Side Trips from La Paz

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Side Trips from La Paz - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. El Camino de la Muerte

    Scenic Drive

    You might say your chances are just as good biking to Coroico from La Paz as they are taking a bus down what the UN once proclaimed "the world...

    You might say your chances are just as good biking to Coroico from La Paz as they are taking a bus down what the UN once proclaimed "the world's most dangerous road," and you'd probably be right. This North Yungas Road, commonly known as "El Camino de la Muerte" (Road of Death), was built in the 1930s during the Chaco War by Paraguayan prisoners. Dotting the 69 km (43 mi) narrow trek are crosses honoring the estimated 300 travelers killed along the road each year. Although vehicles are still permitted to drive on the old road, most public transport now goes down the newer South Yungas Road (Chulumani Road). Unfortunately this paved highway cuts through Cotapata National Park, home to monkeys, parrots, the spectacled bear, and oropendolas, known for their woven basket-nests and bright yellow tails. Turisbus offers guided tours along the old road in comfortable four-wheel-drive vehicles, although most travelers prefer to explore the area by bike so it's just you, the subtropics, and some terrifying drops. Choose your agency carefully, make sure your bike has good brakes before you set off, and don't look down. No matter how you travel, prepare yourself for drastic changes in temperature since you'll be dropping from 4,700 meters/15,400 feet (at Pampa Larama Lake beside the Statue of Jesus Christ) to 800 meters/2,624 feet (just outside of Coroico at the Santa Barbara Bridge). Pack sunscreen and insect repellent, there are some fiesty little biters waiting when you get down to the more tropical lower regions.

    Coroico, La Paz, Bolivia
  • 2. Madidi National Park

    Park (National/State/Provincial)

    This park has been rated one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Its boundaries encompass both the high Andean peaks and the deep Yungas...

    This park has been rated one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Its boundaries encompass both the high Andean peaks and the deep Yungas jungle, and a staggering number of species has been registered here. Some estimates say more than 10% of the world's bird species are living in the park—more than in the entire United States. Most of the top lodges operating in the park are community run, meaning that your tourist dollar goes a long way toward encouraging the protection of this vibrant green paradise.Most of the tourism into Madidi is via all-inclusive lodges that, although not as refined as those found in Peru, offer unparalleled, intimate access to pristine jungle. A few operators stand out: The long-running Chalalan Ecolodge (www.chalalan.com) now shares the top spot with the slightly more affordable Mashaquipe Ecotours (www.mashaquipeecotours.com) and San Miguel del Bala (www.sanmigueldelbala.com). Berraco del Madidi (www.berracodelmadidi.com) is situated deeper in the jungle than any other lodge, and offers a unique sleeping experience in comfortable tents set up on traditional, covered wooden platforms. Madidi Travel (www.madidi-travel.com) is run by one of the conservationists who helped set up the park in the 1990s and offers a chance to visit the smaller but equally stunning Serere Reserve. A newer arrival is Sadiri Lodge (www.sadirilodge.com), set in the foothills to the north of Rurrenabaque, which provides a privileged view over the jungle and makes for excellent bird-watching.The best time of the year to visit is from April to October, as the rainy season leaves some parts inaccessible. Most companies offer tours from three to five days and charge between $80 and $120 per day, excluding the flight from La Paz to Rurrenabaque ($190, Amaszonas).

    Rurrenabaque, El Beni, Bolivia
  • 3. Mamore River

    Tour–Sight

    Fremen Tours' four-day riverboat expedition from Trinidad offers you the opportunity to take a shortcut into the heart of the Amazon basin ...

    Fremen Tours' four-day riverboat expedition from Trinidad offers you the opportunity to take a shortcut into the heart of the Amazon basin ($540 per person). Fly from La Paz to Trinidad in the Beni region, then it's a short drive (if it's the dry season) to the river. The program includes opportunities for day and nighttime animal-spotting, and treks into the jungle itself. The boat is the famous 'flotel' Reina de Enín, it is small but has a good kitchen, and the service is excellent. If you risk it in the rainy season, you'll find a smaller group of travelers accompanying you, which is better—it can get claustrophobic and noisy on board. For information, contact Fremen in La Paz.(www.andes-amazonia.com).

    Rurrenabaque, El Beni, Bolivia
  • 4. Tiwanaku

    Ruins

    This ancient site was home to one of the region’s richest pre-Columbian cultures. Visually it isn’t as impressive as Machu Picchu, but the Tiwanaku...

    This ancient site was home to one of the region’s richest pre-Columbian cultures. Visually it isn’t as impressive as Machu Picchu, but the Tiwanaku had a massive influence on the empires that would follow and to this day their aesthetics are mirrored in Bolivian Aymara design. They were architectural masters, building with giant monoliths that weigh up to 25 tons and were brought from some 40 miles away. The site's most impressive monument is the 10-ton La Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun), an imposing stone fixture believed to be a solar calendar. At their peak between 600 and 800 AD the city grew to up to 30,000 people, although newer evidence points to much larger cities with perhaps hundreds of thousands of people living in the area. Drastic climate change around 950 AD brought a rapid decline to their largely peaceful empire and by 1200 AD the cities were almost completely abandoned. Start your visit with the museum next to the ruins. It displays artifacts found at the sight, the most spectacular of which is a 20-ton, 7.3-meter- (24-foot-) tall monolithic statue sculpted out of red sandstone. The monolith was discovered by an American, Wendell C. Bennett, during excavations in 1934, and since then had been on display in an open-air garden museum in La Paz, where it was being seriously eroded by weather. It was returned to Tiwanaku when the new indoor museum opened in 2002. Admission to the ruins and the museum is (Bs)70 and guides are available at the entrance for (Bs)70 - 100. There are various companies offering complete tours from La Paz. Bring a warm sweater or poncho—the area is frequently windy and cold, as there are no trees to break the wind. It is worth spending a night nearby to appreciate the stark, empty landscape and soak up some marvelous peace and quiet. If you are in La Paz in June, go out to the site for dawn on the day of summer solstice; it's a moving experience.

    Tiwanaku, La Paz, Bolivia

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