3. La Paz

Accommodation

We reserved and paid for three rooms in Hotel LP Columbus. Upon our arrival, the receptionists informed us that the hotel had been overbooked despite our early reservations. They instead sent us to El Dorado Hotel. This was all said flippantly and as though it was normal procedure for the LP company (or the hotel manager) to double-book rooms.

It turned out that the hotel only arranged our alternative accommodation one week prior to our arrival and did not contact us for our agreement. This speaks greatly to the inconsideration of LP Columbus and reflects extremely poorly on the LP brand.

For our time in La Paz, we stayed at El Dorado Hotel, which, while located centrally, was subpar. Areas such as the windows and heaters were visibly dusty and may not have been regularly cleaned by the housekeeping staff. The duvet and duvet covers were clearly of mediocre quality and the Wi-Fi was often unstable. The experience was not worthy of a three-star hotel.

 

21
Panoramic view of Valle de la Luna

 

Food: 

La Paz was the only portion of our itinerary which allowed us to experience varied aspects of Bolivian cuisine. In general, Bolivian cuisine is highly diverse – staples include varieties of potatoes, corn, and beans, much like many Andean regions. These staples would often be dried or preserved, giving rise to a richer and more complex taste profile compared to their counterparts. Some of the most iconic food items include salteñas and empanadas, pastries which often contain meat, potatoes, or beans. Much like our experiences in San Pedro de Atacama, food in La Paz tends to be meat- and carbohydrate-heavy, with portion sizes being much larger than anticipated, so check with the waitstaff to prevent over-ordering!

 

22
The interior of Gustu

 

With regards to restaurants, we can definitely recommend Luciernagas and Gustu for Bolivian cuisine. Luciernagas serves affordable and traditional Bolivian home cooking, with large portions of authentic dishes and freshly squeezed juices on offer (~15 GBP per person).

Gustu, on the other hand, offers a relaxed fine-dining experience and provides a fascinating cross section of different combinations of Bolivian ingredients in both food and beverage (~60 GBP per person). I heartily recommend the tasting menu at Gustu accompanied by the beverage pairing (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options are fanastic). I would also suggest spending time in the central markets – such as Mercado Rodriguez and Mercado Lanza – in order to sample truly authentic local food.

 

23
Views of downtown La Paz, against the backdrop of basic housing in the surrounding Altiplano.

 

Getting Around: 

Travelling in La Paz is very different to other big cities. While certain neighbourhoods of the city can be explored on foot, the best way to get around is by taxi. Make sure to hail only taxis which have matching serial numbers on the sides of the vehicle and a yellow sticker on the windshield; these are the only genuine registered taxis.

A much cheaper alternative of travelling throughout the city is via trufis (minibuses). However, be prepared to be crammed into a small van with others and to listen out for your destination, often rattled off by fare collectors hanging out the side of the minibuses.

Finally, in lieu of a subway system, Mi Teleférico span the length of the city. This option is often used by commuters to venture down into the city centre from El Alto. The cable cars themselves are in excellent condition, and span most of La Paz, with the yellow and green lines offering a spectacular view of the city and the surrounding Andes.

 

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A statue of the Bolivian hero Pedro Domingo Murillo, a signatory of the Bolivian declaration of independence.
  • La Paz can be explored on foot, but take care crossing roads and avoid busy regions during peak hours. Avoid travelling alone or at night if possible.
  • As with all big cities, there will almost certainly be pickpockets, who will invariably target tourists. Stay together as a group, and always be wary of your surrounding and your possessions, and leave most of your valuables in your hotel.
  • Protests and strikes are common in Bolivia, and you will be most affected in La Paz. Be sure to check travel alerts, for example on the UK government travel advice website, prior to travelling. While there is not much to do if your travels coincide with such incidents, be sure to avoid conflict areas.
  • Other attractions in and around La Paz include El Alto’s sprawling Thursday market and Tiwanaku, a UNESCO world heritage archaeological site just outside of La Paz. For the more adventurous, opt for a half day hike to Muela del Diabloor cycle down Death Road (Yungas Road). La Paz is also home to a budding modern art scene, and galleries such as esART and Gota de Agua offer modern art and Bolivian folklore music respectively. Do your research on the availability of visiting certain attractions, as some are closed on certain days.
DSC_7946
The streets of El Alto are painted a brooding orange by neon lights from surrounding residential buildings and street lamps.

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