La Paz is the highest located capital in South America and it has a unique location between the mountains of Andes. This particular area was a totally new world for me. I really enjoyed the diversity in architecture as well as in people’s behaviour and look. Though I have to admit, on our first day I wasn’t so impressed with the centre of La Paz. However, its variety mesmerized me by colourful historical buildings, raw brick facades without any plaster, modern buildings with glass facades and the innovative cable car network. Not only La Paz, but its surroundings also offer fascinating experiences. Continue reading to find out which are the best places to visit in La Paz, Bolivia.
How to get to La Paz?
By bus to La Paz
Bolivia has many bus companies, though I haven’t read many promising things about them. Most of the companies don’t have heating, toilets on board and aren’t that safe.
However, Todo Turismo is an exception. Their bus is modern, offers cama (45 USD + tax) and semi-cama (37 USD + tax) seats. They provide wifi, charging opportunities, toilet on board, friendly English-speaking staff, oxygen bottle, small meals and drinks, heating, blanket and pillow.
You can PURCHASE YOUR TICKET ONLINE on the website of Todo Turismo. In this case, you have to appear in their office 24 hours before departure for check-in.
Fortunately, Kanoo Tours offers a better option if you can’t be there one day prior to departure. Make sure to book your ticket 2-3 days in advance, to allow them time to confirm your purchase. You’ll get an e-ticket via email, which will provide everything you need to know about the departure.
This is how we booked our tickets and travelled from Uyuni to La Paz after our Uyuni Salt Flats trip. In Uyuni, we spent the afternoon at a restaurant. After getting tired of it, we went to the office of Todo Turismo (located on Av. Cabrera), where we should have gone much sooner. The office had wifi, charging opportunities, coffee, tea, toilet, comfy seating areas and everything you need while waiting…
The route between Uyuni and La Paz is 569km. Todo Turismo has only night buses between Uyuni and La Paz, leaving at 8 pm every day. The road takes 10 hours on average. It depends on the road conditions, we woke up a few times during the night because of the bumpy road.
It’s also possible to take off at El Alto airport, make sure to mention it during check-in.
By train to La Paz
La Paz can be reached by train too. Though not directly from Uyuni. First, you have to take a train to Oruro and from there daily buses are available to La Paz.
You can buy your train and bus tickets on Tickets Bolivia.
By plane to La Paz, El Alto international airport
El Alto international airport in La Paz is the world’s highest located international airport with an altitude of 4061 m. Large planes need special tires and longer runways for takeoff.
How to get from El Alto airport to the centre of La Paz?
The distance between El Alto Airport and the centre of La Paz is around 20 km and takes about 30 minutes to get there.
The easiest way is by taking a taxi, which should cost 50-60 BOB. Always double-check the price with the driver to avoid misunderstanding and additional costs.
The cheapest way is by Cotrastur Minibus 212, which runs between the airport and Plaza Isabel de Católica every 5 minutes from 5 am to 10 pm. The ride costs around 5 BOB, though the small buses can fill up quickly with people and luggage.
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How to get around in La Paz?
Travelling by taxi in La Paz
Our Uyuni trip travel guide, Kelly, gave us good advice about using taxis and preventing tourist scams.
- Avoid taxis without the taxi sign and identification number.
- Before getting in, always agree on the price.
During our stay in La Paz, we used taxis only twice. First, when we arrived at the central bus station and wanted to go to our hostel. The area of the bus station was full of taxis, though when we tried to catch a cab in El Alto, we hardly saw a proper taxi.
Collectivo, the minibus of Bolivia
La Paz is full of these minibuses, which don’t have specific stations. So you just have to wave to stop the bus. Before your destination, say loudly the name of the street like “Sagarnaga, por favor ” and pay after taking off.
Around 15 people can fit into a minibus and one ride costs 2,60 BOB.
Mi Teleférico (cable car network)
Mi Teleférico operates at 4000 m above sea level in La Paz, so this is the world’s highest and longest cable car transportation system.
The 1st 3 lines (red, yellow and green lines – the colours of the Bolivia flag) were finished in 2014. It was built as public transportation to ease the daily travel between La Paz and El Alto. Air pollution, travelling time and cost has also been reduced thanks to the cable car network, which runs on electricity, partly provided through solar power.
Nowadays, its 10 lines are used by locals and tourists alike. The cable car network runs from 5 am to 10 pm. 8 people can fit into 1 cabin, which OFFERS A SPECTACULAR PANORAMA TO THE CITY AND THE SURROUNDING MOUNTAINS. Travelling on 1 line costs 3 BOB, though you don’t have to buy a separate ticket at every station. At the cashier, just tell your final destination and they will calculate the price.
We tried out Mi Teleférico on our way back from Valle de La Luna (see it later) and we took off at the wrong place from the minibus. This was just a pleasant misunderstanding because this way we could discover more lines on the way to the central station (Estación Central). First, we travelled one station with the purple line from Edificio Correos till Faro Murillo, then one station with the grey line to 16 de Julio to El Alto. Finally two stations with the red line till Estación Central.
The view was fascinating from the cabin. The unique location of La Paz was totally mesmerizing. From above, we could see many buildings as well as the colourful murals of Chualluma and the famous cemetery.
Best things to do in La Paz, Bolivia
During our 2 days in La Paz, we discovered only the main attractions. If you’re planning to stay more days in and around La Paz, continue reading for tips.
We arrived early (6:30 am) to the bus station of La Paz from Uyuni and took a taxi to the hostel, La Posada de la Abuela Obdulia. Our check-in time was only from 2 pm, but we had luck and could get an empty room. After sleeping a few hours, taking a shower and brunch, we started to explore the centre of La Paz. The hostel had a central location, so the tourist attractions were within walking distance.
On the following map (My Maps by Google Maps) you can see the main sights in and around La Paz, restaurants and the schedule for our 2 days.
By clicking on the tab next to “Best places to visit in La Paz, Bolivia”, you can see the actual points, and it’s also possible to turn off and on layers. Furthermore, you can also save this map (if you have My Maps account) by pressing the star next to the map title.
Centre of La Paz
The centre of La Paz and the whole city is located between mountains at an altitude of 3640 m, so get ready for altitude and walk slowly.
The Witches’ Market was only a few minutes from the hostel, so we started our journey there. It’s basically a street, where women sell colourful products, dried llama fetuses, elixirs and voodoo stuff.
On our way to Calle Jaén, we passed by San Francisco Basilica, which is located on one of the main squares called Plaza Mayor de San Francisco. Calle Jaén is a cobblestone street with historical architecture, cafés, museums and shops.
Then we headed to Plaza Murillo, one of the main squares of La Paz, where the cathedral and the Presidential Palace are located. We didn’t spend much time there because it was full of pigeons.
We wanted to try out the famous Bolivian street food, salteñas, so we thought Mercado Lanza, the food market would be perfect for it. I didn’t have high expectations about the market, but when we got there I didn’t want to eat anything, just leave the market. A lot of kiosks were closed, the smell wasn’t very promising and it didn’t look very immaculate. Maybe I’m too European…
Then we returned to the hostel to rest because of the high altitude we got tired quickly and my boyfriend’s head hurt a bit.
The Coca Museum is also located in the city centre, though when we arrived there, it was already closed.
Cementerio General is the cemetery of La Paz, which is also a tourist attraction with its vast complex. It’s situated a bit farther from the centre, though it’s easily reachable by the cable car network.
Panorama terraces in La Paz
La Paz has many panorama terraces thanks to its unique situation between the mountains. The most famous ones are Mirador Killi Killi or Mirador Tupac Katari.
The city of El Alto is adjacent to La Paz. They are almost built together and divided only by slopes. Its average elevation is 4150 m and it’s accessible by Mi Teleférico. El Alto is not the safest city, especially avoid strolling during the night.
It’s main attractions are:
- The open-air market, which is located at 16 de Julio district
- Cholita wrestling is a popular way to entertain tourists and locals alike. Cholitas, women dressed in traditional Andean clothes, artistically fight in a boxing ring.
Best places to visit around La Paz
Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley)
The fantastically eroded rock formations of Valle de la Luna are located on the outer part of La Paz. These clay and sandstone formations were shaped over thousands of years by wind and rain. The sharp and tall silhouettes reminded me of stalactites turned upside down.
The area has two circular walking tracks, one is shorter and takes 15 minutes to complete. The longer one can be completed in 45 minutes. You can’t be lost, because the paths are bordered with bars at some places. The longer path curves between these fascinating formations, so you can adore them from lower and upper angles too. There were even viewpoints, where the whole valley was visible.
Wear comfy shoes and walk slowly because you’ll need energy for high altitude.
The tourist information and ticket office are located at the gate. Toilets can also be found at the entrance.
- Entrance fee to the valley: 15 BOB/person
How to get to Valle de la Luna?
We wanted to save some money, so we chose the cheapest way to reach Valle de la Luna and went there by collectivo (Bolivian minibus). La Paz doesn’t have usual bus stations, so we just stopped at the junction of Sagarnaga street and San Francisco square and waited for our minibuses.
BUSES GOING TOWARDS “MALLASA” STOP AT VALLE DE LA LUNA, so when you see buses with nr 273, 231 and 902, just wave to stop the bus. Take a seat and enjoy the view of the city for 50-60 minutes. Pay attention and don’t forget to say loudly “Valle de la Luna, por favor”. Otherwise, the bus won’t stop.
Before getting on the bus, we asked the driver to stop at Valle de la Luna. I guess he forgot that, so he didn’t stop at its entrance. Fortunately, we were checking our offline map and could see our location and knew where we had to take off.
After exploring the Moon Valley, we just crossed the road and waited for the buses at the small kiosk.
If you wish to choose a quicker way to the Moon Valley, take a taxi or go by a guided tour.
Valle de las Animas (Valley of the Souls)
Valle de las Animas is another valley with extraordinary cliffs. These rocks resemble needles, which are pointing to the sky.
The Yungas Road, also called Death Road, was named the most dangerous road in the world in 1995. The almost 70 km long road is located between La Paz and Coroico. In the ’50s this was the only way connecting the two regions and on the narrow road, many accidents happened. Later another road was built between the two cities, so this narrow road isn’t used by cars and buses nowadays.
Many travel agencies in La Paz offer scenic bike tours. Choose wisely and always check what’s included in the price.
Where to eat and drink in La Paz?
Specialty coffee and breakfast
Breakfast was included in the hostel, though not on our arrival day, so we tried out a coffee shop close to our hostel called Café del Mundo. It was founded by a Swedish woman, who is also a travel lover and created the coffee shop to connect travellers.
The place looks very cool with travel-related decoration, though it doesn’t have a Bolivian vibe. Maybe that’s why the prices are closer to the European prices… Our breakfast was a massive portion and they also served lunch and dinner.
Our Mi Teleférico adventure finished at Estación Central, where we’ve found a specialty coffee shop, Typica café. I could finally drink a tasty flat white. We’ve also ordered empanadas for lunch.
We’ve tried out only one Bolivian restaurant in La Paz, which was a perfect choice. Restaurant 1700 can be found on the yard of the Coca Museum. We ordered dishes made of llama (don’t judge us) to try out something Bolivian.
The friendly waitress gave us Bolivian gin and tasty fruits as appetizers. And then the beautiful plates arrived with the llama. Both of our dishes were delicious.
Must-try street food in La Paz, Bolivia
- Salteña is similar to empanada. It’s a baked pastry filled with meat, vegetables and sauce.
- Choripan is a sandwich, which consists of chorizo (sausage) in a pan (bread).
- Anticucho is a kebab made of beef heart.
- Sandwich de Chola is a traditional sandwich served by a cholita.
- Helado de canela (cinnamon sorbet)
Expenses during our 2 days in La Paz
During our 2 days, we spent money mainly on transportation and food. Public transportation and street food are low-cost in Bolivia, though if you try out comfy buses and a fancy restaurant like we did, count with extra bolivianos. Our 2-day La Paz trip cost 1462,6 BOB (~ 220 USD) for the two of us (if 1 BOB = 0,15 USD).
- Accommodation – 358 BOB (~ 54 USD)
- Transportation and tours – 594,6 BOB (~ 90 USD)
- Food and drinks – 510 BOB (~ 77 USD)
See our daily expenses below (these were the prices in March 2020):
Day 0 – travelling to La Paz
- Afternoon in Uyuni (coffee + juice in a restaurant) – 32 BOB
- Bus ticket for 2 people, purchased in advance online on Kanoo Tours (including tax) – 77,70 USD (~520 BOB)
Day 1 – discovering the city centre of La Paz
- 2 nights in La Posada de la Abuela Obdulia (room with private bathroom and double bed booked on Booking.com in advance), breakfast, tax and 3% credit card fee included – 358 BOB
- Taxi to the hostel from central bus terminal – 15 BOB
- Brunch at Café del Mundo – 103 BOB (juices + coffees + breakfasts)
- Dinner at Café del Mundo – 111 BOB (juices + main dishes)
Day 2 – Valley de la Luna and travelling by Mi Teleférico
- Collectivo (minibus) ticket to Valle de la Luna – 2,60 BOB/person
- Entrance fee to Valley de la Luna – 15 BOB/person
- Collectivo (minibus) ticket back to La Paz – 2,60 BOB/person
- Mi Teleférico ticket – 7 BOB/person
- Lunch at Typica café – 64 BOB (empanadas + coffees)
- Dinner at Restaurant 1700 – 200 BOB (juices + main dishes + tip)
Day 3 – travelling to Copacabana
- Collectivo (minibus) ticket to the central bus terminal – 2,60 BOB/person
Are you ready to explore La Paz and its area? As I mentioned earlier, La Paz didn’t enchant me for the first sight, though I’ve never seen a city like this before. Its extraordinary location is worth a visit. Now you know, which are the best places to visit in La Paz, Bolivia 🙂
Interested in more Bolivian travel posts? You might like these:
- 6 reasons to add Copacabana and Lake Titicaca to your Bolivian itinerary
- A day trip to Isla del Sol, Bolivia
- How to pick the best Uyuni Salt Flats tour to Bolivia?
Have you been to La Paz? Which were your favourite places there? Tell me in the comment below.
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