Things To Do In La Paz
Nestled in a valley along the Andes Mountains, La Paz is the city that pokes through the clouds. The true capital of Bolivia, imposing at the height of 10,800 -- 13,450 feet above sea level, it is the most elevated capital city of the world. At the snow-covered slopes of the Illimani, you can take lots of pictures and a panoramic view of the entire city. Ancient religious structures, museums with relics from the early colonization period, preserved artworks and impressive sunset views with poetic gentleness all make La Paz really extraordinary.
When To Go:
The ideal time to visit is from the early summer month of April up to the chilly month of October when most of the tourist events and cultural festivities occur. However, the city of La Paz has a normal year cycle of 35 - 65 degree temperatures. Regardless of when you go, be ready for wind and extremely cold evenings -- buildings are not generally heated after dark. Summer also brings a surprising change in weather with slightly overcast clouds and a light drizzle -- to highlight the wet season even when the weather is humid.
Here are the things to do when in the city of La Paz...
Monte Chacaltaya is 17,700 feet; it was once the highest ski track but is now converted into an overlook point. From the top you can see Lake Titicaca, the city of Alto LP, the Cordillera Real, the Sajama volcano, and the colored lagoons. It's a half-day tour: transportation goes up to about 17,400 feet and there are a few hundred feet further to walk and reach the summit with its excellent view. Bring warm clothes, drinking water and food because there are not really dining places or stores when you get tired and hungry from walking and climbing in the thin oxygen.
Despite arriving by car near the ridge, patience and care are required for any physical exertion at high altitude. But if you are prepared for the cold and take precautions against altitude sickness, it is an unforgettable experience. The feeling on top of such a high mountain with its snowy peak is priceless. If you visit it in good weather you can also see condors and eagles.
No matter where you are in La Paz, the Illimani is one of the most beautiful landscapes of the city. The walkways are a perfect place for contemplation, and the gorgeous mountain makes anyone stop and stare at its presence. It crowns the city with its eternally snowy peaks. For the adventurous, there is a chance to climb it with a tour operator. This is a challenging and wonderful climb; one drives to one of the base camps and from there makes the climb to the peak. It will be necessary to acclimate to the altitude before attempting the climb, and it is highly advisable to go with a professional guide for safety reasons and to have best access to the Bolivian peak and volcano. Be sure to arm yourself with a good camera, not only to capture the beauty of the mountain, but also the rich biodiversity of flora and fauna that you will encounter along the way.
National Folklore Museum - Museo Nacional de Etnografia y Folklore
Arranged in a historic building in La Paz downtown, the National Folklore Museum offers a collection of national costumes, masks, carnival outfits, glassware, pottery, and jewelry that impresses everyone with its wealth and splendor. The museum highlights the meaningful and historical part of Bolivia. The origins of the people’s ethnicity are presented here in different versions. And most importantly, it is a thoroughly modern museum that is kept in excellent condition.
At the entrance there is a café and a small gift shop. It carries a good ethnographic collection, which shows a little of everything. On huge screens, there are documentaries about various colorful festivals, dances, textile weaving, and pottery making. It is a pleasant place to spend an hour or two while leaving the hustle and bustle of the city outside. The structure where the museum is located is simply beautiful, and well preserved in harmony with each exhibit room of the interior. The staff is friendly, the facility is well lit, there are interesting and complete presentations, and overall it is a great experience and a nice place take photographs and increase one's understanding of the country.
The people who like adrenaline and adventure in tourism cannot miss the trip to Death Road. First, the landscapes seen for much of the trip are really fantastic. Most of the time you ascend above the snow line to a cold area, and then the slope starts decreasing and the change is noticeable in the topography, vegetation changes, and altitude. Although there are much more comfortable and safe auxiliary paths to reach Los Yungas, many people prefer this route that at many points is only wide enough for one vehicle. Many people prefer to travel on bicycles or motorbikes, which increases the level of adrenalin and curiosity to discover the mystery of this landmark attraction.
The road is constantly threatened by water from the melting snow as well as by rain and fog; it runs along cliffs of a thousand or more feet; and it has beautiful scenery with snow-capped peaks, tropical forest, waterfalls, and stretches with fog or rain in warm or hot weather. The journey here is really an experience. But now, it is almost closed to vehicular traffic, except in cases where there is a need to accommodate hundreds of visitors within a day. It is good to always be careful and follow the instructions by the guide to avoid accidents or surprises along the way.
Huayna Potosi Mountain
One of the best things to do while in the city of La Paz is to climb the Huayna Potosi Mountain. The marked trail is a unique experience that is not to be missed. It is highly recommended to go with an accredited tour agency that directly makes the tour or with an experienced climbing expedition to avoid getting lost in the middle of the forest. It is situated at a dizzying height of almost 20,000 feet, and is generally recognized as one of the easiest mountains of that height to climb.
The truth is that it is indeed not technical, but it is difficult for the steep heights that everyone must conquer. Do not forget to bring your own supply of water and something to eat, sunglasses, walking stick, and possibly a cap to mitigate the cold breeze in the head and ears. The 360-degree views and the personal reward to get involved in reaching the summit exceed everything else. You have to bundle up and prepare for the unpredictable rain. The mountain is accessible with a minimum amount of preparation and especially acclimatization to the altitude -- extensive experience is not really necessary.
The old city ruins of the Tiwanaku is an historic place surrounded by mysticism and ancient culture that is truly one of the most representative archaeological sites in Bolivia. It is characterized by decorative reliefs and incised surfaces, on five major architectural constructions; the Kalasasaya, Semi-Subterranean Temple, Pyramid Akapana, Puerta del Sol and Puma Punku. It is the birthplace of all South American civilizations and much older than the Inca empire.
The entire site is remarkable; the technology used in its architecture -- and the use of the perfect size of stones -- has no explanation until today. To better understand, it is necessary to hire a local guide at the office next to the place where entrance tickets are purchased. It is important to find a good guide for this tour because there is a lot of information, the guide should be assigned in accordance with what you want to know. The significance of the archaeological site in the history of the region, however, deserves a visit that can easily be completed in an hour.
Valle de Luna
The Valle de Luna is very impressive, and you will feel like you have been thrown in a place out of this world where the paths are narrow and you must choose the route carefully to find your way out in 40 minutes. It is always full of tourists and there are lots of photo opportunities in this monument of geological volcanic formation and erosion. Bring water and avoid going on a day when you have full sun and intolerable humidity.
There are 2 types of tours and treks, the long and short. Both are very entertaining --this area is near La Paz and everything is done for tourists who like to mix adventure and fun. Located in the south, it is a natural setting that simulates the environment of the moon through countless paths and walkways that provide various perspectives on the environment, the Muela del Diablo and the mountains of Huayna Potosi. You can also eat at various stalls along the way. It is suitable for a morning or afternoon tour on a weekend for its picturesque views and its lunar aspects.
Iglesia de San Francisco
The Iglesia de San Francisco is one of the most important churches in the city of La Paz. Its architecture, location, and environment all symbolize a deep devotion and respect for tradition. It is accessible inside (unlike other churches) where you can see a number of works of art of the Baroque mestizo; however you cannot take pictures inside and silence must be observed while exploring its features. It is a very old church that dates back to the 1500’s. For $2.90, one can access the museum and get a guide to show you the interior of the convent and its history.
You can climb the tower and see the church from the choir loft. It is all very nice and well maintained. There is a peculiar atmosphere of antiquity inside and outside of the church. If you are not in a hurry to leave, in the park just outside the church there is constantly something happening (concerts, cultural events, etc.), and also there are lots of street vendors with food stalls and assorted wares.
Jaen Street is a small but colorful street consisting of renovated houses dating back as far as the 19th century. This bohemian quarter is filled with 5 museums, galleries, small theaters, souvenir shops, and cafes. The quiet and clean street offers a good path to walk a while and to be away from the busy atmosphere of the city. It is a good 10-minute walk from the Plaza San Francisco in front of the church.
The area where the street of Jaen is located is rather a cobbled alley that is less than 500 feet long and has a width of just 15 feet at best. This is where, during the late seventeenth century and early eighteenth centuries, the nearby parish was inhabited by families of Spanish origin, Creoles and mestizo landowners.
The Mirador Laikakota is perhaps one of the best places to admire and marvel at the 360-degree views of this spectacular city. It’s only here where you can appreciate the extent -- and the apparent madness -- of having houses built on top of each other all the way up to the top of the canyon. The reddish-brown color of the roofs and adobe brick walls of hundreds of thousands of homes perched on top of each other is endless for the entire extension of the city and the size of this housing madness is bewildering.
It is near the city park with an interactive playground and you have to walk uphill to reach its tiring heights but it is all worth it. Near this park is the football stadium of peace (H. Siles Soccer Stadium). If you are interested to see what is inside the stadium, you can get in free to see the arena and you can climb the stairs to reach the boxes.