We did and saw so much that astonished and wowed us in Bolivia: driving across Salar de Uyuni in a jeep, and camping in the Amazon, and hiking around Lake Titicaca, and cycling the insanely awesome and just plain insane Death Road, and simply eating dulce de leche ice-cream in Sucre.
But when I step back and think about Bolivia, it’s the everyday imagery that follows me back to my home in New Zealand - the lime green buses, the hair plaits and bowler hats, and clear but deep blue skies, the witches’ market just down the road, the coca leaves chewed left, right and centre, the blanketed babies that never cried and the odd characters that made La Paz a rather intriguing city.
Sometimes we need some time to process our travels to let the memories steep. I found that a particular experience I thought to be momentous at the time, was really just another day as a backpacker, and seemingly ordinary days became pivotal moments of my travels.
Days in La Paz were a little like this - further down the (metaphorical and also actual) road, I realised all those little fragments of interactions had added together to create an adventure I hope never to forget.
5 incredible things you must do in La Paz - Bolivia
The witches market (El Mercado de las Brujas)
There's a reason why this one is at the top of every to-do list for La Paz and that’s because it’s an astonishing insight into La Paz culture. Mummified llamas hanging from stalls are a little difficult to look at, but the witches market makes for an interesting morning walk and a great way to do a bit of people watching. The market kind of merges into a general fruit and vegie market so it’s a great place to pick up cheap bananas and avocados (about 50c a bunch of bananas and 3 avocados for a dollar). You can find the witches market on Melchor Jimenez.
Cycle Death Road (Yungas Road)
Every thrill seeker’s dream activity. Death Road is an unpaved road that runs through the Yungas region of Bolivia and it’s a rather sketchy one. Sign up with a tour group* and bike the mostly downhill road that runs from La Paz to Coroico, because it is so much fun. Even for someone who doesn’t feel all that confident on a bicycle.
Hit the streets
Take a walking tour with Red Cap for $3 (they meet at San Pedro Plaza at 11am and 2pm) for head over to Calle Jean for brightly coloured alleyways (and photo opportunities) or Calle Linares for souvenirs.
One of my biggest regrets is not having the time to see the Cholita wrestling in La Paz. So even though I didn’t go, I’m adding it to the list so that you CAN. The easiest way to see the wrestling ladies is to go with Red Cap tours for $13.
Some of the best food we had in South America was eaten in Bolivia and while there are some fantastic fine dining opportunities in La Paz for a fraction of what we’d pay back home, the cheap local joints are worth seeking out too. For La Paz I recommend,
Restaurant 1700 for innovative fine dining
Higher ground café & wine bar for coffee and brunch
Popular Cocina Boliviana for decently priced Bolivian fare
Jack and I talk often of returning to South America, a region he loves, a place I underappreciated at the time while I hungered for Southeast Asia, my first travel love. But now I’ve had some time to reflect, I’ve decided that La Paz is one of my favourite cities in the world.
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