely light and airy communal space and super helpful staff.
The free breakfast and super wifi add to the sweet deal.
Best Time to Visit Bolivia
The best time to visit La Paz in my opinion is during the dry, season in the Andes, aka winter in Bolivia, which runs largely from the months of June through to October.
It is colder at this time of year, but you can’t beat those blue skies if you want to enjoy the high altitude views to the max!
At this time of year it’s also drier and slightly less humid in the Amazon, which is great to know if you’re heading to the jungle during your trip in Bolivia too.
Discover how to get around Bolivia best using Bookaway, a super helpful travel website that compares buses, trains and flights across the country, so you don’t have to!
5 Essential Packing Items for Bolivia
#1 Good Camera – I would never even think of travelling to Bolivia without a camera good enough to capture the amazing landscape and people of this country.
#2 Waterproof / Windproof Jackets – With so much of this country situated high in the Andes, taking a waterproof and windproof jacket is essential if you’re going to be hiking or sightseeing in the mountains.
I highly recommend the North Face Venture 2.
#3 Hiking Boots – You can’t come to Bolivia and not do some trekking, so make sure you come prepared with some good, supportive hiking boots… I’ve never worn mine so much in my life!
These Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Boots are the perfect solution.
#4 Day Pack – Also for the hiking and sightseeing, a good daypack to carry water, snacks, camera, hat, gloves and other clothing layers is key in La Paz!
This one from Osprey is my pick.
#5 Travel Scarf – And finally, I’ve just discovered the amazing travel wraps from Sholdit and am so happy I took mine to South America.
Acting both as a scarf to keep you warm and a place to store your valuables while you’re out and about, this great invention is perfect for travel across this continent.
Top Bolivia Tours
And if you don’t feel confident about visiting Bolivia independently, or would rather join a group and make some travel friends, check out this list of top Bolivian tours that will have you experiencing all this country’s highlights in 5-15 days.
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So there you have it, my list of the best 21 things to do in La Paz, Bolivia.
Have you been to this lofty city?
What was your favourite thing to do there?