There are few cities with such a rare setting as lofty La Paz. At three,640 metres above sea degree, Bolivia’s de facto capital has severe altitude. Fly in and also you’ll see the pancake-flat Altiplano (excessive plain) fall right into a steep-sided bowl lined with a maze of adobe and red-brick buildings, which combine with trendy skyscrapers on the base. And towering above all of it is the jagged, glacier-topped Cordillera Real.
La Paz map
That it lacks an extended guidelines of sights is a part of its attraction. It’s value spending time in La Paz, not solely acclimatising to the altitude however merely wandering. An amalgam of architectural kinds, cultures and beliefs, it has every part from choices to the goddess Pachamama to incense-filled colonial church buildings, meals stalls to modern cafes, bowler-hatted cholitas to hipsters amongst its theatrical road life. It’s frenetic, chaotic, typically irritating however by no means boring.
Bowler-hatted cholitas add to the theatrical road life. Photograph: Alamy
More than ever, it’s championing its tradition, from native artists to age-old crafts. There’s a gastronomic revolution beneath manner, with eating places that use solely Bolivian produce and bars that blend homegrown spirits. And Mi Teleférico, the world’s longest and highest city cable automobile community, is making it simpler to get across the metropolis.
WHAT TO SEE
In petticoats and pigtails, wrestling cholitas bounce off the ropes in a blur of somersaults, excessive kicks – and hair-pulling. Join the locals as these feisty females battle it out in El Alto, full with ear-splitting music and a melodramatic compère. The cholitas, indigenous Aymara ladies, have created their very own area of interest on this as soon as male-dominated sport, to painting ladies as highly effective and pleased with their heritage.
• Sunday afternoons on the Multifuncional de la Ceja de El Alto, tickets round £6, no web site
Feria 16 de Julio
El Alto’s colossal open-air market is claimed to be Latin America’s largest. Watch locals barter for every part from hand-knitted hats to SUVs, natural medication to llama jerky. Getting there may be a part of the enjoyable. Ride Mi Teleférico’s purple line as much as the excessive plateau for spectacular views over the town skyscrapers, Cordillera Real and the ramshackle terracotta-coloured buildings that cowl the higher slopes.
• Sunday, round 16 de Julio station
Photograph: Getty Images
The best-preserved colonial road in La Paz is lined with restored 18th-century buildings now home to boutiques, galleries – together with the dazzling Andean cosmic imaginative and prescient of Aymara artist Mamani Mamani – and 5 small museums that may be visited on a single ticket. Head to the Museo de Instrumentos Musicales for historic nostril flutes and the Museo de Metales Preciosos for pre-Colombian gold. Museo del Litoral Boliviano holds historic maps, the Museo Casa Murillo presents colonial life and the Museo Costumbrista Juan de Vargas – the place you should buy the ticket – shows the town’s traditions.
Mercado de las Brujas
Photograph: Getty Images
Burrow past the vacationer tat of the centuries-old Witches’ Market and also you’ll discover all method of mysterious powders, potions and amulets linked to Andean beliefs and shamanic practices. Earth-honouring Bolivians bury preserved llama foetuses within the foundations of recent houses and companies as an providing to Pachamama. Stevia is a pure sweetener from tropical Yungas that’s been used for greater than 400 years, and hercampuri, thought to cleanse the physique, was widespread within the pre-Inca interval.
• Up from San Francisco Church, between Calle Jimenez and Linares
National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore (Musef)
In an 18th-century palace, Musef is a vibrant and up to date overview of Bolivia’s numerous cultures. Highlights embrace the collections of pageant masks, Andean ceramics and complicated weavings, together with chullos, the long-lasting knitted hats with earflaps. The non-profit establishment is devoted to selling Bolivia’s ethnic variety and analysis into ethnology, and has a store promoting crafts and books.
• Calle Ingavi 916, +591 2 240 8640, musef.org.bo
WHERE TO EAT
An Andean vegetarian dish at Ali Pacha
This meat-loving metropolis’s first plant-based fine-dining restaurant has been a convincing success. Led by younger Bolivian chef Sebastián Quiroga, Ali Pacha – a play on “universe of plants” in Aymara – is in downtown, within the basement of an previous colonial constructing, with authentic uncovered brick partitions, tiled flooring and mix-and-match chairs. The seasonal, shock three-course lunch, and five- and seven-course dinner menus burst with native flavour: maybe a ceviche of Andean tubers or a leafy inexperienced tackle tamales. Upstairs, Quiroga’s new bar promotes one of the best Bolivian spirits, craft beer and wine. The five-course dinner is round £17.
• Calle Colón 1306, +591 2 220 2366, alipacha.com
Suma Phayata road meals tour
They say 90% of Paceños eat at road stalls each day. Melting Pot Bolivia challenge Suma Phayata – “well cooked” in Aymara – gives the prospect to find scrumptious Bolivian staples on La Paz’s first road meals tour. There’s no payment or information; simply obtain a map and discover the town, making an attempt out every part from Doña Cristina’s doorstep-size sandwich de chola, full of roast pork, pickled greens and crackling, to Doña Sofia’s tucumanas, deep-fried pastries full of meat or greens, and Doña Elvira’s secret-recipe chorizo sandwiches at Mercado Lanza, every for beneath £1.
Photograph: Getty Images
If you’re going to splurge, make it Gustu. Noma co-founder Claus Meyer’s restaurant-cum-philanthropic challenge is quantity 28 on this yr’s Latin America’s greatest eating places checklist, and Kamilla Seidler has been hailed Latin America’s greatest feminine chef for her menus utilizing all-Bolivian components. Gustu showcases cultural in addition to culinary variety, from hand-carved totem poles to recycled Spanish-colonial window frames and vibrant highland weavings. Dishes on the five-, seven- and 15-course tasting menus embrace smoked Amazonian catfish, creamy açai-stained amaranth and ruby-red slivers of llama tartare. Mains from round £10, tasting menus from £45 a head.
• Avenida Costanera 10, +591 2 211 7491, gustubo.restaurantgustu.com
El Vagón del Sur
Go hungry to this locals’ favorite. Chef-owner Jorge Montesinos gives a contemporary tackle age-old hearty Bolivian delicacies in his transformed household home within the Zona Sur. Popular dishes embrace charquekan, dried beef with potatoes and big white corn; silpancho, spicy breaded beef, with fried potatoes and rice topped with fried eggs, and the meat feast picante surtido, a plate heaped with rooster, tongue, beef, dried beef, spicy sauce, chuño, boiled freeze-dried potato plus trimmings. There’s Andean trout on the menu as properly. Mains from round £eight.
• Avenida Los Sauces, +591 2 297 1944
WHERE TO DRINK
HB Bronze Coffeebar.
Boris Alarcón is a person on a mission: to make the historic centre nice once more. At his newest cafe-bar the decor’s bespoke, with shelving constituted of deconstructed vintage bronze bedsteads, and every part is 100% Bolivian. That contains the espresso – don’t miss the extremely sought-after Geisha. After darkish, it turns right into a cool bar, simply as widespread with locals as guests. Try its Bolivian tackle panini, with native parmesan-style cheese or tender llama ham, and wash it down with a quinoa beer by Niebla or a craft cocktail, such because the smoky Bolivian Negroni.
• Plaza Tomas Frias 15703, on Facebook
La Costilla de Adan
A bar and a museum of Bolivian popular culture, La Costilla de Adan (Adam’s Rib) is a consuming den in boho Sopocachi whose two flooring are filled with hundreds of curios. There are books, radios, lamps, dolls and classic movie posters from round Bolivia – the highland cities of Potosí, Oruro and Cochabamba in addition to native flea markets. The leche de negro Leche de Negro cocktail – a mixture of brandy liqueur, quince liqueur and coca – and the goat’s cheese empanadas are extremely really useful.
• Calle Armaza 2974, on Facebook
One of Bolivia’s nice property is its award-winning espresso, and a brand new wave of cafes is catering to rising demand. Four pals opened Typica final yr in a small home in San Miguel, adorning it with retro finds, from household and the Feria 16 de Julio flea market. They purchase beans from small producers and roast and mix in-house. Owner and barista Fabio Arandia really useful Takesi, brewed in a Chemex wooden and glass coffeemaker to carry out the flavour of the world’s highest-altitude beans. The brownies listed below are good, too.
• Calle Enrique Peñaranda Bloque L-35 San Miguel, on Facebook
Gustu’s groundbreaking bar – on the similar deal with because the restaurant above – was the primary devoted to singani, the nationwide spirit distilled from grapes. Now it’s all-Bolivian ethos extends to different homegrown spirits. La República gin, which makes use of a bespoke mix of Andean and Amazonian botanicals, and 1825 vodka, triple-distilled utilizing Andean snowmelt and high-grown Amazonian wheat, will quickly be joined by Bolivia’s first whisky, Killa Andean Moonshine from Andean Culture Distillery. It additionally serves craft beers from across the nation and high-altitude wine, which has been produced in Tarija for greater than 400 years.
• Avenida Costanera 10, +591 2 211 7491, gustubo.restaurantgustu.com
This isn’t your typical Bolivian watering gap. Old prepare tracks lead as much as a rusting revolving door belonging to an previous prepare wagon from the legendary Patiño Mines. Inside, the steampunk aesthetic continues with engine artwork and aeroplane sculptures. All the furnishings was created from upcycled automobile components, metallic shafts and wheels. Candlelight and Bolivian craft beer add to its charms.
• Avenida 20 de Octubre 2271, no web site
WHERE TO STAY
Rendezvous Guest House
On a quiet aspect road, a Bolivian-American couple have restored this massive Sopocachi home. Each of the 12 rooms is furnished eclectically, most have beautiful views over the town, and a few include sundown or dawn views over the mountain Illimani. There’s loads of outdoors area, a communal kitchen and a great restaurant serving artistic seasonal dishes, akin to filete de llama a la plancha con dos salsas and Andean fish and seafood stew with saffron.
• Doubles from £30 B&B, 461 Subteniente M. Carranza, rendezvouslapaz.com
The metropolis’s first boutique design resort, within the upscale Zona Sur, is 100% Bolivian: the flooring are native stone, ajo wooden headboards hail from the Amazon and cowhides from Tarija. And Bolivian artist Gastón Ugalde’s work is in every single place, from images of Uyuni’s dazzling salt flats to heads wrapped in classic Andean textiles. Go to the seventh ground for a dip within the pool or a drink on the bar with mountain views, and Ona restaurant for Bolivian produce.
• Doubles from round £120 B&B, Calle 16, 8052, atixhotel.com
Hotel Rosario La Paz
In a restored colonial home within the coronary heart of downtown, this resort is minutes from the Witches’ Market, San Francisco Church and Plaza Murillo. The 41 rooms are embellished with Andean textiles and native handicrafts. There’s a flower-filled courtyard with fountain and a comfortable lounge for when it’s chilly.
• Doubles from £65 B&B, hotelrosario.com
Casa Fusion Hotel Boutique
At this tranquil, family-run boutique resort, the rooms are easy, trendy and en suite. Breakfast is served in a small, glass-walled cafe, with straight-out-of-the-oven goodies from the household bakery. It’s near Sopocachi’s plentiful cafes and bars, and only one block from Mi Teleférico’s yellow line for getting across the metropolis.
• Doubles from £50 B&B, casafusion.com.bo