La Paz is the one of the world's highest cities, at more than 3,500m above sea level we were certainly short for breath during our stay. Unsure of what to do in La Paz other than party, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that there are many other activities to partake in. Along with activities within La Paz, the city is also the perfect place to use as a base for your Bolivia trip which is why we ended up spending more time here than originally planned. In terms of where to stay, we would recommend Wild Rover Hostel for those party goers with quieter rooms on request. We also spent time at Greenhouse Bolivia, which was slightly further out of the city but good for those seeking a quiet escape.
One key activity that you can do from La Paz is Death Road Cycling. Although not for everyone, for all the adrenaline junkies it was one of Charlotte’s favourite days on the trip so far. Christie on the other hand couldn’t think of anything worse due to her irrational fear of cliff edges! The day involved an early start of 7am as it takes around 2 hours to get to the start of the route, where on arrival you are given your bikes along with all of the necessary equipment. The start of the bike ride was hard due to the lack of visibility and torrential rain, however, eventually the clouds wore off and the views were incredible! As you cycle along the most narrow part of the path, the sheer drop on your left hand side is pretty terrifying. Although high concentration is needed at all times, it really was a thrilling experience and was finished off with the luxury of a buffet lunch and a dip in a pool. The company we used was Republica Tours, which was perfect as it was one of the cheaper ones and the guides were lovely!
The Cholitas Wrestling is another must do in La Paz, although a very strange experience it did provide us with knowledge on what the locals like doing on their average Thursday/Sunday, as well as a bit of entertainment. Usual wrestling matches tend to involve a lot of testosterone, however, here the indigenous Bolivian women are the main event. They are dressed in high bowler hats, big puffy skirts and pigtails; almost as if they’re dressed in 20th Century costume drama but are actually very much a driving force in modern Bolivia. The show is held at Colieso in El Alto and is about a 45 minute bus journey from La Paz - if you’re stuck for things to do we would definitely recommend this for your Sunday afternoon.
Many travellers who visit Bolivia have heard of or read the book ‘Marching Powder’ which is about the notorious San Pedro Prison, located in the heart of La Paz. Although prison tours are no longer safe to do, you are able to meet a man nicknamed ‘Crazy Dave’ who gives talks in the square opposite the prison each day at 1pm. Having both read the book we were very intrigued by this and enjoyed the experience. The prison is like no other and prisoners are expected to buy their own cells on arrival. Additionally wives and children live within the prison, despite government attempt to stop this happening, it is actually a safer place for them to live as there’s no place for them to go otherwise. If you do go to visit ‘Crazy Dave’ make sure to prepare yourself for the explicit and extremely shocking nature of some of his stories from his 16 year stint from inside the prison!
The majority of the activities mentioned so far involve spending a bit of money, if you are on a tight budget then there are still plenty of other things to be done. We would definitely advise taking a trip to the Mercado Rodriguez, where you can spend time picking out delicious fruit, vegetables and spices for your evening meals, at a cost of next to nothing. Another activity we enjoyed was taking a ride on Mi Teleférico, the aerial cable car system. The cars have stunning views of the city and if you take the red car to El Alto you will find yourself headed towards the cities biggest market which runs every Sunday. You can pick out almost anything; from edgy second hand clothing to tourist souvenirs, and even pets of all shapes and sizes!
During our time in La Paz we spent a lot of time checking out the local restaurants, and here's the best ones we found:
Higher Ground - delicious smoothies and coffee
Writers Coffee - great place to spend the day writing diaries and enjoying great coffee, make sure to try the nutella cappuccino
Cafe Del Mundo - delicious coffee, salads and pasta dishes. Make sure to treat yourself to one of the mouth watering desserts!
Cafe Vida - healthy vegan food
Kalakitas Mexican - delicious, cheap Mexican food. Very big portion sizes!
Vinapho - try the spring rolls!
Ali Pacha - for those foodies out there this is a very cheap vegan Michelin star restaurant offering a 3 course tasting menu for the equivalent of ten pounds
Ichuri Food - views of the city
Restaurante Mirador - top of the yellow cable cars, great spot to enjoy panoramic views of La Paz
Mozzarella Pizza - great oven baked pizza