La Paz Bolivia Was Not What I Expected

I decided to visit La Paz Bolivia with about two week’s notice with one main goal – to visit my blogging BFF Lavi.

La Paz Bolivia

La Paz was chosen for our reunion due to the relatively inexpensive flight from Mexico City for me ($600, though I originally thought it was $200 as I’d been checking flights to La Paz Mexico on accident), and its location smack dab on Lavi’s route through her 7 month South American adventure.

My last minute research about La Paz left me feeling indifferent about visiting the city, though incredibly excited to be reunited with my travel soulmate after more than 2 months apart.

We planned to celebrate St. Patty’s Day at the Irish hostel Wild Rover, bike down the World’s Most Dangerous Road… and then get the hell out of dodge because La Paz is endlessly suggested to be a bit of a dump, boring, and totally skippable – a fine place to meet up as a stopover then head straight to Uyuni, but nothing more.

My midnight airport arrival and late night ride through El Alto (one of La Paz’s euphemistically “less attractive” neighborhoods) to my hostel all but confirmed my fears. The dark streets were pretty much deserted, aside from heaps of discarded plastic crowding the curb and occasional lone lurkers leaning up against graffitied walls, half-invisible in the shadows. Shops were boarded up, with windows barred.

I held my breath and hoped the view would become friendlier and more welcoming as I neared my accommodation, but the minutes ticked by with no such luck.

Stopping at a seemingly random point down a shady street that looked like all the rest, the taxi pointed to a shadowed doorway and announced my hostel, “Wild Rover!” as my stomach clenched.

I had to squeeze past a line of taxi drivers queued up smoking on the sidewalk, and couldn’t even make out a sign confirming it was in fact Wild Rover, but hoped for the best and entered the nearest doorway.

I was barely through the door, anxious and tired, when Lavi immediately pounced on me, greeting me with a big bear hug and melting all my apprehension into oblivion. The best friends can make arriving anywhere feel like coming home.

Biking Death Road (World's Most Dangerous Road) in La Paz, Bolivia

(I love this girl)

After a late night chatting, and a bit of sleeping in, we began our exploration of La Paz, apparently the city version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. La Paz appeared totally different in the daylight: bright, colorful, and shyly welcoming.

We explored the nooks and crannies of La Paz’s contrasting streets, from crooked cobblestones to modern multilines.

La Paz Bolivia La Paz Bolivia

We viewed the city from varied vantage points, from wandering through silent and flowered graveyards to soaring high above on the teleferico.

La Paz Bolivia La Paz Bolivia

With parks, plazas, strange markets, and surprisingly good food galore – we ended up extending our stay to a week, capping off cafe-working and walk-filled days with an extreme adventure down the World’s Most Dangerous Road before peacing out to Uyuni.

La Paz Bolivia La Paz Bolivia

you can buy llama fetuses from the witches’ market to put in the foundation of your new house for good luck!

Far from its first impression, I loved La Paz so much I went back for an extra 3 nights at the end of my trip – and I look forward to going back for more!


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La Paz Bolivia

Have you ever been surprised by a city?

Has your first impression of a place ever been turned on its head?


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

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