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13 Things You Can Only Buy in Bolivia

Picture of Harry Stewart
Updated: 28 July 2017
For such a weird and wonderful country, it’s hardly a surprise there are so many quirky and unique things up for sale in Bolivia. We’ve put together a list of the best. But a word of warning, don’t try to take some of these on the plane back home with you.

Witchcraft

Fancy a new spell or a custom-made love potion? Then head on down to La Paz’ Mercado de las Brujas for all your witchcraft needs. Of particular interest are the dehydrated llama fetuses which when buried under a building are believed to grant good luck.

Llama fetuses
Llama fetuses | © Stan Wiechers/Flickr

Powerful hallucinogenic substances

The hallucinogenic Ayahuasca and San Pedro cactus are completely legal in Bolivia thanks to their traditional use by the country’s indigenous inhabitants in medicinal and spiritual practices. Available at your nearest witches’ market or on a psychedelic “healing” retreat, it’s all too easy to enter another dimension in Bolivia.

Ayahuasca
Ayahuasca | © Apollo/Flickr

Alpaca clothing

Despite being available all through the Andes, there’s nowhere better to pick up a full alpaca outfit than Bolivia. Rainbow colored jumpers, beanies, leg warmers and socks are all on offer at bargain basement prices.

Alpaca scarf
Alpaca scarf | © Ben Hosking/Flickr

Salteñas

Bolivia has a number of traditional foods, some of which you might want to give a miss. But none are as quintessential as the ubiquitous salteña, a savory morning snack devoured all over the country.

A consultation with a witch doctor

Forget about crystal balls and tarot cards, in Bolivia the yatiri (witch doctor) reads the future through the sacred coca leaf. As an added bonus, those who aren’t happy with their fortune can burn an offering table to appease the gods and improve their future.

Tiny little miniatures

Fancy a new car next year? Then buy a miniature model during Bolivia’s Alasitas festival and your wish might just come true. For the best chance of success, miniatures should be blessed by a yatiri and a Catholic priest.

The full cholita outfit

For ladies who are keen to seamlessly assimilate into Bolivian society, it’s important to dress the part. Thankfully, the full cholita get-up can be found in the markets of every sizable town – pollera (skirt), bowler hat, hair extensions and all.

A blessing for your car

Why bother with expensive modern safety features when you can get your car blessed by a priest instead? Every day, hordes of believers line up to purchase a divine blessing for their automobiles outside the country’s most sacred church. The ceremony includes pouring beer over the vehicle which is guaranteed to prevent future accidents, or so they say.

Blessing the car
Blessing the car | © Jenny Mealing/Flickr

Parts for hearts

A group of local indigenous women have put their skills to the test by sewing tiny little plugs that block up holes in the hearts of kids with serious heart conditions. These miraculous contraptions have been credited with saving countless lives.

A human skull

Not content with boring old Day of the Dead celebrations, some indigenous communities in La Paz decorate the skulls of their ancestors in the belief they will receive spiritual protection in return. Don’t have a dead relatives skull on hand? No problem, some entrepreneurial grave robbers can dig one up for you, for a fee of course.

Your own demise

Homeless alcoholics in La Paz have a unique yet utterly horrifying alternative to rehab. Known as the Elephant Cemeteries, these clandestine hotels provide little more than a bucket and enough pure alcohol to drink yourself to death.

Lizard ointment

Traditional Bolivian medicine is pretty out there, offering a range of bizarre natural treatments to cure all kinds of ailments. One of the most interesting is crushed up lizard paste which is said to relieve the pain of fractures and broken bones.

Evopolio

Monopoly is so last century. In Bolivia they have a way better version called Evopolio where players can adopt the role of narco trafficker, pay bribes to corrupt officials and cover the boards in roadblocks to prevent anyone from getting anywhere. A true reflection of Bolivian society.

Evopolio special addition includes a real coca leaf in the yatiri section
Evopolio special addition includes a real coca leaf in the yatiri section | © Courtesy of Evopolio