La Paz is breathtaking! Literally.
The city is located at almost 4.000m (13.000 feet) above sea level and it’s all ups and downs, so if you fly in from sea level expect to feel dizzy, tired and out of breath, at least for the first day. Also, your face might swell, so you will probably get rid of a few wrinkles (at least temporarily).
There are a few ways you can cope with high altitude sickness:
- drink a lot of water
- drink coca leaves tea (mate de coca)*
- chew coca leaves*
- take Sorochipil (pills you can buy at any pharmacy)
*though coca leaves are not drugs and you won’t get high, consuming them might result in a positive drug test for cocaine for at least 24h.
If your time in La Paz is limited, here are a few things you must see:
Located in the old town, the plaza features some of the most prominent buildings in Bolivia: the Presidential Palace, National Congress and the Cathedral. Also, just behind the Presidential Palace you will see the People’s House, a modern skyscraper that sticks out like a sore thumb, and which you won’t be able to ignore as much as you try.
2. Calle Jaen
A colorful and picturesque street just a few blocks uphill from the plaza, Calle Jaen is home to numerous museums and souvenir shops. For only 20 Bs (~$3) you can get a ticket for four museums: Museo Costumbrista, Museo del Litoral, Museo de los Metales Preciosos and Casa Murillo. Though they are very interesting, there is only a limited number of explanation cards in English, so if you don’t speak Spanish you will miss out.
3. San Francisco church and the Witch Market
Located at a walking distance downhill from Plaza Murillo, San Francisco church is probably the most iconic building in La Paz. Close to it, on Melchor Jimenez street, there is the Witch Market, where you can buy natural herbs and remedies. Llama foetuses are also sold here for ceremonial purposes.
This is La Paz’s bohemian neighborhood. Enjoy a coffee in one of the many cafés you will find here and go for a walk amongst the modern skyscrapers and old buildings typical of this part of the city. Also, don’t miss El Monticulo de Sopocachi – the city’s love park – where you can get a charge out of an amazing panoramic view over La Paz.
5. Telefericos (Cable cars)
Though they have only been around for just a few years, the cable cars are now a common sight in La Paz and a symbol of the city. They are also a great way to explore the city from above and rides only cost 3Bs (~ $0.5).