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Whether Sopocachi, El Centro, San Pedro, Zona Sur or Miraflores, the neighborhoods of La Paz may be close in proximity but they’re as distinctive as siblings. Bold surrounding mountains, a rich history of gold, silver and conflict, a huge melting pot of traditions and proud people mean discovering the city all in one trip is impossible. With so much to see and do, we’ve put together a list of the essential activities in La Paz, with the expert help of our local insiders.
A salteña is similar to an empanada, but this typically Bolivian pastry is baked instead of fried and has a stew-like filling, as opposed to just meat or vegetables. Salteñas are a must-eat for anyone looking to sample local food, and the best place to try them is at Paceña la Salteña, an award-winning salteñería. With its peach walls and gold trimmings, this local joint literally glows. Vegetarian salteñas can be found here on the weekends, otherwise, they’re usually filled with meat.
The star of La Paz, this elegant cathedral sits proudly on the main plaza offering a glimpse into the religion of many Bolivians. Started in 1835, the building is Neoclassical in style with a nod to the Baroque, and took a whopping 90 years to complete. The cathedral is open every day of the week for visitors seeking a brief respite from the busy La Paz streets. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino
Conveniently close to Plaza Murillo and packed to the rafters with textiles, masks, basketry and crafts typical of Bolivia for you to browse, this spot also has exhibitions on folklore and nature. A visit here will leave you armed with knowledge on the birth of Bolivia and its development through the ages. Tours are available, but get there early if you want to nab a spot. Recommended by local insiders Lucas Cosentino and Andrea Puente Mancilla
If you’re ready to stretch your legs in La Paz, the Eagle’s Path is close to the city and offers staggering views. The walk itself isn’t too difficult, but you’ll still feel a satisfying weariness afterwards that calls for a sit-down and a cold beer. Bouldering and mountain biking is popular too, so your route is shared with other outdoor fanatics. Views of eagles are not guaranteed, but it got its name for a reason, so keep your eyes peeled. Recommended by local insider Shaina Brassard
The Valle de las Ànimas, meaning Valley for the Souls, isn’t for the fainthearted, with winding paths and steep, tricky bits – but the views and nature are tremendous and offer the perfect respite from the big city. Make sure to follow path guidance, as it’s quite easy to lose your way here, and it’s best to carry a stick to ward off over-friendly street dogs. Lookout spots are placed along the route for picnics, and photos of the stunning cityscape in the distance. Recommended by local insider Andrea Puente Mancilla
Bolivian, Latin American and avant-garde films are shown at this independent cinema in the heart of La Paz. Expect the unusual – they don’t show the blockbusters here, and most movies are shown without subtitles. With a film library and gallery space usually exhibiting photography or art, this is a pleasant stop off for culture cats in the city. Recommended by local insider Shaina Brassard
Muela del Diablo Hike, otherwise known as Devil’s Molar, is tantalizingly visible from the centre of La Paz, tempting you to get up close to the teeth of Lucifer himself. Public transport can take you fairly close and you can earn your photo at the top by going to rest of the way on foot. It’s a steep incline, but not too tricky, so don’t be put off! The shots for the ‘gram at the top make it all worthwhile. Recommended by local insider Shaina Brassard
This viewpoint is smack bang in the middle of the Central Urban park and offers panoramic views of the city. A small entry fee will get you unparalleled views of La Paz and access to the children’s playground complete with a hella giant slide. The best time to hike up Mirador Laikakota is sunset for those incredible skyline shots. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino
Amongst the beautiful buildings of the Calle Jaen is this extensive collection of unique indigenous instruments. If you want to know your charango from your ronroco, and your pinquillo from your pututu, this is the place to go. With 15 rooms packed with different musical instruments, and a touch of humour from the curators, it’s an entertaining visit. Find armadillo guitars, volcanic rock flutes in the shape of erotic figures and ingenious instruments made of goat heels and mules’ teeth. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino
Views of the city and mountains are sprawling and beautiful in this relatively quiet spot close to Sopocachi. Its picturesque location and rich history of love stories mean it is popular for wedding photography. Keep your eyes peeled for happy brides and grooms in this slice of city-centre nature. Recommended by local insider Shaina Brassard
Bolivians are proud of their traditions, and the music, dance and song that comes with it. So, it’s no surprise that a performance from local heroes – the Orquesta Criolla Música de Maestros – is popular with the locals. The shows, which are a riot of colour thanks to the matching outfits worn by the musicians, are performed throughout the city as well as toured internationally. A renowned, professional group, the performances are a fantastic insight into the instruments, songs and dances that Bolivians know and love. Recommended by local insider Shaina Brassard
A single ticket to ride the La Paz cable car system is an absolute bargain. For a small price, you can experience uninterrupted views of the city, meet Bolivians from all corners of La Paz and get to your chosen destination. Having opened officially in 2012, the Teleférico has transformed the way of life for thousands of Bolivians who now have cheap and quick transport across the sprawling city. It’s a thing of beauty, and a perfect example of the journey being just as good as the destination. Recommended by local insider Andrea Puente Mancilla
Immerse yourself in traditional Bolivian culture at this high-energy peña, a traditional celebration of song, music and dance in Andean culture. Grab yourself a table at the on-site restaurant before the show, and feast on traditional foods before your evening of entertainment. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited on stage to join the dance – audience participation is encouraged and expected! Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino
The La Paz Precious Metals Museum, sometimes referred to as the Gold Museum, exhibits a glimmering collection of pre-Colombian treasures. Over 2,000 shining jewels are on display, the highlight of which is the impressive Treasure of San Sebastian collection. A series of sensor lights, which illuminate the ornaments as visitors pass by adds a nice touch to the museum. Informative guides are on hand to ask questions about anything that takes your fancy. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino
This is an update of the article by Eve Bidmead.