La Paz – Bolivia’s administrative capital and one of the highest in the world. Reuniting tradition & modernity, historic & trendy areas and starring some of South America’s top restaurants, it immediately had our hearts!
To reach La Paz coming from Sucre, it’s really easy, go to the bus terminal and book a ticket for 80 BOB. You can of course use the services of one of the many travel agencies in town but the prices quoted will then vary from 150 to 90 BOB p.p. depending on how much commission they want to charge you. We did several and all quoted a different price and on top of it they are unable to book in advance for god knows which reason. So just go to the bus terminal!
We booked a night bus so we arrived early morning and took a cab to Sopocachi where we had our Airbnb. The taxi ride allowed us to happily witness the early morning market life, food stalls all around and the crazy traffic. La Paz is a huge and crazily vertical city, unlike any others we’ve experienced. It is bowl shaped and seeing it from the cable car (more on that later) was breathtaking!
Sopocachi is located about 15 minutes walk to the city centre and for us a perfect location as first of all it was a secure area, there was a extensive choice of restaurants, tiny eateries and it was spotlessly clean. To top it all we were next a station for the town’s impressive ‘teleferico’ – the biggest infrastructure of cable cars existing and one of the biggest achievements of the president Evo Morales. We actually spend quite some time the first day going up and down just the ‘yellow line’ to take in the city and its grandeur. We even got stuck for 20 minutes with a crying baby, nice experience 😅 The fare is 3 BOB (not even 0.50$) per person and line, if you switch lines you have to pay again.
The second day we took a ‘free’ walking tour, which was actually not free but 20 BOB which is about 3$. It was definitely worth the money, our guides were funny and explained really well all while integrating the group. Randy and me even got to play the traditional flirting ritual between a Bolivian Cholita and a man 😂. The Cholita is the traditional Bolivian woman with her long braids, fluffy skirt and thick stockings. All these are basically erotic symbols – long silky hair, the skirt enhancing the width of the hips, the stocking to hide the calves as they are the Nr.1 sex symbol in Bolivia and should only be revealed to the husband, the hat to inform about the woman’s marital status…
We visited the Witches’ market with its shops selling the famous love potions (convincing your love to chose you, inhancing potency etc…). Our guides explained lots of urban legends such as the fact that Pachamama (mother earth) claims a living offering to be buried in the foundations when one is building a house (Lama, goat…), for bigger constructions it has to be a human being. Most of the times it’s homeless but apparently white people are the highest offering possible so our guides advised us to never get super drunk in La Paz ^^.
In the evening we wanted to splurge on a fancy dinner and met back with our Scottish friends at ‘El Gustu’ – 14th on the South America’s top 50 restaurant list, located in the hip and slightly posh area ‘Zona Sur’. We paid about 205BOB per person for a 7-course with wine pairing, and with the tips and extra cocktail (which we would not have needed retrospectively) we had a 105 USD pp bill. Sure it’s expensive for travellers but a steal compared to Europe. We had a great evening and the food was delicious! To make it short I will only say that the numerous appetizers were amazing. The only problem with the wine pairing is that you end up drinking so much, you don’t remember the last courses 😂
Being a bit hungover we didn’t do much the next day as on top of it we had another fancy dinner planned for that evening. This time it would be a vegan place “Ali Pacha” and we were quite excited to see a vegan fine dining. This evening was cheaper, 100 BOB pp for the 5-course menu and we didn’t manage to have more than a glass of wine that night…the food was good, inventive and beautifully presented but did not reach Gustu’s level. The ingredients were interesting but sometimes a bit bland unfortunately.
The next 2 days we still kept it cool, one day to visit Zona Sur and stroll around the shops there and the next to visit El Alto at the end of the teleferico red line with crazy views on the city. We really enjoyed La Paz, you never get tired of the views, great city to hang around a few days.
On our last day we planned a tour to Tiwanaku, site of a pre-Inka civilisation. I will tell you more about this in my next post!