Why you should visit La Paz in July

Bolivia was, technically, the first Latin-American nation to declare its independence. This took place on 16th July 1809 in La Paz where insurgent and revolutionary Pedro Domingo Murillo took arms, somewhere around where the current Plaza Murillo stands today. However, this lasted about 6 months until the Spaniards took back the control of the capital and the country. Bolivia waited another 16 years to be independent again, on 6 August 1825.

This is why, July is a very special month for all paceños and the best time to visit Bolivia. The city is known to celebrate with concerts, theater and dance. Most of the celebration is held on the evening of the 15th, during what is called verbana. People celebrate in the streets of La Paz while drinking hot drinks such as sucumbe. Sucumbe is a tradition on its own, only available around this time of year. It is a Bolivian version of the eggnog with milk, eggs and singani, the Bolivian grape-base liqueur.

During the verbana, there is a huge street party at Plaza San Francisco where people can eat, drink and enjoy free concerts. Thus, tourists in La Paz will be able to enjoy much more than the usual breathtaking sights, cable car rides across the city and towering mountains.

Chola Pacena in La Paz, Bolivia

The celebrations include cultural events, with art and photography shows, food festivals, folklore and poetry readings. On the 16th there is a parade and the day is a local bank holiday.

But festivities don’t stop here. Since 1988, every year between July and August takes place the Entrada Folklórica Universitaria, it is a dancing celebration organised by the Unversidad Mayor de San Andres (UMSA) in La Paz to honor local traditions. University departments all dance in a long parade that starts at about 8:30 in the morning and lasts all day turning eventually into a party.

Tourists and locals can enjoy watching traditional dances performed by the students in folkloric outfits: Suri Sikuris, Salaque, Tinku, Doctorcitos and the Morenada, Diablada and Caporales.

Usually this event is on the last Saturday of July. This year it will be held on August 3rd.

Because National Independence Day is on August 6th, the month of July and August are celebratory months, the streets are decorated with the colors of the department of La Paz (green and red), giving it almost a Christmas-y feel.

July and August may be winter months and the coldest of the year but the constant blue sky and warming sun make it a very enjoyable time to walk around La Paz and explore its surroundings.

Enjoy the sunny days and stunning views of the mountains around during which is arguably, the best time to visit La Paz.

View of Illimani from Mirador Killi Killi
View of Illimani from Mirador Killi Killi

 

The most common scams to avoid in Bolivia

Travelling in Peru and Bolivia is often associated with a number of dangers and scams targeted towards travelers. Especially if travelling in South America by bus. These fears can be somewhat exaggerated turning into urban myths which spread an image much scarier than reality. However, when travelling, you should always be careful and take some necessary precautions. Scams can occur in Bolivia (as in any other places in the world), and unaware travelers can easily fall victim to them. Here is a list of the most common ones in this part of the world and how to spot and avoid them.

Bolivian Taxi, La Paz

Taxi scams

There are different types of scams in Bolivia involving taxis. The general rule is to not get into a taxi without a working taximeter. However, most taxis in Bolivia , even radio taxis from reliable taxi companies, don’t have them. For this reason, it is better to check the price and agree with the taxi driver before getting in the car.

Sometimes the driver will pretend that the accommodation you picked is already full or that it’s really bad and will give you suggestions of places you should go. Which ends up being way more expensive. Tell the driver that you have a room booked (even if you don’t) and insist on being driven there, they rarely insist more.

What to do:

  • Check the price range from and to your destination. Always agree on a price and a currency. For instance, you may agree on a 50 soles ride in Lima from the airport but the taxi driver ends up charging 50 usd. If things are not clearly established before going in the taxi or you sense something dodgy then pick a different taxi.
  • People arriving late at night or very early in the morning are easy targets for scammers as they know that travelers will be more vulnerable and anxious to get to their hotel/accommodation. Always have the address/telephone number written on a piece of paper and the location pinned on your phone on an offline GPS application.
  • Bus terminals can feel less safe than airport terminals and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when people are approaching you from all directions trying to get you into their cab. Don’t follow the first driver that comes towards you, make sure to ask prices first.
  • If possible, use an app-based application to travel or call a recommended radio-taxi company.
  • Don’t get into taxis that already have passengers in them and don’t accept to take other passengers in route, even if they pretend to be police officers (see next scam).

No change

Generally in Bolivia, people don’t like when you pay with large bills for small items. If you go to a market or a small tienda, it’s better to always have small change but people will find a solution. However, sometimes taxi drivers can use this as their advantage hoping that they end up with the larger bill as they don’t have change and it’s the middle of the night. It’s hard to say when it’s legitimate or if the driver is lying in order to get more.

What to do:

If you can’t break the large bills, ask the driver after the price has been set if he has change (‘Tiene cambio de XX?’). This way there won’t be a bad surprise when you arrive at your destination and the driver announces that he has no change and makes you give him the 50 bolivianos or 100 bolivianos bill you have.

Police impersonator

In the street or sometimes in a taxi, a fake police officer will ask you for your documents and/or will ask you to follow him somewhere in order to get you to give him your money.

Sometimes the police officer will have an accomplice to legitimize him as a ‘real’ police officer. There is no reason why a police officer would randomly ask you for your documents or why you should follow anyone anywhere.

What to do:

Always have a copy of your passport printed with you when traveling. Don’t give your original passport to a stranger. Ask to see their badge number or any proof that they are who they say. Do NOT follow anyone, even if you think they are a real police officer. Say that your papers are in your hotel and that they can accompany you there, they won’t.

Corrupt officials

A variation on the police officer impersonator is the one where actual police officers/custom officers or anyone with a legitimate position, will take advantage of this in order to make some money on the side. (more on this in the Border Crossing Scams section)

What to do:

As a general rule, don’t break the law as it will be an opportunity for any corrupt official. Make sure to be aware of the country’s rules on specific issues and use good judgment to not get into situations where you could be taken advantage.

Inside a bus in Lima, Peru

Spills/Pickpockets:

A very common technique around the world is to distract someone by spilling (or throwing) something on them. While you are confused, someone will try to help you clean the stain and an accomplice/or that same person will empty your pockets.

What to do:

Don’t stop, and don’t let anyone help you, go to a bathroom and clean it yourself. When walking in crowded areas don’t put anything of value in your pockets and wear your backpack in the front. Make sure none of your valuables are easily accessible.

Fake goods

Especially when buying electronic goods in a market, there is a risk that the products won’t work.

What to do:

We don’t recommended to buy phones/computers/anything electronic from a street market. Always go to an official seller or from someone you can trust. But if you must buy it always ask to try it. They should have an outlet to let you turn on the device you’re buying and make sure it works. The same applies for cheaper devices like earphones, cables and anything electronic. If you can’t try it, don’t buy it.

ollague
Ollague Border Crossing

Border crossing scams

This a sub-category on the corrupt official scams and take very different forms depending on the border. These can change and adapt as people always find new creative ways to scam people. It is less common with the new well-regulated migratory centers between Peru/Chile/Bolivia. The process is extremely straight-forward with rarely cases of scams. At the less formal border crossing points this can happen, especially Desaguadero (when going through the city and not the migratory center outside which is for larger buses), Yunguyo/Kasani (when going from Copacabana to Puno), Ollague (Calama-Uyuni).

Some of the ones we’ve heard about in the last year are:

  • Stamp on passport: Tourists have reported that they are not receiving the migration stamp when entering Bolivia and have to pay a hefty fine when leaving the country. Scams usually involve some instant bribe or immediate reward for the scammer so it is not clear how this constitutes as a scam. In any case when entering and leaving a country, especially by land, always make sure that you have a stamp from each country.
  • Sin tarjeta‘. Upon entry in Bolivia, there is additional migratory form that comes with the passport which you may need when leaving the country (otherwise the officer writes ‘S.T.’ on your stamp). However, sometimes officials pretend there is a fine for not having the form and charge travelers with a fake fine.
  • Bolivia/Peru: Pornography found on phone. When leaving Bolivia, officers may ask to check your phone and will find ‘pornographic content’ which they will claim is illegal in Bolivia, making you pay a fine instead of sending you to jail. This is clearly a scam. Don’t let anyone look at your phone.
  • Straight-forward bribes. Sometimes, because it is late at night or because you are in a rush, officers will create some excuse and make it clear that with some money they will let you go. There is not much to do if this is happening to you other than paying the bribe. You could try asking for a receipt. Also, depending on the situation you may be able to get away with it but that will depend very much on who you’re dealing with. You can also try to report this later on.

What to do:

It is difficult to stand up to officials, especially if late at night in a isolated border crossing post, or if you don’t speak any Spanish and if you are in a rush. The safest option sometimes is to comply and report it later in the capital city. You can also try asking for a receipt which could scare away the official. This would mostly happen on some border crossing sites so be aware these could happen.

Fake notes

In Peru and Bolivia, there are accounts of counterfeit money circulating. It is hard for newcomers to recognize immediately which ones are legit and can be hard to avoid. Try to familiarize yourself quickly with what a real bill looks and feels like, and don’t hesitate to check the bills given to you.

General tips

  • Use common sense, if something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. Don’t do anything you are not comfortable with and don’t put yourself in a situation where you could be taken advantage of (this applies anywhere in the world, even at home).
  • It’s always good to know some of the country’s language as it will make you less vulnerable and less prone to be targeted by unscrupulous people trying to take advantage.
  • Based on one’s experience a country can feel more or less safe. Bolivia suffers from a bad reputation but La Paz is one of the safest cities in Latin America, just stay in the central areas. Petty theft is rare, as long as you follow common sense. The same is true for Peru, even if Lima, due to its size, will have more problems. Pickpockets may operate in public buses and walking at night in some areas is strongly discouraged.
  • Express kidnappings are mentioned frequently as a risk when traveling South America. These involve being taken and held up at an ATM for a period of time until you have withdrawn all the money you could. These are rare and would only happen in secluded areas at night. Only use ATMs during daylight hours or in busy areas.
  • Be careful in buses, especially when leave bags unattended. Book from bus terminals to avoid scams in Bolivia or Peru and with reputable bus companies. Find here safe travel options in Bolivia and Peru and find here tips to prepare for your bus trip in Bolivia.

The most common scams to avoid when travelling in Peru and Bolivia

Travelling in South America is often associated with a number of dangers and scams targeted towards travelers. Especially if travelling in South America by bus. These fears can be somewhat exaggerated turning into urban myths which spread an image much scarier than reality. However, when travelling, you should always be careful and take some necessary precautions. Scams can occur in South America (as in any other places in the world), and unaware travelers can easily fall victim to them. Here is a list of the most common ones in this part of the world and how to spot and avoid them.

Bolivian Taxi, La Paz

Taxi scams

There are different types of scams involving taxis. The general rule is to not get a taxi that doesn’t have a working taximeter. However, most taxis, even radio taxis from reliable taxi companies in Bolivia and Peru don’t have them. For this reason, it is better to check the price and agree with the taxi driver before getting in the car.

Sometimes the driver will pretend that the accommodation you picked is already full or that it’s really bad and will give you suggestions of places you should go. Which end up being way more expensive. Tell the driver that you have a room booked (even if you don’t) and insist on being driven there, they rarely insist more.

What to do:

  • Check beforehand the range of prices from and to your destination. Always agree on a price and a currency. For instance, you may agree on a 50 soles ride in Lima from the airport but the taxi driver ends up charging 50 usd. If things are not clearly established before going in the taxi or you sense something dodgy then pick a different taxi.
  • People arriving late at night or very early in the morning are easy targets for scammers as they know that travelers will be more vulnerable and anxious to get to their hotel/accommodation. Always have the address/telephone number written on a piece of paper and the location pinned on your phone on an offline GPS application.
  • Bus terminals can feel less safe than airport terminals and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when people are approaching you from all directions trying to get you into their cab. Don’t follow the first driver that comes towards you, make sure to ask prices first.
  • If possible, use an app-based application to travel or call a recommended radio-taxi company.
  • Don’t get into taxis that already have passengers in them and don’t accept to take other passengers in route, even if they pretend to be police officers (see next scam).

No change

Generally in South America, people don’t like when you pay with large bills for small items. If you go to a market or a small tienda, it’s better to always have small change but people will find a solution. However, sometimes taxi drivers can use this as their advantage hoping that they end up with the larger bill as they don’t have change and it’s the middle of the night. It’s hard to say when it’s legitimate or if the driver is lying in order to get more.

What to do:

If you can’t break the large bills, ask the driver after the price has been set if he has change (‘Tiene cambio de XX?’). This way there won’t be a bad surprise when you arrive at your destination and the driver announces that he has no change and makes you give him the 50 bolivianos or 100 bolivianos bill you have.

Police impersonator

In the street or sometimes in a taxi, a fake police officer will ask you for your documents and/or will ask you to follow him somewhere in order to get you to give him your money.

Sometimes the police officer will have an accomplice to legitimize him as a ‘real’ police officer. There is no reason why a police officer would randomly ask you for your documents or why you should follow anyone anywhere.

What to do:

Always have a copy of your passport printed with you when traveling. Don’t give your original passport to a stranger. Ask to see their badge number or any proof that they are who they say. Do NOT follow anyone, even if you think they are a real police officer. Say that your papers are in your hotel and that they can accompany you there, they won’t.

Corrupt officials

A variation on the police officer impersonator is the one where actual police officers/custom officers or anyone with a legitimate position, will take advantage of this in order to make some money on the side. (more on this in the Border Crossing Scams section)

What to do:

As a general rule, don’t break the law as it will be an opportunity for any corrupt official. Make sure to be aware of the country’s rules on specific issues and use good judgment to not get into situations where you could be taken advantage.

Inside a bus in Lima, Peru

Spills/Pickpockets:

A very common technique around the world is to distract someone by spilling (throwing) something on them. While you are confused, someone will try to help you clean the stain and an accomplice/or that same person will be emptying your pockets.

What to do:

Don’t stop, and don’t let anyone help you, go to a bathroom and clean it yourself. When walking in crowded areas don’t put anything of value in your pockets and wear your backpack in the front. Make sure none of your valuables are easily accessible.

Fake goods

Especially when buying electronic goods in a market, there is a risk that the products won’t work.

What to do:

It is not recommended to buy phones/computers/anything electronic from a street market, always go to an official seller or from someone you can trust. But if you must buy it always ask to try it. They should have an outlet to let you turn on the device you’re buying and make sure it works. The same applies for cheaper devices like earphones, cables and anything electronic. If you can’t try it, don’t buy it.

ollague
Ollague Border Crossing

Border crossing scams

This a sub-category on the corrupt official scams and take very different forms depending on the border. These can change and adapt as people always find new creative ways to scam people. They are becoming less common as countries are building well-regulated migratory centers between Peru/Chile/Bolivia where the process is extremely straight-forward and scams haven’t been reported. At the less formal border crossing points this can happen, especially Desaguadero (when going through the city and not the migratory center outside which is for larger buses), Yunguyo/Kasani (when going from Copacabana to Puno), Ollague (Calama-Uyuni).

Some of the ones we’ve heard about in the last year are:

  • Stamp on passport: Tourists have reported that they are not receiving the migration stamp when entering Bolivia and have to pay a hefty fine when leaving the country. Scams usually involve some instant bribe or immediate reward for the scammer so it is not clear how this constitutes as a scam. In any case when entering and leaving a country, especially by land, always make sure that you have a stamp from each country.
  • Sin tarjeta: Upon entry in Bolivia, some passports are given an additional migratory form that has to be kept and given to the migration officer when leaving the country. Not everyone gets one (depends on the passport) and in this case the passport gets the letters S.T. written on the stamp. However, sometimes officials pretend there is a fine for not having the form and charge travelers with a fake fine.
  • Bolivia/Peru: Pornography found on phone. When leaving Bolivia, officers may ask to check your phone and will find ‘pornographic content’ which they will claim is illegal in Bolivia, making you pay a fine instead of sending you to jail. This is clearly a scam. Don’t let anyone look at your phone.
  • Straight-forward bribes: Sometimes, because it is late at night or they can sense you are in a rush, officers will create some excuse and make it clear that with some money they will let you go. There is not much to do if this is happening to you other than paying the bribe. You could try asking for a receipt and depending on the situation you may be able to get away with it but that will depend very much on the person you’re dealing with. You can also try to report this later on.

What to do:

It is difficult to stand up to officials, especially if late at night in a isolated border crossing post, or if you don’t speak any Spanish and if you are in a rush. The safest option sometimes is to comply and report it later in the capital city. You can also try asking for a receipt which could scare away the official. This would mostly happen on some border crossing sites so be aware these could happen.

Fake notes

In Peru and Bolivia, there are accounts of counterfeit money being used. It is hard for newcomers to recognize immediately which ones are legit and can be hard to avoid. Try to familiarize yourself quickly with what a real bill looks and feels like, and don’t hesitate to check the bills given to you.

General tips

  • Use common sense, if something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. Don’t do anything you are not comfortable with and don’t put yourself in a situation where you could be taken advantage of (this applies anywhere in the world, even at home).
  • It’s always good to know some of the country’s language as it will make you less vulnerable and less prone to be targeted by unscrupulous people trying to take advantage.
  • Based on one’s experience a country can feel more or less safe. Bolivia suffers from a bad reputation but La Paz is one of the safest cities in Latin America, just stay in the central areas. Petty theft is rare, as long as you follow common sense. The same is true for Peru, even if Lima, due to its size, will have more problems. Pickpockets may operate in public buses and walking at night in some areas is strongly discouraged.
  • Express kidnappings are mentioned frequently as a risk when traveling South America. These involve being taken and held up at an ATM for a period of time until you have withdrawn all the money you could. These are rare and would only happen in secluded areas at night. Only use ATMs during daylight hours or in busy areas.

Discover La Paz by bus in three hours

The city of La Paz (Our Lady of Peace in English) has a lot to offer, you can discover it by joining one of the walking tours on offer, by riding the cable-car lines, or by taking the new sightseeing city tour bus. From the center of La Paz to the Valle de la Luna in the south of the city, you can comfortably enjoy the different sights around you while learning about the city’s history.

View of La Paz from mirado Killi Killi

La Paz has a rich history, architecture and culture to explore and there is no better way to do it than by bus. Because of the altitude, 3,600 meters above sea level, it can be difficult and tiring for newcomers to walk the steep streets, especially when one has only a few days in La Paz and there is so much to see, eat and learn. From inside the bus, whether it rains or not ­– which it does a lot during the rainy season between November and March – you can appreciate the colonial buildings, the Art Deco architecture, the vibrant street life and the beautiful panoramic views of Illimani (the 6.438-meters-high mountain protecting the city of La Paz).

Along the way you will pass through:

  • Calle Sagarnaga: Home to the famous Witches Market where local and tourists alike can buy traditional clothing and ancient remedies.
  • Plaza Murillo: This is where Pedro Domingo Murillo declared Bolivia’s independence in 1809, the first in South America to do so. It took six months for the Spaniards to get the control again and Bolivia had to wait until 1825 to finally be independent and proclaim the Republic.
  • Mirador Killi Killi: One of the seven miradors of La Paz, this one has some of the best views, facing the Illimani and allowing people to appreciate how the city spreads south.
  • Miraflores: This whole neighborhood is from 1920s. The Bolivian architect Emilio Villanueva Peñaranda conceived it and connected it to the Avenida Camacho. Here you can see the Hernando Siles Stadium, Plaza Uyuni and Avenida Busch.
  • Sopocachi: A bohemian neighborhood, Sopocachi is filled with coffee shops, street art and interesting architecture, mixing styles and giving it a very unique feel.
  • Valle de la Luna: After Sopocachi, The bus drives down to the south of La Paz to Mallasa where the Valle de la Luna or Moon Valley can be found. It was named by Neil Armstrong himself in 1969 who, while visiting La Paz, found an uncanny resemblance between the rocky structures south of the city and the Moon.
Valle de la Luna, La Paz, Bolivia

You can see all of this and more in the newly refurbished double-decker buses which are now available for tours around the city. The trip lasts approximately three hours, departing twice daily from Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm. Departure is from Hotel Qantu on Calle Illampu in the center of the city. There are three stops for passengers to hop on and hop off: Plaza Murillo, Plaza Isabel la Catolica, and Las Cholas. The bus drops passengers back at the Hotel Qantu or gives them the option to get off at the cable-car station Curva de Holguin where they can take the yellow or green line. The yellow line goes all the way up to El Alto where it connects to the silver line and then to the red and blue lines.

A bilingual guide in each bus will provide information on the different buildings and places on the way, enriching each travelers’ experience with local knowledge.

STOPSPICK-UP TIME
Illampu 740 Hotel Qantu14:00
Plaza Murillo14:30
Plaza Isabel la Catolica15:00
Kiosco de las Cholas15:45
Sightseeing City Tour La Paz

If you have more time in La Paz and want to explore places near by and make the most of its museums and attractions you can check this guide listing 15 things to do in an around La Paz.

Discover La Paz in 3 Hours

The city of La Paz (Our Lady of Peace in English) has a lot to offer, you can discover it by joining one of the walking tours on offer, by riding the cable-car lines, or by taking the new sightseeing city tour bus. From the center of La Paz to the Valle de la Luna in the south of the city, you can comfortably enjoy the different sights around you while learning about the city’s history.

View of La Paz from mirado Killi Killi

La Paz has a rich history, architecture and culture to explore and there is no better way to do it than by bus. Because of the altitude, 3,600 meters above sea level, it can be difficult and tiring for newcomers to walk the steep streets, especially when one has only a few days in La Paz and there is so much to see, eat and learn. From inside the bus, whether it rains or not ­– which it does a lot during the rainy season between November and March – you can appreciate the colonial buildings, the Art Deco architecture, the vibrant street life and the beautiful panoramic views of Illimani (the 6.438-meters-high mountain protecting the city of La Paz).

Along the way you will pass through:

  • Calle Sagarnaga: Home to the famous Witches Market where local and tourists alike can buy traditional clothing and ancient remedies.
  • Plaza Murillo: This is where the patriot Pedro Domingo Murillo declared Bolivia’s independence in 1809, the first in South America to do so. It took six months for the Spaniards to get the control again and Bolivia had to wait until 1825 to finally be independent and proclaim the Republic.
  • Mirador Killi Killi: One of the seven miradors of La Paz, this one has some of the best views, facing the Illimani and allowing people to appreciate how the city spreads south.
  • Miraflores: This whole neighborhood was built in the 1920s by the Bolivian architect Emilio Villanueva Peñaranda who conceived it and connected it to the Avenida Camacho. Here you can see the Hernando Siles Stadium, Plaza Uyuni and Avenida Busch.
  • Sopocachi: A bohemian neighborhood, Sopocachi is filled with coffee shops, street art and interesting architecture, mixing styles and giving it a very unique feel.
  • Valle de la Luna: After Sopocachi, The bus drives down to the south of La Paz to Mallasa where the Valle de la Luna or Moon Valley can be found. It was named by Neil Armstrong himself in 1969 who, while visiting La Paz, found an uncanny resemblance between the rocky structures south of the city and the Moon.

Valle de la Luna, La Paz, Bolivia

You can see all of this and more in the newly refurbished double-decker buses which are now available for tours around the city. The trip lasts approximately three hours, departing twice daily from Tuesday to Sunday at 10am and 2pm. Departure is from Hotel Qantu on Calle Illampu in the center of the city. There are three stops for passengers to hop on and hop off: Plaza Murillo, Plaza Isabel la Catolica, and Las Cholas. The bus drops passengers back at the Hotel Qantu or gives them the option to get off at the cable-car station Curva de Holguin where they can take the yellow or green line. The yellow line goes all the way up to El Alto where it connects to the silver line and then to the red and blue lines.

A bilingual guide in each bus will provide information on the different buildings and places on the way, enriching each travelers’ experience with local knowledge.

STOPS AFTERNOON
Illampu 740 Hotel Qantu 14:00
Plaza Murillo 14:30
Plaza Isabel la Catolica 15:00
Kiosco de las Cholas 15:45

Sightseeing City Tour La Paz

 

INCLUDED

  • Tourist guide (Spanish-French-English)
  • Energy bar

NOT INCLUDED

  • Tips
  • Entrance to the Valle de la Luna (3 Bs – Nationals/15 Bs – Foreigners

For more information and to book tickets online, visit our page on www.ticketsbolivia.com

Everything You Need To Know About Alasita in Bolivia

miniaturas_de_alasita_
Caleidoscopic – via Wikimedia Commons

Every year on 24th January starts the annual Alasita festival in La Paz, Bolivia. It lasts for a month with stalls covered with miniature versions of houses, money bills, cereal boxes, passports, iPhone, diplomas, and all the items one may aspire to acquire during the year.

What is the alasita festival in Bolivia?

In Bolivia, Alasita is a place where one can also look for love in the shape of a rooster or a hen. To ensure that you will find love during that year, the rooster/hen has to be given to you. You cannot purchase it yourself. The birds have come to represent love and they come in different colors, each representing something: black ones are for widowers, yellow (or gold) are for people looking for a (very) rich partner, white ones represent purity and the red ones are more passionate. Some of them even have professions and different qualities depending on what you look in a partner.

Everything purchased at the fair needs to be blessed by priests and then offered to the Ekeko, the Andean God of Abundance. He’s easily recognizable by the bags of goods he carries, the chullo (traditional hat) and the cigarettes he’s smoking.

Other traditional and typical items people purchase are golden toads which represent Pachamama (Mother Earth) and are meant to bring fortune and prosperity to your home. Suitcases filled with money are also popular implying that money won’t be missing and that there will be opportunities to travel during the year. Food is another common purchase people make, with miniature boxes of pasta, rice, quinoa and other staples that you can buy.

vista_de_alasitas_2010,_la_paz,_bolivia_-_panoramio_-_lilapagola
lilapagola – via Wikimedia Commons

Alasitas is popular festival that mixes indigenous beliefs and Catholicism, tradition and modernity, illustrating perfectly Bolivia’s complexities and idiosyncrasies. On the first day of Alasitas, at around 12:00pm people gather in and around the churches to have their items blessed by the Catholic priests in a vibrant display of syncretism. And it’s also more than that; Alasitas is a fun, convivial place with food and games, enjoyable for the whole family, where one can also find hand-crafted and artisan goods. Make sure to go and try the plato paceño, a local specialty with corn, cheese, meet and fava beans, and the unmissable api con pastel, a purple-corn drink accompanied by a deep-fried cheese empanada.

Alasitas can be enjoyed throughout the city during 30 days, especially on the first day but the fair is held in Parque Urbano in La Paz. The fair then moves to Santa Cruz in September, where it also stays for a month.

If you are travelling in Bolivia in January/February or September make sure not to miss the Alasitas fair. You can easily travel to La Paz and Santa Cruz and plan ahead your trip with Tickets Bolivia.

15 Things To Do Around La Paz, Bolivia

View of La Paz from El Alto
View of La Paz

Updated: 6 June 2019

La Paz, Bolivia is often a city where travelers stop briefly coming from Machu Picchu and heading to the Salar of Uyuni (or vice versa). A necessary stop, it’s can also be too short considering all the attractions the city and its surroundings have to offer. Here we’ll look at some of the popular activities and some of the lesser known ones that one can do in and around the city of La Paz.

1 – Walk around the city

Recommended time: 1 to 2 days

La Paz is relatively easy to navigate by foot due to its size, most places can be walked to but the steep streets and altitude can make it hard to catch your breath. It is however, well worth it to see the city by foot and to get lost in winding alleyways and colonial streets. One of the most charming colonial streets in La Paz is Calle Jaen. The narrow cobblestone street has several colorful buildings dating back to the 18th century, and is home to many small museums, shops and restaurants. You can also walk to one of the many lookouts around the city: the Mirador Killi Killi and Mirador Laikakota are the most popular ones offering panoramic views of the city.

To get a real feel of the city and historic center, including its museums and lookouts, it’s good to count 2 days to explore the whole city while adjusting to the altitude.

2 – Mi Teleférico: La Paz’s Cable Car System

Recommended time:  A couple of hours

For the best views of La Paz, and an original and more relaxing way to discover the city, hop on the teleférico. The cable car system is La Paz’s new transport system and counts now 8 lines with 2 more planned. Views are spectacular and give you an idea how never-ending and growing the city is.

Everybody has their favorite lines, ours are:

  • The silver one, on the edge of El Alto is particularly spectacular.
  • The blue one, over El Alto gives you a close look to the cholets (neo-andean buildings) and the fair on Thursdays and Sundays.
  • The red one connects El Alto to the center and goes above the general cemetery, providing beautiful views of this small city within the city and its giant murals.
  • The orange line shows a different part of town, joining the center to Plaza Villaroel.
  • The green line goes to the south zone of the city and really gives an idea of how far south the city is spreading, one can really see the differences between neighborhoods.

To circle around the city in cable-car, count a couple of hours. The journey is well worth- it. Don’t skip El Alto as it has the best views of the Cordillera Real and shows a whole different aspect of Bolivia. All the lines are now connected. A teleférico journey costs 3 bolivianos, with every connection being an additional 2 bolivianos.

Death Road, Bolivia
Death Road

3 – Cycle Death Road

Recommended time: 1 day

One of the most popular activities for those spending some time in La Paz, and who are looking for a thrilling adventure, is the bike ride along what used to be one of the world’s most dangerous roads. The ride starts up in the mountain and takes you down into the Yungas, a semi-tropical area offering a vibrant contrast to the cold and snowy peaks.

Riding down the Death Road takes the whole day and can be strenuous. Make sure to book with a safe and reputable company. Reliable companies to do this are Gravity and Barracuda. Make sure to check reviews and ask fellow travelers about their experience.

Tiwanaku
Tiwanaku

4 – Tiwanaku

Recommended time: 1 day

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, Tiwanaku is an ancient archaeological site named after one of the most important civilizations prior to the Inca Empire. Tiwanaku is about 2 hours from La Paz and makes for a pleasant short day-trip crossing the Altiplano. You can book a bus to Tiwanaku with Tickets Bolivia or take a public transport from the General Cemetery going to Desaguadero.

5 – Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley)

Recommended time: Half a day

The Moon Valley is just a short ride out of La Paz on the way to Mallasa. The landscape has  been formed as a result of erosion and has a surreal, unique feel. The walk around the rugged landscape can take up to an hour. You can reach Mallasa by public transport or taxi from the center of La Paz.

Micros and minibuses will have a sign saying either Mallasa or Mallasilla. You can grab one from the center of town on Avenida Perez or from Calle 8 de Calacato in the south. Entrance is 15 bolivianos for foreigners (3 bolivianos for Bolivian nationals).

Valle de la Luna, La Paz, Bolivia
Valle de la Luna

6 – Huayna Potosi

Recommended time : 2 to 3 days

Huayna Potosi is the most popular mountain to climb in Bolivia, it is only 25 km north of La Paz in the Cordillera Real, and can be climbed by (acclimatized) beginners. The climb can be done in two or three days. The peak is at 6,088 meters above sea level.

It is highly recommendable to spend at least 3-6 days adjusting to the altitude in La Paz prior to climbing Huayna Potosi. People attempting the climb should also be healthy and physically fit. Whilst experience is not required to climb Huayna Potosi, underestimating the mountain by not properly acclimatizing or skipping the training day when you’re not an experienced climber, can not only prevent you from reaching the summit but can be life threatening.

Tour agencies offer 2 or 3-day hikes, we recommend choosing the longer hike up as acclimatization is essential in order to reach the peak.

Huayna Potosi
Huayna Potosi

7 – Cementerio General La Paz

Recommended time: 1 to 2 hours

Spread over the equivalent of 15 city blocks, the predominant sites are rows of individual concrete compartments, each set in structures over four stories high with building facades painted with colorful murals. For an authentic cultural experience visit on November 2, the Day of the Dead, when the whole city goes to the cemetery to celebrate the lives of those who are no longer around. Relatives organize parties, lunches, and family gatherings in front of their loved ones, and even play songs to the dead.

The red cable-car line has a stop there which makes it easy to access.

8 – El Alto

Recommended time: Half a day, on Thursday and Sunday

One of the fastest growing cities in Bolivia and the second largest city in Bolivia, El Alto is popular for it’s open air market, the Feria 16 de Julio which takes place on Thursdays and Sundays. There you can find everything from furniture to clothes and car parts. You can easily access the feria by teleférico. On these days, you can also attend there a Cholita wrestling match.

9 – Watch a football match at Estadio Hernando Siles

Recommended time : A few hours

One of the highest professional stadiums in the world, Estadio Hernando Siles is worth a visit. Situated at an impressive altitude 3,637 meters above sea level, the premier football venue has a capacity of 41,143 seats. The best way to catch a game is to head to Estadio Hernando Siles on match day (Wednesdays at 7pm or Sundays at 3pm) and purchase a ticket. Nights get very cold and there is not much cover, so make sure to wear warm clothes and bring a waterproof jacket.

10 – Chacaltaya

Recommended time: Half a day

The glacier on Chacaltaya served as Bolivia’s only ski resort at over 5,300 meters above sea level. It was the world’s highest lift-served ski area and the northernmost in South America. The mountain is also popular with amateur mountaineers, as the road stops only 200 meters from the summit. Some tour agencies offer trips there, which will give you the opportunity to walk up the path and reach the peak at 5,421 meters above sea level.

Chacaltaya, Bolivia
Chacaltaya

11 – Lake Titicaca

Recommended time: 2 to 3 days

The town of Copacabana, on the shore of Lake Titicaca, is only 3-4 hours away from La Paz and is an easy weekend trip. From Copacabana you can access the Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna. You can book a bus to and from Copacabana with Tickets Bolivia.

Also check this blog post about that to do when there.

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
Lake Titicaca

12 – Muela del Diablo

Recommended time: 4 to 8 hours

An iconic feature of the La Paz landscape, Muela del Diablo (or Devil’s Molar), situated at 3,852 meters above sea level, is a great tourist attraction ideal for hiking and soaking in spectacular views of La Paz and the valley.

The walk up to the Muela from the Pedregal neighborhood south of La Paz can take up to 2 hours, you can also access the Muela from Jupapina on the other side of the valley. If you do choose the later option be aware that it is a full day hike, taking around 6 hours to walk between Pedregal and Mallasa. Make sure to bring plenty of water, snacks and sun/wind protection.

To get there by public transport, take a minibus to Los Pinos/Pedregal from the center of the city on Avenida 6 de Agosto or in the south of the city.

13 – Valle de las Animas/Palca Canyon

Recommended time: 1 day

Just a short distance to the east of the largest city of Bolivia La Paz is another natural wonder – the Palca canyon. Here you can admire the imposing rock towers and enjoy the stunning scenery and views of the Illimani.

You can access the valley with public transport from the city or organize a tour with a travel company. Entrance to the area is free and you can easily hike from the Valle de las Animas to the Palca Canyon in 2-3 hours.

Choro trail, Bolivia
Los Yungas

14 – El Choro

Recommended time: 3 days

The pre-Columbian El Choro trek begins an hour outside of La Paz, at La Cumbre, and ends in the tropical Yungas. It’s a fairly easy trek, although you’ll want to refrain if you have knee problems. With a exception of some flat and steeply inclined segments, it’s mainly downhill, descending from 4,900 to 1,350 meters above sea level. It can be done in two or three days and you don’t have to book it through a travel agency.

15 – Takesi

Recommended time: 2 days

One of the most impressive Inca trails in the Andes, Takesi is a 40 kilometer road linking the vast Altiplano plateau with the sub-tropical Yungas. Used by the Incas as a communication and transport link, Takesi remains one of the finest remaining paved roads in the region. Starting in the town of Ventilla at a height of 3,200 meters, the road rises to 4,640 meters before descending to 2,200 meters. One of the easiest Inca treks in Bolivia, the Takesi trail, while still demanding, is mostly downhill, and can be done in 2 days.

Take the train to Tiwanaku and Guaqui on Lake Titicaca

The central train station in La Paz has become a monument to the distant memory of train travel. This experience today feels lost for the people who live in the city. However, few people know that the Andean Railway Company (FCA) offers a tourist trip by train to the towns of Tiwanaku and Guaqui on the second Sunday of each month. Transportation is roundtrip starting in the morning from the city of El Alto and returning the same date at night. This service allows you to visit two distinctive tourist attractions of La Paz: Tiwanaku and Lake Titicaca.

To get to the starting point of the tourist train from the city of La Paz, we recommend taking a cable car to El Alto, from there you can take a radio taxi to the stop point of the train known as the Ingavi Regiment; This particular service has a cost of around 15 Bs. You can also get to the departure point of the train by taking a public transport service from the 2nd street of La Ceja in El Alto, any minibus that goes to Santiago II and the road to Oruro takes you to the Ingavi Regiment. You will notice that you are in the right place the moment you see the train parked at the center of a paved avenue. There you will see FCA service personnel who help people board the right car with your purchased tickets.

The train has three different types of wagons: Popular at 20 Bs., Saloon at 40 Bs. And Executive at 80 Bs. The main difference between the wagons are the seats; The executive car has reclining seats. All prices only include transportation service. On the same train, passengers can board the dining car for a breakfast while they arrive at their first stop.

Train to Tiwanaku

Tiwanaku is a pre-Inca archaeological city located near Lake Titicaca. This tourist center attracts a lot of attention due to the technological level reached by the ancient Tiwanacotas considering that they lived there since 1500 a.C. coming to be formed in the spiritual and political center of the Tiwanacota empire around the year 200 AD. The maximum expression of their culture is shown in their ceramic work of precise cuts and characteristics, the various ceremonies they performed in the stone pyramids they built and the characteristic large monoliths carved from huge rocks.

2018-08-17 (5).jpg

You arrive in Tiwanaku about two hours after the departure of the train. There you must buy an entrance that allows you to visit two museums and two archaeological sites of this pre-Inca empire. The train stops around an hour so everyone has time to visit these places. The price for this entry is 15 Bs. for people of Bolivian nationality and 100 Bs. for foreigners.

Tiwanaku, Bolivia
Map of Tiwanaku, Bolivia

We recommend you visit two of these four places due to the reduced time you have and taking into account the best that Tiwanaku has to offer. First, we recommend you visit the Tiwanakota museum behind the ceramic museum. There you can find the Benet monolith, named after its discoverer, as well as learn its history. You can also see other smaller monoliths. After that, we recommend a visit to the archaeological site across the street where you can see the great pyramid of Akapana, the Semi-subterranean Templete and the Temple of Kalasasaya with the famous Puerta del Sol, as well as other ceremonial spaces.

Train to Guaqui

Guaqui, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
Lake Titicaca

The trip to Guaqui lasts an hour departing from Tiwanaku. Guaqui is a port town from where the multipurpose catamaran ship of the Bolivian Naval Force departs. This vessel has a capacity for 120 people and takes a walk on Lake Titicaca. The ride costs 40 Bs. Extra.

This municipality is becoming increasingly tourist thanks to this route by train. In Guaqui you can visit museums that show the history of Lake Titicaca and the customs of the Chiripa culture. You can also visit the main square and its church which are at 15 minute walk from the port.

Travel Bolivia by train

The return takes about three and a half hours. Once in El Alto you can take the purple cable car back to La Paz.

Visit Tickets Bolivia to buy your tickets online today.