My apologies, but La Paz was not one of my favorite capital cities visited so far. To me it felt a bit crowded, busy and lacked a bit of personality. Being the positive person that I am and my incessant need to always view the glass as half-full, I was able to seek out some great experiences in the city actually made our stay pleasant.
The best decision we made in La Paz was to book a stay at Rendezvous Hotel after our first Air BnB stay didn’t pan out so well. The owner Zach and his family run this great modern and comfortable place with pride and make you feel like you are at home. They have a restaurant on-site that is delectable and the staff work hard to make your experience top-notch. For Manu’s birthday we had a lovely dinner here, the staff even gave us some free dessert (candle included) so that we could celebrate. One afternoon Zach invited us to a cookout he was hosting to thank his staff for their great work and we got to mingle with the guys from the restaurant. We all chatted for a while about their city and it was a great experience being able to see it through their eyes.
If you’re a smoker you will LOVE La Paz because people smoke inside bars and even inside some cafes/restaurants (finally back to the good old days where you could smoke anywhere!) Well, I’m not a smoker and I found this little fact to be absolutely disgusting. Sorry—I don’t want to be inhaling your smoke while eating breakfast—thanks! Rant Over— Here’s the good stuff. We were able to find a fun bar in town called Diesel Nacional where they did in fact smoke indoors but the place had a fire pit and apparently a good ventilation system to somewhat mask the smell. The beer and drink menu was extensive and the food was delicious.
The local free walking tour provided by Red Cap was terrific and our guide was super fun. She gave us some interesting historic facts about La Paz and took us to the market where we enjoyed mouth-watering delicacies. For me the highlight of the tour was a visit to the Witches Market where you could find all kinds of curious items including llama fetuses used by locals in rituals. We were lucky to be visiting the city during Feria de Todos Los Santos and were able to observe elaborately decorated breads and sweets used in beautifully adorned altars dedicated to loved ones who had passed.
Being that La Paz is among one of the highest capital cities in the world we couldn’t help but get as high as we (comfortably) could. When visiting be aware of altitude sickness and take it easy for the first couple of days. Manu already wanted to climb the highest mountain but since it seemed like something for more experienced hikers we settled for easier ascents.
Our first peak was reached while riding the yellow cable car up to the highest viewpoint in the city (Parque Mirador Station/4,075 meters). The panorama was magnificent from El Alto and we had an impeccable view of the cordillera. The cost of riding was 3 Bolivian Pesos each way. The elaborate cable car system has really helped in uniting socioeconomic classes that are divided, with the poorer populations living in El Alto and the more wealthy population living in the warmer climates south of El Prado. It really is an incredible engineering feat and one of the longest systems we have ridden so far.
For a higher climb we decided to visit Chacaltaya, an incredible snow-covered mountain standing at 5,421 meters. In its heyday the glacier served as a popular ski resort but due to climate change this is no longer the case. We booked a tour that drove us up just before the summit. Climbing to the peak was a bit difficult but the views at the top were most definitely rewarding.
Our tour also included a visit to the Valle de la Luna/Moon Valley. Our guide mentioned that the site got its name after Neil Armstrong visited and it reminded him of the moon’s landscape. I am not sure if the story is true or not but that is exactly how I would describe this place. The total cost of the tour was 80Bs/11USD.