La Paz…At an elevation of just over 12,000 feet (3,660 meters), La Paz is the highest national capital in the world. The city, Bolivia’s second largest, opens up like a fish bowl in the surrounding mountains as you approace by car—making a thrilling impression on visitors.
1. Cheer on the Cholitas. Don’t miss Cholita Wrestling. It’s a better bargain than pay-per-view and one of the biggest attractions for visitors and locals alike. Matches kick off every Sunday in El Alto; just jump in a taxi and say “Luchadores Cholitas.”
2. Join the Fiesta. Start early and party through the night at one of Bolivia’s premier cultural festivals. Enjoy the traditional dance and costumes during Gran Poder in May and the Entrada Folklórica Universitaria in August. Both fiestas are held along Calle Munillo, La Paz’s main thoroughfare.
3. Trick or Treat. Stroll through the Witches Market between Illampu and Munillo steets next door to Plaza San Francisco. It’s filled with a dizzying array of trinkets, from gifts for the family to dehydrated llama fetuses used in traditional ceremonies.
4. Gorge on Street Food. Sample the sumptuous meat, chicken or egg salteñas and freshly squeezed juice in Plaza San Francisco. They’ll leave your stomach satisfied and your wallet full: cheap, fresh and delicious.
5. Mingle with Locals. Visit a local haunt in the evening for traditional music, entertainment, cheap drinks, and no foreigners in sight. Among spots worth trying: Gota de Agua, Jamuy, La Puerta del Sol, and El Ojo de Agua, all in the city center.
6. Ditch the Map. Toss the free tourist map and explore beyond it. Experience the hustle and bustle of the El Alto outdoor market (Thursdays and Sundays), which some consider the world’s largest open-air marketplace. Take a $7 (30-minute) taxi ride from almost any place in La Paz.
7. Sweat in a Tent. Drive just 30 minutes from the city and stay in the Casa Luna Koani Eco Lodge. An easy hike will take you through the unique geology of the area. Finish the day with a therapeutic massage and a cathartic stop in the sweat lodge.
8. Conquer a Mountain. La Paz is the perfect base from which to climb Huayna Potosí (19,970 feet) or the Illimani (21,120 feet)—only a couple of hours from La Paz. Try Huayna Potosí Outfitters on the corner of Illampu and Sagarnaga for guides and state-of-the-art climbing equipment.
9. Take a Bath…in Beer. The Adventure Brew Hostel has its own microbrewery, making fantastic Saya beer in which (for a price) you can bathe. It’s on Avenida Montes, between Plaza San Francisco and the main bus terminal.
10. Cheat Death. Once the world’s most dangerous road (by number of traffic deaths), “Death Road” is now reserved for mountain bikers. The road descends nearly 12,000 feet to the tropics of Coroico. Tour operators are on Calle Sagarnaga.