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La Paz Walking Tour: 10 Things We Learned


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Sibby Mulcahy



Step into the vibrant and culturally rich city of La Paz, Bolivia, and prepare for an unforgettable adventure. Nestled high in the Andes Mountains, La Paz is not only the highest capital city in the world but also one of the most captivating destinations in South America. From its rich history and stunning architecture to its bustling markets and breathtaking natural landscapes, La Paz offers a plethora of opportunities to explore and immerse yourself in its unique charm.


As you embark on a walking tour through this enchanting city, you’ll discover the hidden gems and iconic landmarks that make La Paz a must-visit destination. In this article, we’ll delve into the top 10 things we learned during our La Paz walking tour, providing you with a glimpse into the fascinating history, culture, and traditions of this incredible city.


Throughout the tour, you’ll uncover the rich history of La Paz, beginning with its establishment in the 16th century. You’ll explore the iconic Plaza Murillo, the heart of political and social life in the city, and get a chance to admire the stunning architecture of the San Francisco Church and Museum.


No visit to La Paz would be complete without a visit to the famous Witch Market, where you’ll encounter a captivating array of traditional medicines, potions, and spiritual artifacts. As you ascend to new heights aboard the Teleferico Cable Cars, you’ll be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the city’s sprawling landscape.


Continue your journey through the vibrant streets of La Paz as you wander down Calle Jaen, a picturesque colonial street lined with colorful houses and quaint museums. And for a taste of the extraordinary, explore the otherworldly Valley of the Moon, a natural wonder where lunar-like formations create a surreal landscape.


Bringing the tour to a cultural high, dive into the fascinating history of coca leaves at the Coca Museum and witness the exhilarating spectacle of Cholita Wrestling, a unique blend of traditional wrestling and Bolivian folklore. Last but certainly not least, tantalize your taste buds with the incredible flavors of Bolivian cuisine, which offers a diverse range of dishes influenced by a mix of indigenous and Spanish flavors.


With each step of this walking tour, you’ll discover the allure and diversity of La Paz, leaving you with a deeper appreciation for this extraordinary city. So, lace up your walking shoes and get ready to embark on a memorable journey through the vibrant and captivating streets of La Paz, Bolivia.


History of La Paz

As you embark on your walking tour of La Paz, it’s essential to understand the rich history that shaped this captivating city. La Paz was founded in 1548 by the Spanish conquistadors, becoming an important center for trade and politics during the Spanish colonial era in South America.


Originally named “Nuestra Señora de La Paz” (Our Lady of Peace), the city was strategically established in the valley of the Choqueyapu River, surrounded by stunning mountains. La Paz quickly grew in importance due to its proximity to silver mines in nearby Potosi, which brought great wealth to the region.


Over the centuries, La Paz has witnessed significant social, political, and cultural changes. It played a crucial role in the struggle for independence from Spanish rule, with key revolutionary figures like Simón Bolívar and Antonio José de Sucre visiting the city. La Paz officially became the capital of Bolivia in 1898, solidifying its position as the political and administrative hub of the country.


During your walking tour, you’ll notice the striking architecture that reflects the different periods of La Paz’s history. The colonial influence is evident in buildings like the San Francisco Church and Museum, which showcases beautiful Baroque and Mestizo architectural styles.


Another iconic landmark is the Plaza Murillo, named after Pedro Domingo Murillo, one of the leaders of the 1809 revolutionary uprising against Spanish rule. The plaza is home to important governmental buildings, including the Presidential Palace and the Bolivian Congress, making it a significant gathering place for political and social events.


As you explore the streets of La Paz, take a moment to appreciate the unique blend of indigenous and European cultures that have shaped the city. A melting pot of traditions, La Paz is home to various indigenous communities, each preserving their customs and contributing to the vibrant tapestry of the city’s cultural heritage.


From its colonial roots to its revolutionary history, La Paz is a city that cherishes its past while embracing the present. Immerse yourself in the fascinating stories and historical landmarks that breathe life into the streets of La Paz, and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the dynamic city that stands before you.


Plaza Murillo

No visit to La Paz is complete without a visit to the iconic Plaza Murillo, a historic square that serves as the heart of the city’s political and social life. Named after Pedro Domingo Murillo, one of the key figures in Bolivia’s fight for independence, this vibrant plaza is a symbol of the country’s rich history and democratic struggle.


Located in the historical center of La Paz, Plaza Murillo is surrounded by impressive buildings that showcase a blend of architectural styles. At the center of the square stands a towering statue of Simón Bolívar, a prominent leader in the fight for South American independence.


The most prominent building in Plaza Murillo is the Palacio Quemado, Bolivia’s Presidential Palace. This magnificent building serves as the official residence and workplace of the President of Bolivia. Its striking neoclassical architecture and grandeur make it a significant landmark in the city.


Adjacent to the Presidential Palace is the Bolivian Congress building, where the country’s legislative assembly convenes. This building’s architectural design and impressive dome stand as a testament to Bolivia’s democratic institutions.


Plaza Murillo also houses the Metropolitan Cathedral of La Paz, a beautiful example of colonial architecture. Step inside this magnificent cathedral to admire its ornate altar and stunning stained glass windows. As you explore the interior, take a moment to appreciate the sense of tranquility that permeates this sacred space.


Within the square, you’ll find locals and tourists alike, enjoying the lively atmosphere and taking in the sights and sounds of the city. Street vendors offer tasty snacks and souvenirs, while pedestrians leisurely stroll along the pathways, engaging in conversation or simply people-watching.


Plaza Murillo holds great historical and cultural significance, serving as a gathering place for political demonstrations, celebrations, and events. As you soak in the vibrant atmosphere of this plaza, you’ll feel the pulse of La Paz and gain a deeper understanding of the city’s past, present, and future.


Whether you visit during the day when the plaza is filled with activity or in the evening when the buildings are beautifully illuminated, a visit to Plaza Murillo is a must. Immerse yourself in the rich history, architectural grandeur, and lively ambiance of this iconic square, and you’ll experience the essence of La Paz at its core.


San Francisco Church and Museum

A visit to La Paz would not be complete without exploring the magnificent San Francisco Church and Museum. Located in the heart of the city, this stunning architectural masterpiece stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Bolivia.


The San Francisco Church dates back to the 16th century, making it one of the oldest churches in La Paz. As you step through its grand entrance, you’ll be greeted by a blend of architectural styles that reflect the influence of both Spanish colonial and indigenous cultures.


Inside the church, you’ll be captivated by the ornate altars, intricate wood carvings, and beautiful paintings that adorn the walls. The richly decorated main altar is a true marvel, showcasing the craftsmanship of colonial artisans.


Adjacent to the church is the San Francisco Museum, a treasure trove of artifacts that provide a deeper insight into Bolivia’s history and culture. The museum’s extensive collection includes religious art, ancient textiles, and archaeological artifacts, all displayed in a meticulously curated exhibition.


One of the museum’s highlights is the Chapel of the Virgen de la Candelaria, a small chapel adorned with vibrant frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Christ. This hidden gem within the museum is a tranquil space that invites reflection and contemplation.


As you explore the museum, you’ll learn about the unique fusion of indigenous and European cultures that define Bolivia. From traditional textiles and pottery to religious icons and colonial-era paintings, the exhibits offer a glimpse into the diverse cultural heritage of the country.


Be sure to visit the rooftop terrace of the San Francisco Church, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of La Paz and the surrounding mountainous landscape. This serene spot provides a peaceful escape from the bustling streets below, allowing you to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the city from above.


Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, the San Francisco Church and Museum has something to offer everyone. Delve into Bolivia’s rich cultural heritage as you immerse yourself in the intricate architectural details, exquisite artwork, and captivating artifacts within this remarkable institution.


A visit to the San Francisco Church and Museum is not only an opportunity to witness the valuable historical and cultural treasures of La Paz but also a chance to connect with the profound spirituality and artistic expressions that have shaped the city’s identity for centuries.


Witch Market

Prepare to step into a world of mysticism and folklore as you visit the renowned Witch Market in La Paz. Known locally as Mercado de las Brujas, this fascinating market offers a unique glimpse into Bolivia’s spiritual traditions and indigenous beliefs.


Nestled in the bustling streets of the city, the Witch Market is a vibrant hub of activity, filled with colorful stalls and lined with shops selling an array of intriguing items. Here, you’ll find traditional remedies, magical potions, and mystical artifacts believed to bring good luck, protection, and prosperity.


The market specializes in selling various products made from natural herbs, plants, and animal parts. It is common to find items like dried llama fetuses, used for ceremonial purposes, as well as herbs used in traditional healing practices. These offerings are deeply rooted in indigenous beliefs and are believed to harness the power of Pachamama, the revered Andean Earth Mother.


As you navigate through the rows of stalls, you’ll encounter local witches, known as yatiris or amautas, who offer spiritual and mystical services. Many visitors seek their guidance and wisdom for spiritual healings, divination, and protection rituals.


While wandering through the market, take the opportunity to engage with the sellers and learn about the fascinating folklore and traditions associated with the products they sell. The market is a feast for the senses, with the aroma of traditional herbs filling the air and vibrant colors adorning the stalls.


Take a moment to browse the intricate woven textiles, handmade jewelry, and traditional handicrafts that can be found in the Witch Market. These unique treasures make for fantastic souvenirs, allowing you to bring a piece of Bolivia’s rich cultural heritage back home with you.


The Witch Market offers a captivating insight into the spiritual beliefs and cultural practices that have been passed down through generations in Bolivia. It represents the fusion of indigenous traditions and Catholicism, creating a vibrant tapestry of beliefs and customs that still hold great significance in the everyday lives of Bolivians.


Visiting the Witch Market is not only an opportunity to explore the mystical side of La Paz but also a chance to deepen your understanding of the diverse cultural landscape of Bolivia. Immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere of the market, observe ancient rituals, and discover the enchanting world of Bolivian spirituality.


Teleferico Cable Cars

Take your exploration of La Paz to new heights with a breathtaking ride on the Teleferico cable cars. These iconic aerial lifts offer not only a convenient mode of transportation but also an unparalleled vantage point to admire the stunning landscapes and panoramic views that surround the city.


The Teleferico system in La Paz is the longest and highest urban cable car network in the world, connecting different neighborhoods and providing a unique perspective on the city’s sprawling urban landscape. As you ascend into the sky, you’ll be greeted by sweeping views of the Andes Mountains, the bustling streets below, and the vastness of the city.


The cable cars are not only a popular mode of transportation for locals but also a thrilling experience for tourists. Each car is spacious and comfortable, equipped with large windows that allow for unobstructed views. Whether you choose to ride during the day or at dusk, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas that will leave you in awe.


One of the most enchanting aspects of the Teleferico is the opportunity to see La Paz from a different perspective, granting you a deeper understanding of the city’s topography and layout. As you glide above the densely packed neighborhoods and winding streets, you’ll witness the vibrant tapestry of colorful houses, bustling markets, and iconic landmarks that form the fabric of La Paz.


Keep your camera ready as you soar across the city, capturing photos of the mesmerizing blend of urban and natural beauty that unfolds before your eyes. The Teleferico provides an unparalleled opportunity to capture stunning aerial shots of La Paz’s picturesque backdrop, with the towering mountains providing a dramatic contrast to the bustling city below.


In addition to the incredible views, riding the Teleferico also allows you to experience the daily rhythm of life in La Paz. Marvel at the synchronized movements of the cable cars as they transport passengers from one neighborhood to another, witness the vibrant street life unfolding beneath you, and feel the energy of the city pulsating through the cables.


A journey on the Teleferico cable cars is not only a remarkable way to explore La Paz but also an adventure in itself. The combination of magnificent views, smooth rides, and the sense of soaring through the sky creates an unforgettable experience that will undoubtedly be a highlight of your visit to the city.


So, don’t miss the chance to elevate your La Paz adventure by hopping aboard the Teleferico cable cars. Discover the city from a unique perspective, admire the beauty of the Andes, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Calle Jaen

Step back in time as you wander down the picturesque Calle Jaen, a narrow cobblestone street that is a testament to La Paz’s rich colonial history. Located in the heart of the city’s historical center, Calle Jaen is a charming and well-preserved street that offers a glimpse into the architectural elegance of the past.


As you set foot on Calle Jaen, you’ll be transported to a bygone era. The street is lined with colorful colonial-style houses, each adorned with wooden balconies, vibrant facades, and historic plaques, giving it a distinct charm and character.


One of the most striking features of Calle Jaen is its pedestrian-only policy, which allows visitors to leisurely stroll along the street and soak up its unique atmosphere. Free from the noise of traffic, this tranquil enclave offers a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.


While Calle Jaen is relatively short in length, what it lacks in size it makes up for in cultural significance. The street is home to several museums, each offering a fascinating glimpse into different aspects of Bolivian history and culture.


The Museo Costumbrista Juan de Vargas, nestled within one of the colorful colonial houses, showcases traditional clothing and artifacts from Bolivia’s diverse indigenous communities. It provides a fascinating insight into the country’s rich cultural tapestry and the vibrant traditions that have been passed down through generations.


The Museo de Instrumentos Musicales houses an extensive collection of traditional Bolivian musical instruments, allowing visitors to explore the rich sounds and rhythms of the country. From Andean pan flutes to charangos, the museum offers a captivating journey through Bolivia’s musical heritage.


As you continue your stroll along Calle Jaen, you’ll be enchanted by the welcoming atmosphere and the small shops and cozy cafes that line the street. Whether you’re in search of unique souvenirs, traditional handicrafts, or a place to relax and savor a cup of Bolivian coffee, Calle Jaen has something to offer.


At every step, Calle Jaen exudes a sense of history, with each building and museum holding stories of the past. The street serves as a living museum, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the architectural beauty and cultural heritage of La Paz.


As the sun sets, the warm glow of the street lamps adds a magical ambiance to Calle Jaen. Take your time to explore this hidden gem, admire the beautifully preserved colonial architecture, and delight in the vibrant spirit that defines La Paz’s historical center.


So, if you’re looking to travel back in time and experience the charm of La Paz’s colonial era, a visit to Calle Jaen is a must. Let the history and beauty of this enchanting street transport you to another time and leave you with unforgettable memories of your time in La Paz.


Valley of the Moon

Prepare to be transported to an otherworldly landscape as you explore the mesmerizing Valley of the Moon, or Valle de la Luna, located just outside of La Paz. This unique geological formation is a natural wonder, characterized by its surreal rock formations and lunar-like terrain.


The Valley of the Moon offers a stark contrast to the bustling city life of La Paz, providing a peaceful and serene escape into nature. As you enter the valley, you’ll be amazed by the bizarre shapes and textures of the rocks, created by millions of years of erosion. The towering spires, deep canyons, and labyrinthine formations create an almost alien-like landscape.


Exploring the valley is like embarking on a mini-adventure, with twisting trails and hidden pathways leading you through the maze of rock formations. Take your time to wander through the intricate network of paths, discovering hidden gems at every turn.


The best time to visit the Valley of the Moon is during the golden hours of sunrise or sunset when the warm hues of the sun cast a mesmerizing glow on the rocks, enhancing their unique features. It is during these moments that the valley truly comes to life, creating a spectacle of colors and shadows that will leave you in awe.


While venturing through the Valley of the Moon, take a moment to appreciate the silence and tranquility of the surroundings. The absence of city noise allows you to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of Bolivia’s natural wonders.


Keep your eyes peeled for the abundant cacti that dot the landscape, adding a touch of green to the otherwise arid terrain. This unique ecosystem provides a habitat for various species of plants and animals, making the Valley of the Moon an important ecological site in the region.


Whether you’re an avid nature photographer, a geology enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, the Valley of the Moon offers a one-of-a-kind experience. You’ll be captivated by the otherworldly beauty of this natural wonder, feeling as though you’ve stepped onto the surface of a distant planet.


Visiting the Valley of the Moon is a reminder of the extraordinary diversity of landscapes that Bolivia has to offer. From towering mountains to expansive salt flats, this enchanting country never fails to amaze. So, venture into the Valley of the Moon and allow yourself to be immersed in the magical tranquility of this otherworldly destination.


Coca Museum

Deepen your understanding of the historical and cultural significance of coca leaves by visiting the Coca Museum in La Paz. This fascinating museum provides a comprehensive exploration of the coca plant, shedding light on its traditional, medicinal, and cultural importance to the indigenous communities of Bolivia.


Located in the heart of the city, the Coca Museum offers a curated collection of exhibits that delve into the various aspects of coca leaf production, consumption, and its role in indigenous customs and rituals.


Upon entering the museum, you will be greeted by displays showcasing the historical use of coca leaves in Bolivia dating back thousands of years. Learn about the spiritual significance of the coca plant to indigenous cultures, as well as its practical uses in daily life, such as energy enhancement and appetite suppression.


Explore the various stages of coca leaf production, from cultivation and harvesting to chewing and processing. Gain insights into the traditional methods of drying and storing coca leaves, as well as the significance of the traditional “chew” that has been a part of Andean culture for centuries.


The museum also addresses the controversial aspects surrounding coca production, including its association with illicit drug manufacturing. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the different uses of coca leaves and distinguish between traditional cultural practices and illicit uses.


Engage with informative displays and interactive exhibits that explain the chemical composition of coca leaves and the process of extracting its alkaloids, including cocaine. Gain a deeper understanding of the social, economic, and political complexities surrounding the coca plant, both in Bolivia and globally.


Visiting the Coca Museum is an educational and thought-provoking experience that challenges common misconceptions about coca leaves. It provides a platform for dialogue, ensuring that visitors leave with a more nuanced understanding of the cultural, historical, and medicinal aspects of the coca plant.


So, venture into the Coca Museum and allow yourself to be immersed in the rich history and cultural significance of this important plant. Explore the diverse uses, address misconceptions, and gain a deeper respect for the traditions and customs that have been intricately intertwined with coca leaves for centuries.


Cholita Wrestling

Prepare yourself for a unique and exhilarating experience as you witness the dynamic and colorful spectacle of Cholita Wrestling in La Paz. This theatrical event combines traditional wrestling with Bolivian folklore, showcasing the strength, resilience, and empowerment of the indigenous women known as “cholitas.”


Cholita Wrestling originated as a form of entertainment that emerged in the early 2000s and has gained popularity ever since, attracting both local spectators and curious travelers. The term “cholita” refers to the indigenous women who proudly embrace their cultural heritage, dressing in traditional, vibrant attire that includes bowler hats, long skirts, and intricately woven shawls.


As you enter the arena, you’ll be greeted by a lively atmosphere filled with anticipation and excitement. The sound of cheering spectators reverberates through the air as the wrestlers, dressed in colorful outfits and adorned with elaborate makeup, make their grand entrances.


The matches themselves are a combination of athletic skill, acrobatics, and choreographed performances. The cholita wrestlers showcase their strength, agility, and showmanship as they engage in high-flying maneuvers, body slams, and thrilling finishing moves.


Cholita Wrestling not only entertains but also challenges societal norms and stereotypes. It serves as a powerful symbol of female empowerment, breaking barriers and defying expectations. The cholita wrestlers prove that women can excel in traditionally male-dominated spaces and reclaim their agency.


Additionally, Cholita Wrestling incorporates elements of Bolivian folklore and culture, with various characters inspired by traditional myths and legends. From the heroic masked wrestlers to comedic villains, each character adds a touch of storytelling and theatricality to the matches, captivating the audience and creating a unique, immersive experience.


While Cholita Wrestling may be theatrical in nature, it serves as a celebration of Bolivian identity and a testament to the strength and resilience of its indigenous communities. It is a platform that showcases the richness of Bolivian culture and challenges preconceived notions of what wrestling can be.


For those seeking an extraordinary and entertaining experience during their visit to La Paz, attending a Cholita Wrestling match is a must. Prepare yourself for an evening filled with high-energy performances, exhilarating wrestling moves, and a celebration of indigenous culture and female empowerment that will leave a lasting impression.


Bolivian Cuisine

Embark on a culinary adventure as you explore the vibrant flavors and unique dishes of Bolivian cuisine. Bolivia’s diverse cultural heritage, blending indigenous traditions with Spanish influences, has given rise to a rich and varied culinary scene that is sure to delight your taste buds.


One staple of Bolivian cuisine is the beloved dish called salteñas. Similar to empanadas, these savory pastries are filled with a flavorful mixture of meat, vegetables, and spices. Bursting with flavor and often accompanied by a spicy sauce, salteñas are a popular street food and a must-try for any visitor.


Indulge in Bolivia’s national dish, the hearty and comforting stew known as sajta de pollo. Made with chicken cooked in a tomato and chili-based sauce, it is often served with potatoes, rice, and a side of llajwa, a spicy salsa made from tomatoes, chili peppers, and herbs. This satisfying and flavorful dish is a true taste of Bolivian home cooking.


For an adventurous culinary experience, sample anticuchos, a popular street food made from skewered and grilled beef hearts. Marinated in a flavorful blend of spices, these tender and juicy morsels are a favorite among locals and visitors alike.


Bolivia’s close proximity to Lake Titicaca has also given rise to unique seafood dishes. Try the traditional dish known as trucha a la plancha, which features fresh grilled trout served with a variety of local ingredients and flavors. The delicate, flaky texture of the trout combined with bold seasonings and fresh ingredients is a culinary delight.


No visit to Bolivia would be complete without indulging in the country’s wide array of fresh and delicious fruits. Sample the sweet and tangy flavors of exotic fruits such as granadilla, maracuya (passion fruit), and chirimoya. These fruits are not only delicious on their own but also make for refreshing juices and toppings for desserts.


End your culinary journey in Bolivia on a sweet note with traditional desserts. Savor the delicate flavors of cuñapes, small cheese bread rolls made from cassava starch and cheese. Or delight your taste buds with the decadent flavors of salpicón, a fruit salad mixed with sweetened condensed milk and topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon.


Throughout La Paz, you’ll find an array of food markets, street vendors, and local restaurants where you can savor the delights of Bolivian cuisine. Don’t hesitate to venture off the beaten path and try new dishes, as Bolivia’s culinary scene is filled with hidden culinary gems waiting to be discovered.


From the rich and flavorful stews to the unique street food and fresh fruits, Bolivian cuisine is a true reflection of the country’s diverse cultural heritage and natural abundance. So, treat your taste buds to an unforgettable dining experience and immerse yourself in the rich flavors of Bolivian cuisine.



A walking tour through La Paz offers an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich history, culture, and flavors of this captivating city. From exploring its colonial past on Calle Jaen to witnessing the awe-inspiring beauty of the Valley of the Moon, each stop on the tour provides a unique and memorable experience.


Plaza Murillo stands as a testament to Bolivia’s fight for independence, while the San Francisco Church and Museum showcase the architectural grandeur and cultural heritage of La Paz. The Witch Market offers a glimpse into the mystical traditions and beliefs of Bolivian culture, and the Teleferico cable cars elevate your adventure with stunning aerial views of the city.


The Coca Museum sheds light on the cultural significance of coca leaves, while Cholita Wrestling celebrates female empowerment and Bolivian folklore. Finally, sampling the delicious and diverse flavors of Bolivian cuisine allows you to indulge in the country’s culinary delights.


La Paz is a city of contrasts and surprises, where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with modern life. It is a destination that invites you to explore, learn, and be captivated by its unique charm and vibrant energy.


So, lace up your walking shoes and embark on a journey through the enchanting streets of La Paz. Discover the rich history, immerse yourself in the culture, and savor the flavors that make this city a truly unforgettable destination in the heart of Bolivia.