This post's overview:
- 1 Useful links (so you can find them all in one place):
- 2 Things to know before going to La Paz, Bolivia
- 3 Day 1 in La Paz: Sopocachi and Achumani. Trying out the famous Gustu restaurant
- 4 Day 2: Exploring La Paz or taking a day trip
- 5 Day 3 in La Paz: Teleferico tour of La Paz, one more visit to Mercado Lanza, Ice Cream from the Netflix Show and the flight to the next destination
- 6 Summary of La Paz in 3 days: the best things to do
- 7 Here are some other posts you might find useful:
Heading to La Paz and thinking about what to do in La Paz in 3 days? Don’t worry, in this article, I will share our itinerary for 3 days in La Paz plus some amazing day trip ideas from La Paz, so hopefully, you will find some ideas and inspiration for your upcoming trip to Bolivia!
Before we start with the best things to do in La Paz, I wanted to share some important and useful information for your trip to Bolivia:
Teleferico tour around La Paz – book here
Street food tour of La Paz – book here
Bike tour to the famous death road – book here
Things to know before going to La Paz, Bolivia
Passport control really takes a while
Bolivia doesn’t have great international flight connections – when we went there just after the covid restrictions were lifted, there were only two international flights per day going to and from Bolivia. One was to Lima, another one to Bogotá. On top of that, there were days when there were no flights at all.
It’s also could be a bit difficult to enter Bolivia: those who require a visa on arrival have to spend a couple of hours in the queue! Even if your entry was straightforward (e.g. no visa required), you could still spend good 10-15 minutes at the passport control counter. Depending on how many people are in the queue in front of you, that could also be hours. If you want to save time, book a seat in front of the plane so you’re one of the first ones to leave the plane!
Have your bookings and documents ready
Since there is no working wi-fi on arrival and most countries don’t have good roaming agreements with Bolivia (in Peru, we had unlimited data and calls for £6 a day with Vodafone), it’s very difficult to retrieve your documents, such as insurance, hotel bookings and return tickets (also vaccination certificates and PCR tests – but that might change soon).
Make sure to save them on your phone (take screenshots or just save them in the files), as all these documents will be checked!
Cash is the king in Bolivia
You can extract money from the ATM in the airport in La Paz, and I definitely recommend doing so. While there are places like fancy restaurants and hotels that accept cards, cash is the king in Bolivia. You will need it for buying things in small shops, paying for taxis and eating out.
Altitude sickness in La Paz – how bad is it?
Despite the fact that we came straight from Cusco in Peru (are you also going to Peru? Check out our 5-day itinerary for Peru here), we were still hit hard by the altitude sickness in Bolivia. Not as hard as during the first days in Cusco, but still, we had a bit of a headache and were walking very slowly, as it was hard to walk around.
However, after a few days in Bolivia, we felt much better and didn’t feel the altitude, even in El Alto. We were able to visit the gym at our hotel in La Paz and even go for a swim.
Where to stay in La Paz
We booked Selina La Paz for 2 nights (despite only needing it for about 16 hours), but it was only £18 per night for a private room, so we didn’t hesitate much.
If you like fancy hostels, I definitely recommend Selina! However, keep in mind that it might be a little noisy there on Fridays and Saturdays, as there is a busy nightclub. If you need to wake up early, perhaps, it’s not the best option. Some other affordable hotels in La Paz are these:
If you like comfort, consider staying in the South of La Paz, in a leafier neighbourhood, e.g. Achumani. The best hotels in La Paz are located there, e.g. MET hotel, where we stayed for 2 more nights.
Day 1 in La Paz: Sopocachi and Achumani. Trying out the famous Gustu restaurant
Arriving at El Alto Airport
We landed in La Paz around 3:30am. Since there aren’t too many international flights arriving in La Paz (as of now, you can only fly there from Lima or Bogota, we flew from the latter), it’s very likely that you will land in La Paz very early, just le we did.
On the one hand, it’s very good, because you have the entire day to spend in La Paz. On the other hand, if you haven’t had a chance to sleep in the airplane (s), you will arrive exhausted. Since passport control takes quite a bit of time (I’ve written about it in a separate paragraph right at the start of this post), you will only get to the city centre of La Paz at 5:30am or even 6:00am.
Since we had to buy a SIM card and surprisingly, the process took a bit long, we arrived just after 6am.
After arriving at our ho(s)tel, Selina, we went straight to sleep and slept until 11am (for about 5 hours), which gave us enough energy to survive the day!
Selina is located in Sopocachi, one of the best areas to stay in La Paz for young people. All the nicest bars and coffee places are located in Sopocachi. There are also a few street food markets and restaurants and it’s very to the city centre – you can walk there in 30-40 minutes. Well, technically, it still IS the city centre.
The only downside is that Sopocachi is pretty congested – it’s incredibly hard to get out there during the rush hour.
We went for a walk around Sopocachi, took some pictures and saw most of the roads pretty much stuck with traffic around 12pm on a weekday and that got us a bit worried since we had to get a taxi to go to a restaurant later to get there at 1:30pm. We ended up being 20 minutes late for our booking because we waited for a taxi for ages and then there was too much traffic on the road! When planning trips to another part of La Paz, it’s worth keeping that in mind!
Visiting the famous Gustu restaurant
Gustu is located in the South of La Paz, which is a more affluent area of the city. It’s a restaurant that was opened by a co-founder of the famous Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. Noma is one of the best restaurants in the world – it continuously takes the first spot in the ranking of the world’s top 50. Hence, we had pretty high expectations for Gustu – and it didn’t disappoint!
We ordered a 3-course menu, which ended up costing around £22 ($27) per person, and it was worth every penny! You can choose a starter, main and a dessert and all the dishes were very unique. We relied on the help of the waiters to explain us the menu as we couldn’t recognise most of the ingredients. Among the dishes, there were native river fishes from the Bolivian part of the Amazon rainforest, various unique herbs, vegetables and fruits and even alligator carpaccio!
The drinks were also amazing. Overall, it was a great experience and I would definitely recommend you to visit Gustu. Make sure to book it in advance, as it tends to get fully booked pretty often! You can book a table using this link:
Walking around the city centre of La Paz
After eating in Gustu, we took a taxi back to the city centre, which took around 30 minutes.
In the city centre, we visited Plaza Murillo – a lovely square with a lot of street vendors. Then we went to Calle Jaen – one of the very few protected streets in La Paz, where it’s not allowed to demolish buildings and make pretty much any visual changes to the streets. Calle Jaen is definitely the prettiest street in La Paz, so head there for some beautiful photos. There are also a lot of nice streets and places not too far away from Calle Jaen.
On Calle Jaen, we found a lovely little tour agency, where we booked some tours for the upcoming days in La Paz (a food tour and a teleferico tour of the city).
Mirador Kili Kili
We didn’t spend too much time in the city centre this time as we were pretty tired and hit hard by the altitude despite arriving from Cusco the same day.
Before heading back to the hotel, we decided to visit the best place to see La Paz from above – mirador Kili Kili! It’s not too far from Calle Jaen – you only need to walk for about 20-25 minutes, however, the last 5 minutes require quite a steep walk up. It took us a bit longer to get up than Google Maps predicted, as we had to stop to catch our breath every few minutes, but in the end, we made it all the way up!
The view from Kili Kili is really stunning – you can see the 360 panorama of La Paz, and it’s especially pretty during the “Golden” hour when the light is the prettiest or during the sunset. There aren’t too many things to do up there besides just walking around and taking photos, however, there is a supermarket right next to the entrance to Kili Kili, where you can buy some snacks and drinks.
Where to have dinner in La Paz
If you aren’t too tired, I recommend walking back to the city centre and going for dinner at the restaurant called Manq’a. This restaurant used to be part of the top 50 restaurants in Latin America, and it specialises in Bolivian cuisine. The prices aren’t too high and the food there is good! They also have an extensive list of snacks and drinks that are definitely worth trying!
Day 2: Exploring La Paz or taking a day trip
On the second day in La Paz, you can either stay in La Paz and continue exploring the city or take one of the day trips and either go to Copacabana (lake Titicaca) or to one of the mountains, or, alternatively, maybe you feel fit to go to the famous death road cycling trip?
Here are some of the best tours you can take from La Paz
Private tour to lake Titikaka (requires minimum two people) – you will be able to see one of the most beautiful and biggest lakes in the world.
The famous bike tour to the death road (it’s a descent from over 5k over the sea level), but it’s still a very challenging tour, as it requires very good physical condition.
Beautiful Palca Canyon Tour with an optional stop at Valle de las Animas
Chacaltaya & Valle de Luna Tour (make sure to bring warm clothes, as Chacaltaya used to be a ski resort)
Condoriri and the lagoons full trekking tour for trekking lovers
The famous Huayna Potosi mountain trek – all the way up to 5000m above the sea level with stunning views (challenging)
If you decide to spend a day in La Paz instead…
In our case, the tours for lake Titicaca were not available on that day due to a lack of guides and tourists as well and I had some odd issues with my knee, so I couldn’t go on any tours that involved a lot of walking (not even mentioning trekking), so we decided to stay in La Paz instead.
We spent the morning and early afternoon walking around the area, where our hotel was located – the upscale area of Achumani. This area is much greater than the centre of La Paz and also, it’s much easier to breathe there, as it’s also lower than the rest of La Paz. There are plenty of shops and cafes and you can easily just walk around, explore the shops and sit down for a coffee for a couple of hours in Achumani.
We also went to the restaurant called Ancestral for lunch. We didn’t have a reservation, but they had some free tables, so we could just walk in. Ancestral is a steakhouse, and it was fabulous. I can definitely recommend it! If it’s a weekend, I definitely recommend calling beforehand and securing a table for lunch.
Heading to the city centre & Mercado de las Brujas
After lunch, we decided to take the teleferico to the city centre to visit the famous Witches Market or Mercado de las Brujas. Unfortunately, due to covid, a lot of stalls have closed for good, so we initially even struggled to find the market. We had to ask around where Mercado de Las Brujas was because we just couldn’t find it in the place where it was marked on Google Maps. As it turned out, it was just all the way down the street. Basically, as of May 2022, it consists of 3 stalls that sell everything you need for various rituals. They even sell newborn llamas and llama foetuses that hang outside the stalls (they look surreal and even a bit terrifying).
Inside, they sell various teas, soaps and candies that are produced for different reasons, e.g. to help find a job or love or get rich, among other things.
Food tour of La Paz
Finally, in the evening, we had our food tour of La Paz. It turned out to be a private tour just for the two of us but it was even better that way! Our guide brought us to the main food market of La Paz, Mercado Lanza. When you enter the market, you need to climb two flights of stairs to the second and third floors, where most of the food stalls are based. There are so many food stalls and most of them sell various Bolivian dishes. We had a chance to try a couple of them and they were pretty unique!
After that, we headed to a restaurant, where we had a tasting of 5 more popular dishes in Bolivia, such as Fricasé, Sopa de Mani, Chairo and others!
This tour definitely helped us to understand Bolivian cuisine even better and try some popular dishes locals eat every day. We also discovered Mercado Lanza and the insane variety of food offerings there, which was very impressive! If you’re interested in taking a food tour of La Paz, you can check the prices and availability here.
Day 3 in La Paz: Teleferico tour of La Paz, one more visit to Mercado Lanza, Ice Cream from the Netflix Show and the flight to the next destination
Teleferico tour of La Paz
On the last day of our three days in La Paz, we finally decided to take a sightseeing tour. We booked a Teleferico tour of the city (you can find the availability here)
I can definitely recommend this tour because our guide Maria was very knowledgeable and nice, her English was great and also, this tour is very affordable – we paid just $10 per person! That also includes all the tickets for Teleferico, so you won’t need to spend anything else. Maria told us more about the Cholitas (women in traditional Bolivian dresses) and Cholets (a word-play for Cholitas + Chalets), which wealthy Aymara (indigenous people) of El Alto and La Paz build for themselves. There is also a very interesting tour of the best Cholets in El Alto, including visiting a party – you can find out more here > – you can take it a day before on even on your first day in La Paz. If your flight is late, you can probably take it on your last day in La Paz as well, as long as you don’t stay at the party for too long!
La Paz has a very interesting history and so does El Alto – there are so many interesting facts about both of these cities!
Trying Sopa de Cardan and Helado de Canela
After the tour, we decided to visit Mercado Lanza one last time and try to find the famous bull testicle soup of Bolivia – Sopa de Cardan. This soup is very popular in El Alto in the mornings, but we managed to find it in Mercado Lanza in the afternoon as well. We shared one large bowl between us and also had a local drink with a non-alcoholic beer Bicervecina (it tasted like butter beer in the Warner Bros Harry Potter experience).
From other tourists in our morning tour, we also found out about a street food documentary on Netflix, which featured some of the most interesting street food spots in La Paz. We had already visited some of these places and the other ones were all off-bounds except for the ice cream places near the cemetery in La Paz. This ice cream place serves a very unique cinnamon ice cream (it’s not actually ice cream, more like a sorbet) – and it’s red!
The afternoon in La Paz
We spent the afternoon walking around the city centre, and tried the last of the dishes recommended to us by the locals – the traditional pasties – Salteñas. There are plenty of spots serving salteñas in the heart of La Paz, however, we found a cafe called Paceña la Salteña, which specialises in them. I picked a vegetarian one and Jose got a meaty one – both of them were very liquid inside and tasted like soup, which was pretty unique. When eating a salteña, it’s very easy to make a mess, so make sure to be careful when eating it!
We also went to a shopping mall called Las Torres and spent some time in Juan Valdez cafe there. It was also very interesting to see how a Bolivian shopping mall looks like.
After that, we went back to our hotel MET to start packing and try to get some sleep before our flight at 3am. As I mentioned before, the two international flights that depart from La Paz, both depart at night, one at 3:30am, and another one a bit later, so it’s hard to decide whether to go to bed early and try to sleep 3-5 hours before the flight or not sleep at all and sleep at your final destination instead. Taking a taxi to El Alto airport at night also means that there won’t be any traffic, so you will be able to get there in just 20-30 minutes, depending on your location! In our case, it took around 28 minutes to get there from the Southern part of La Paz
Summary of La Paz in 3 days: the best things to do
Alright, to summarise, here are some of the best things to do in La Paz in 3 days:
- Definitely take a Teleferico tour of the city because it’s amazing and you will learn so much about La Paz and understand the culture a lot better.
- Visit Mercado Lanza and try local street food – you can either do it yourself or as part of a food tour of La Paz, which I also really recommend
- Visit Mercado de Las Brujas – even though it’s pretty small now, it’s still very unique
- Take some photos on the Calle Jaen – the only protected street in the city
- Go up to the Mirador Kili Kili to see the best views of La Paz and El Alto
- Try a set menu in Gustu and enjoy the uniqueness of the flavours
- Have a party in a Cholet
- Walk around and visit some hipster coffee shops in Sopocachi
- Head down to the South and explore the leafiest and poshest parts of La Paz (you can get there by teleferico as well)
I hope you found this post useful and in case you have any questions, send me a DM at @lizatripsget on Instagram!