Detour into the dynamic streets of La Paz
Alice prevot

We arrive in La Paz from the city of El Alto, immediately struck by the change of scenery. We jump in a cab to cross town and stop at the first cable car station.

We take the cable car up to see what La Paz looks like from above, spread out inside a huge crater. Small colourful "casas" stretch as far as the eye can see, with markets in all directions… We see the entire chaotic atmosphere from the windows of the cabin, while the snowy summits of Huayna Potosi and Illimani serve as a backdrop to the city life (at over 6000m of altitude, these glaciers are emblematic of Bolivia itself).

We stop to take a walk in the quiet streets of Sopocachi, two steps from the bustling center.

This small district of La Paz offers many small stalls andbars worth stopping in. We order a cup of coca leaf tea at the market, savouring the sacred drink traditionally a remedy against altitude sickness. We’ll also be offered a yapa by the saleswoman, as is always done for a good customer here. .

We head to the center, with a small break at the mercado Rodriquez for "fresh fruit juice" and "salteña" on the way. The salteña is the Bolivians’ 11 o'clock snack, a small pastry filled with chicken or beef.. The challenge is to eat it, without cutlery, and without a spill...

A diverse and dynamic city, La Paz is the perfect sample of the country as a whole.

From the market district full of colours and smells, we can cross a few streets to find ourselves in the heart of the historical district, now a business center. The only thing these two worlds have in common, existing 200 meters apart, is their lively, bustling nature.

On Sagarnaga street, we grab a mate with coca, or coca leaves to chew. We cross the Mercado de Las Brujas, or witches' market, where we buy a miniature to please Ekeko, benevolent god of abundance. The tradition is to project all one's hopes into the coveted little object, which will then be ritualized.

In the historic district, we walk down Calle Jaen, one of the last colonial streets in the city, with its cobblestones and colourful houses. We explore every door to discover small inner courtyards, galleries, a museum of musical instruments…and then we meet Rosario. She tells us about culture, clothing, and traditions, then invites us to try her cholitas (petticoats with seven layers).

We have lunch at one of the common tables of the market, next to the Paceños. There’s a rich variety of dishes to choose from here, and the odors of grilled meat with Aji sauce mix with those of fried food and other spicy soups.

We reach El Alto by cable car, flying over houses as far as the eye can see, with inner courtyards and terraces where traditional clothes and dance costumes hang to dry. Perched on the side of the cliffs are shamans leading ceremonies of offerings to the Pachamama. Fancy venturing out to have your coca leaves read?

We return to ground level, passing by the general cemetery. Far from frightening or sad, this unique place is animated, coloured by big murals and decorated by the families of the deceased. Here, death is celebrated: people sing, dance and make offerings to honour their departed loved ones. This visit allows us to better understand the Bolivian view of the afterlife. We then pass by the Calle de Los Andes, the street of the carnival costume makers of carnival, where we could easily spend hours watching the meticulous work of the Diablada mask makers. Further down, in the direction of the market, you can find custom-made hats, jewelry of all kinds and the cholitas' petticoats.

We jump in a collectivo to head back to Sopocachi for a peaceful evening within the bustling city of La Paz.

Let’s continue our immersion in the must sees of Bolivia - embark with us!