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The buzzing city of La Paz + mountain biking Death Road, Bolivia

We’re not going to lie, arriving in La Paz was a huge shock to our system after coming from months of solitude in the mountains of Argentina, and the endless deserts and salt flats of Uyuni. It was our first proper experience and introduction to “city-life” here in South America, and it definitely took us a few days to adjust!

Once our bodies slowly began to regulate to this fast-paced city, we could start to appreciate La Paz for it’s chaotic craziness.. even if this did mean almost being run over by 38497 cars every time we crossed the street.

The first day that we arrived, we decided to go along to the Red Caps free walking tour (labelled as free, however tips of around 20 boliviano’s / $4 AUD are expected for the guides), held twice per day, every day of the week from one of the main squares. For three hours, we wandered around learning about the history of the city, the local people, and the architecture. This was also how we were introduced to two of the largest food markets we have ever came across:

Mercado Robert Rodriguez - this is La Paz’s biggest fresh produce market, with hundreds of stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meat, seafoods, nuts, breads, etc. If you are fortunate enough to find accommodation in La Paz with a kitchen, coming to this market to purchase your fresh produce and cooking up your own meals would be a great way to budget while still eating delicious local foods.

Mercado Lanza - this always-bustling four-story marketplace is PACKED with over 1000 vendor’s selling local dishes, sandwiches, pastries, coffee, ice-cream, fruit salads, juices, anything that your stomach’s may desire! The other wonderful thing about this food-filled-paradise is that it is organised into sections by theme of the type of food, making it super easy to navigate your way to find exactly what you’re looking for!

Another highlight of the walking tours was winding through the crazy witches markets - many stalls all selling similar products such as: dried llama feutuses (said for good fortune), owl feathers, dried turtles, snakes, frogs, herbs, and a number of “remedies” for anything from your common cold, to men experiencing issues in the bedroom :P

If you don’t want to leave South America without a fluffy and warm alpaca jumper, La Paz is definitely the place to purchase one! The local markets are littered with many handmade goods and we learnt quite quickly that it is more than acceptable to bargain with any vendor on the streets for a better price - whether it be crafts, clothing, or even food.

One last must-do that we squeezed in before we ventured off to our next destination was heading up to El Alto via cable car. For 2 boliviano’s / 0.40 AUD, you can catch a ride that will take you all the way up to the top of the basin of La Paz, giving you an incredible view of the city below. Even better, try and make the trip on a Thursday or Sunday and this will mean that you will also get to experience the El Alto markets - the ultimate flea market selling anything from local foods, to car parts and toilet seats!

But last and certainly not least was Kirk’s day trip to Death Road, around a 3 hour drive from La Paz. He booked this excursion through a company called RIDE ON who we would not recommend enough! They have only been operating for around 12 months and therefore their tour prices are considerably lower than other companies (almost half price to some!), but this also means that their equipment is newer than most.

Death Road ( El Camino de La Muerte) - previously known as the worlds most dangerous highway, with 200 - 300 people dying on this road every year - it is a steep and windy road with a width only for a single car, yet it must hold traffic coming from both directions.

So should you be scared of Death Road? Or of the popular dare defying, adrenaline packed activity of mountain biking down Death Roads treacherous path… ? No, don’t be scared now!

Death Road is rarely used by vehicles and trucks now that a new and safer alternate route has been built for them to drive along.

RIDE ON, will strap you in like a professional and will assist you with their experience and knowledge along the way.

For around 380 boliviano’s / $75 AUD, this full day excursion includes:

  • pick-up from your hostel around 7am

  • a delicious breakfast with a view

  • mountain biking professionals to guide you along the day

  • lunch and snacks provided

  • a buffet dinner at a resort

  • use of the swimming pool for a refreshing swim after dinner

  • transport back to your hotel by around 8pm

Although no prior mountain-biking experience is essential, this is quite a long and physically demanding day. Beginning at 4650m above sea level, and finishing at 1200m, this is 64km's of mountain biking down the thin, windy, rocky, and unpredictable trail.. hoping not to fall off the sheer 600m drop beside! Watch our YouTube video (below) and decide for yourself whether you are game enough to give this a go, but for the scenery and views that you are rewarded with, Death Road truly is an experience that you cannot miss!

We certainly recommend stopping by this insanely lively city, however we would only suggest that you would need a few days here to enjoy before moving on to your next destination. For us, that was the relaxing and tranquil Copacabana & Isla del Sol.. check out our next blog post to see what we got up to there! And no, it wasn’t all just enjoying cocktails on the top of roof-top bars while watching the sunset.. or was it..? You will have to read to find out :P

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