5 days in La Paz

Updated: Nov 15, 2019

Our next stop on our S. American adventure, was Bolivia, more specifically La Paz. We were quite apprehensive on visiting La Paz. Firstly because of stories of corruption, kidnapping and robbing but more recently because of the political instability at the time of our visit. They had just held a general election, with result meaning the current President Evo Morales keeps power. Many in Bolivia were unhappy with the election, feeling that the voting was rigged. This caused protests across the main Bolivian cities, La Paz being one of them. Despite this and after talking to many travellers who had been through, we carried on with our original plans.

On arrival to our hostel El Prado Capsule, our fears began to dissipate with the warm welcome and comfortable beds. We decided to make our way out into the streets of La Paz to make ourselves feel accustomed to the City. We very quickly forgot our anxieties on visitng here as the City has a certain charm. The people are friendly, there is a real mix of Europeans and Indigenous culture making it very easy to feel at ease. We made our way to the Witches Market, via Avenue Illampu which is where a majority of the tour agencies are booked, so we plan our time in La Plaz. Our recommendation is to book what you want to do with with these and not privately. Our taxi driver quoted us for some the tours we wanted to do and they were twice the price as the agencies, so be careful. We found alot of the agencies are similar prices, so our recommendation is to pick one and if you are going for more than one tour, negotiate the price from there. We went with Bolivia Myl. We booked a City Tour (90 Bolivianos/£9), Cholitas Wrestling (70 Bolivianos/£7) and a guided tour round Tiwanaku (180 Bolivianos/£18). You can also book your bus to Uyuni and Salt Flats Tour from here. After booking our excursions, we took a stroll through the Witches Market, which is an eclectic mix of herbs, spices, powders, rituals, clothes, ailments and much more - it really needs to be experienced.

Stalls along the Witches Market

Our second day was a busy one, the City Tour followed by Cholitas Wrestling (this needs to be seen to be believed). The City Tour starts with cable car system. Built in the last 5 years, it is La Paz's answer to a metro system. As it is built in a valley, there is no option of building underground, so the Bolivian government spent $600 million on creating 37km network of cable cars, the largest network in the World. In my opinion, it is much better than an underground, as the views are phenomenal.

View from Telefonica Cable Cars in La Paz

Our guided tour took us then to Valle Dela Luna (Moon Valley), which looks like a set of Star Wars. The large conservation area is mainly made of clay, which through wind ans rain erosion has created an outer-world like terrain just outside of La Paz.

Moon Valley

On route to Plaza Murillo (the historic centre of La Plaz), we saw the Estadio Hernanes Siles Stadium, home to the Bolivian national team and some great footballing upsets, including a 6-1 win over Messi's Argentina. Located at 3,500 masl, it is the highest national stadium in the World. On reaching the Plaza Murillo, they still have the army and police trucks from the 2003 Civil War, which lasted a month. As a stark reminder if times passed and lives lost. On some of the buildings you can still see the bullet holes from the conflict. The main square is surrounded by the Presidential Palace, Cathedral and the House of Congress and Justice. Moving from here, we were taking Calle Jean, the only remaining Colonial street in La Paz named and preserved after Jean, a pivotal figure in the liberation of Bolivia.

Calle Jean, one of the few Colonial streets remaining in La Paz

We finished our tour at Mirador Killi Killi, which gives a panoramic view of the City and its surrounding mountains, fitting end to the tour.

View from Mirador Killi Killi with Estadio Hernandes Siles in view

In the evening we decided to go a watch Cholitas Wrestling in the neighbouring City El Alto. We were not really sure what Cholitas Wrestling was and to be honest, I am still not sure now. I do know it was probably the most entertaining thing we have seen in South America so far. A slapstick wrestling match between women in traditional dress and men, which has a surprising amount of audience participation. I highly recommend seeing this, it had me in stitches. It only happens on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Two Cholitas vs. One Man (and yes, she is wielding a fire torch!))

Day 3 was our trip Tiwanaku, a pre-incan archaeological site, protected by UNESCO World Heritage. These incredible remains and museum house relics from 1,500 BC from the Tiwanaku civilisation and even there ancestors.

A Sun Gate in Tiwanaku

The statues and buildings are in great condition and if your guide is like ours, then they really help to bring it to life. You can tell it has a special place in Bolivian society and in fact some of the practices in the Witches Market originate from this time. Definitely worth sticking on your itinerary!

Remains in Tiwanaku recognising the wisemen, generals and priests

Our final day we booked our next adventure, our trip to the Salt Flats and celebrated by visiting the food market in Camacho Square, to try some local delicacies - definitely worth perusing

Total cost = £378 (inc. accomm and tours)

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