La Paz, one of the two capitals of Bolivia is the highest capital in the world. Lately, Bolivia has been starting to appear in people's South America bucket lists and it is becoming more and more popular among travellers and backpackers. No wonder, Bolivia is literally the heart of South America, a country full of mountains, deserts, jungle and anything you can imagine (well except a coastline).
La Paz is the third biggest city in Bolivia and works as an administrative capital. La Paz is a growing and economically important city for the country and only 10 kilometres away from its centre operates the busiest airport of the country, International airport of El Alto. There are several buses leaving from the city to all major cities, such as Oruro, Sucre, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba as well as Uyuni Salt flats.
Here I gathered the 9 most interesting things to do in the city
Despite the fact that most Bolivians are Roman Catholics and the Christianity is important factor in Bolivian lifestyle, there are many people who keep the old ancient rituals and beliefs alive. Even nowadays most Bolivians respect and believe in Pachamama, the mother earth that needs sacrifices. The numerous shops and boutiques sell various little objects like statues and decorations that can be bought as offerings to Pachamama.
These shops are full of strange and fascinating things and the atmosphere varies from creepy to super friendly. Each item has its own purpose so make sure to ask what are the items for, it is very interesting!
La Paz is full of culture! There are dance festivals held throughout the year. Bolivians are proud of their traditional dances and they like to show their skills on the main plazas of the city. Just sit down and enjoy the locals practising or performing.
If you are around on Thursdays or Sundays make sure to book a tour to see the wrestling cholitas. It is a great show where the women in traditional cholita outfits wrestle and throw each other around the ring. It is mostly just entertainment and acting but it is certainly a thing to see! The shows are held in Polifunctional de la Ceja - El Alto Stadium
These cable cars were opened just in 2014 to serve as a public transportation in La Paz and between La Paz and El Alto. There are several lines that each has a different colour. They are super good and cheap way to get around the city and to see the whole city and the Illimani mountain. You can reach the most famous viewpoints only with 3 bolivianos.
El Alto, the city just next to La Paz, in the elevation of 4150m, is a very interesting place to visit. It is usually very cold due to its altitude. However, if you want to see authentic Bolivian life, head to the local street market, which is one of the biggest open air markets, in the country. You can see Aymaras (indigenous nation in the Andes and Altiplano) selling electronics, clothes, food, basically whatever you can think of.
One of the most beautiful streets in the city. It is one of the best preserved colonial streets of Bolivia, full of colourful houses and gorgeous architecture. There are many museums, shops and cafes. It is a truly perfect way to dive into Bolivian history.
Five of the most famous museums of La Paz are in the same area as Jaen Street. There are many museums, something for everyone, whether you are interested in Bolivian history or art. The entrance fees are usually around $1.
Here are a few of many museums of La Paz;
Museum of Musical Instruments (Museo Instrumentos Musicales de Bolivia) - This museum is located on the famous Jaen street and is full of unique and interesting musical instruments from all ages. You can see some of the most famous as well as the little known Bolivian instruments there.
Museo de Metales Preciosos - This museum is at the house of former Bolivian revolutionist Apolinar Jaén. There is a great collection of Pre-Colombian precious metals, oldest from 3000 years ago.
Museo de Coca - Coca leaf museum tells its visitors about the history of coca leaves and its meaning to Bolivians.
One of my favourite spots in La Paz, to sit down after a long day of exploring the city and enjoy the relaxed mood at the plaza. This plaza is located in the old town of La Paz (Casco Viejo) nearby the Jaen street. It is surrounded by colonial time buildings such as The Government Palace, the official residence of the President of Bolivia and The National Congress of Bolivia among many other important buildings.
The sharp-eyed might notice that there is something special about the clock situated in the tower of the Congress building. The clock is reversed so that the numbers have been swapped around, It is said to be a symbol of the Southern Hemisphere, where the natural motion of the shadow doesn't move clockwise.
This plaza also happens to have a sea of pigeons looking for people feeding them with seeds that the street vendors sell only for this purpose.
La Paz has some very cool street art spots around the city, the best ones I saw were in the Parque Universitario! Most of the graffitis include political or educational messages. It is not only a phenomenon in Bolivia but in the whole South America, it's a way to fight against discrimination, sexual harassment, domestic violence among other problems.
It is also very usual to see presidential campaigns and slogans painted on the walls of ordinary houses even years after the campaigns. La Paz has street art all around the city especially in the neighbourhood of Sopocachi and streets near the witches market.