La Paz is the highest administrative capital city in the world. Your breath will literally be taken away by the lack of oxygen at this high altitude. But this is a city buzzing with life. Bustling markets, crowded streets, picturesque churches, boisterous bars and colourful locals. If you’re planning a flying visit in La Paz, here is how to spend your first 48 hours.
Day 1 – Morning
Let’s assume you’ve arrived in the night before and you’re ready to hit the streets and discover the city. Like they say, if you haven’t got lost in a city before, it’s because you have explored it enough. It’s time to get lost in the city’s labyrinthine side-streets and alleyways, making sure to tick off some of the major tourism hotspots along the way. Walk through Plaza de Murillo (the city’s main square), visit the San Francisco Church and the witches’ market.
DAY 1 – Afternoon
In the afternoon take a bus or taxi from the city to the ancient site of Tiwanaku, one of the continent’s most important pre-Incan ruins. This UNESCO World Heritage site is sometimes called ‘the Stonehenge of the Americas’ and doesn’t disappoint.
Day 1 – Evening
When you return back to La Paz, be sure to head up to the district of El Alto to watch the cholita wrestling (only available Sundays). These local female wrestlers take to the ring to battle it out against each other in traditional Aymara and Quechua costumes. Tickets are cheap and makes for a fascinating insight into this interesting sub-culture of empowered women. If you want to keep the night going, there are plenty of bars and nightclubs to explore. Thelonius Jazz Bar and Mongo’s are both excellent choices.
Day 2 – Morning
It may seem like a bad idea, but a morning of hurtling downhill on bikes along the so called ‘Death Road’ is a thrilling experience. Starting at almost 5,000 metres above sea level, cycling down Death Road involves descending more than 3,600 metres in just 40 miles. The winding, largely gravel road surface should be taken carefully to avoid plummeting off the cliff side drop to one side. Once you’ve reached the bottom, you’ll be brought back up along Death Road by car, an interesting experience in itself.
Day 2 – Afternoon
If time permits when you return, take a car 10 kilometres out to the stunning Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). This amazing lunar-like landscape of bizarre rock formations is similar to the valley of the same name in Chile. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset before returning back to the city.
DAY 2 – Evening
We’ve got two great choices for restaurants depending on your preference and budget. If you like simple, authentic and budget friendly street food, head to one of the four branchesof Paceña La Salteña. These outlets create some of the best Bolivian empanadas (meat encased in pastry, much like a Cornish pasty). For those looking for something a little more refined, head to Gusto. This restaurant is owned by the founder of Noma, rated second best in the world. Here you can try a taster menu that carefully balances the flavours of Peru and the Andes. Could there be a better to way to finish your time in La Paz?