La Paz is a quirky, bustling city located high up on the altiplano, on the western edge of Bolivia. The city’s long history is reflected in the eclectic mix of colonial and modern architecture, and the many museums that trace that cultural and artistic history of the region.
Surrounded by the snowcapped peaks of the Andes, La Paz spills down the sides of a valley in the altiplano. La Paz’s quirky neighborhoods cling to the sides of the valley, where cobblestoned districts like Sopocachi, Rosario, and San Pedro bustle with students, artists, professionals, and street vendors.
La Paz’s moniker as the highest capital in the world is not completely accurate, as Sucre is technically the capital of Bolivia. Nevertheless, La Paz remains the uncontested seat of power in Bolivia, with the Presidential Palace, National Congress and government agencies occupying the grand colonial buildings around the city’s central Plaza Murillo.
La Paz is famous for its many market districts, where women in the traditional bowler hats and petticoats of the altiplano sell handmade alpaca sweaters, hats and gloves. In the witches’ market near Hotel Rosario, women sell herbs and spices used in traditional medicine and superstitious artifacts such as the mummified llamas used to bring good luck.
The temperature rises as you descend into the valley. The most low-lying areas in La Paz’s Zona Sur, or Southern Zone, are known for their large homes, gourmet dining and high-end shopping.
Surrounding the top of the bowl and sprawling for miles over the altiplano, El Alto, “The High City,” is a rapidly growing metropolis, populated largely by recent migrants from Bolivia’s rural areas. Tourists and locals have long dismissed El Alto as an uninteresting satellite city, but its rapid growth has brought plenty for the discerning tourist to explore—especially the cultural curiosities of the city’s predominantly Amerindian population. Don’t miss the weekly Fighting Cholitas wrestling match that features Aymara and Quechua women—in full traditional garb—performing at El Alto’s Multifunctional Center.
Our Favorite Things To Do in La Paz:
- Explore Valle de la Luna or “Moon Valley”, a surreal park just outside town
- Wander the Witches’ Market, an open-air market in the center of La Paz
- Buy an ice cream in Plaza Murillo, La Paz’s central plaza and home to the Presidential Palace
- Brave the Death Road, and unwind in the spa town Coroico
- Cheer on the Fighting Cholitas, in El Alto