At an altitude of 3,632 metres, La Paz is the world’s highest capital. It has sunny days, year-round chilly evenings and mountains perpetually dusted with snow.
What’s more, it is the capital of one of Latin America’s most intriguing countries. Bolivia remains unspoilt with many of the locals still wearing traditional dress and flashing a genuine smile.
Here’s how to see the best of the city in a day.
Catch your breath
09:00: The city’s central market is so big you can’t help but get caught up in it. The main street runs from Plaza San Francisco to Plaza del Estudiante – the business quarter where the university and government buildings are located. Start the day by wandering around the back streets off Sagarnaga, the main tourist drag near Plaza San Francisco. There is a huge array of goods on sale, from Bolivian blankets to DVDs, Nike merchandise and branded shampoo.
09:30: Pop into Angelo Colonial (Calle Linares 922) below Plaza de San Francisco for the city’s best filter coffee in the bohemian setting of an old mansion. It has fast Internet connection (a rarity) and walls covered in antiques.
Juice it up
10:00: Forego breakfast in your hotel in favour of street food, such as hot mincemeat and gravy. Carts selling juice are hard to miss. You can order an inventive combination for about 30p.
I should coca
10:30: The nearby coca museum (at Calle Linares 906) details the history of the coca plant. You’ll often see locals chewing the unrefined leaf or putting into hot water to make a tea to combat altitude sickness. Combine this with a walk to the neighbouring Church of San Francisco, which was built in 1549.
Bird’s eye view
11:30: Take a taxi (£3 return) from Sagarnaga Street and travel through the suburbs of Calacota to Moon Valley, a surreal rock formation that resembles the surface of the moon. On the way, ask your driver to stop so you can snap the many red roofs of the houses beneath. A round trip should take two hours so stop for a quick lunch at one of the many cafes lining the route.
Go for gold
14:00: Some of the best colonial buildings are at Calle Jaen, north of the main street, where traditional craft shops and museums are located. Visit Museo del Litoral Boliviano to view its selection of old maps, or Museo de Metales Preciosos, which has vaults filled with Inca gold relics.
Don’t be square
16:00: Late 19th to early 20th century architecture also exists around Plaza Murillo, the main square north east of Plaza de San Francisco. The square’s main draw is Palacio Presidencial, an Italian renaissance-style Cathedral that has been restored twice during its 130-year history. Then watch the world go by at one of the square’s many cafes.
18:30: Time for dinner. Head to the top of the Plaza Hotel on Prado, where you will find Utama, a Bolivian/international restaurant with great views over the city. Cuban president Fidel Castro is one of the many to have eaten here, and you can get a meal large enough for two for as little as £3.50.
Raise the bar
20:00: From the main street take the steep climb to Casa Duende on Indaburo 848, a great alternative to the touristy bars, where your hike will be rewarded with a yard of beer (three and a half pints) for approximately £1. Go easy though as the altitude will quickly send the alcohol to your head.
Hit the clubs
22:00: La Paz parties into the early hours on a Friday and Saturday evening. The Spanish influence is visible in a nightlife based around salsa and samba. Don’t be put off by friendly locals wanting to spin you round the dance floor. Visit La Salsa del Loro up the steps at Avenue 6 de Agosto, which has live music until 4am, the city’s cut-off time for serving alcohol.
Sunvil Latin America has a 14-day Complete Bolivia itinerary with four nights in La Paz and taking in Sucre, Potosi, Uyuni and Madidi National Park from £2,082 per person twin-share including flights, transfers, excursions, accommodation and most meals from January 1.
All America has a half-day La Paz tour taking in San Francisco Church, the Valley of the Moon and various markets from £30 per person per day including transport and a guide.
Marshall Cavendish is offering agents the chance to win one of five new Culture Shock! guides retailing at £11.99 each.
With over 48 titles in the series, Culture Shock! Bolivia is a survival guide for travellers wanting practical advice on moving around, entry requirements, customs, traditions and business etiquette.
To enter send the answer to the following question, along with your name and contact details, to ‘Travel Weekly Latin America competition’ at Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey, SM2 5AS to reach us by December 22.
See marshallcavendish.com/genref for more details.
Question: What is the name of the boat being used for Peter Deilmann Cruises’ new 20-night Brazilian Samba Cruise?
This is a community-moderated forum.
All post are the individual views of the respective commenter and are not the expressed views of Travel Weekly.
By posting your comments you agree to accept our Terms & Conditions.