A great time to visit La Paz

La Paz city tour

Everyone’s in search of somewhere new and off the beaten track, before the crowds arrive. At Aracari we’re constantly seeking out and testing new destinations and hotels across Peru, Bolivia and the Galapagos Islands.

I’ve just come back from a trip to La Paz, which has really upped its game recently with lots of new, exciting things to offer well-travelled and adventurous guests. With the city’s first five-star luxury boutique hotel about to open and a new buzz around its gastronomic scene, there’s ever more reason to stay longer in La Paz and consider Bolivia for your next holiday.

Where to stay in La Paz

ATIX. Everyone’s talking about the city’s first five-star design hotel, due to open at the end of August, and I was lucky to get a sneak peek. With design inspired by Bolivia’s rich biodiversity, each floor represents a different ecosystem: Amazon, Salt Flats, Lake Titicaca, Mountains, Lípez Desert and the Valley of the Spirits. The interiors showcase a specially commissioned collection of art by Bolivian artist Gaston Ugalde and the property also boasts a rooftop infinity pool, restaurant and bar. This is definitely my top pick of where to stay in La Paz.

La Casona. This is where I stayed in La Paz. With a great city centre location I could walk to Jaen Street, the Museum of Ethnography, and explore the nearby historic attractions. Set in a restored 17th century colonial building, it’s a good afforable option, and I’d recommend the rooms at the back which are quieter.

Casa Grande. I stopped in to inspect this modern high-rise hotel which gives guests sweeping views of the mountains and the city of La Paz. Located in the city’s lively Zona Sur, 30 minutes from the city centre (and opposite ATIX), the hotel has an indoor heated pool, restaurant and coffee shop. The property’s 65 comfortable rooms offer a range of amenities like kitchenettes, sitting area, LCD TV. A great option for business or leisure stays.

Casa Grande Suites. Next I had a look at this sister property in the residential neighbourhood of Calacota, just 10 minutes from the city centre. The newly renovated property offers 36 suites of ample size with a similar level of service to Casa Grande Hotel.

Hotel Rennova had their official opening launch party during my visit. Just opened, this four-star property is another great option, offering spacious modern rooms and a green rooftop space with views across the city.

La Paz’s emerging food scene

El Vagon Del Sur. I had lunch at this local favourite and met and chatted with the owner. With attentive service, they serve up traditional Bolivian fare. Smart without being gourmet, it’s a good choice for an authentic and relaxed Bolivian meal.

Aracari colleagues Maria Julia and Gilbert were in La Paz a month before me and tested out two top favourites which are leading the way in La Paz’s culinary scene:

Gustu. This is where it all began when Claus Meyer, founder of Copenhagen’s Norma, (currently in the top 10 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List), started a food revolution in Bolivia. Gustu offers diners the chance to experience food they’ve never even heard of. With an exclusive tasting menu at the chef’s table, it’s a true sensory experience.

Ali Pacha. Following suit is this innovative new restaurant, set up by an alumni of Gustu. Meaning Universe of Plants in the native Aymara language, the menu is entirely based on plant products, with the aim of showcasing under-used produce and championing micro-producers from around Bolivia.

A perspective on life in La Paz from above

Cable-car vista. La Paz is a dramatic city in many ways, including its topography. A great way to see the scale and reach of the metropolis is from the air, on the cable car to El Alto, high on the plateau above La Paz. I took the red line to El Alto to watch the sun set over the city which was breath-taking. If you’ve got more time, here are two uniquely Bolivian experiences which Aracari offers in El Alto:

El Alto’s Colourful Cholets.  This tour reveals the socio-economic story behind the colourful luxury buildings known as Cholets. Aracari can arrange for guests to be guided by the famed architect behind the futuristic facades, Freddy Mamani.

Cholita wresting match. Inspired by Mexico’s famous lucha libre, Cholita Wresting is a popular local pastime where female wrestlers ‘fight’ dressed in their iconic traditional skirts, with a unique mix of humour and passion. Public matches take place on Sundays.

Art and culture – past and present

Museum of Ethnography and Folklore. Back in the city centre, I headed to this museum and had the pleasure of meeting Dr Elvira Espejo, the museum’s inspiring director. Having lived in London and worked at the British Museum for six years, she draws on her experience abroad and worldly perspective, and takes Aracari guests on special guided tours.

The museum showcases regional particularities and unique characteristics of the many cultures of Bolivia – a great insight into the country’s rich cultural history, with a mix of permanent and temporary exhibts. I was particularly impressed with the exhibition of traditional masks from different parts of the country.

Salar Gallary. This contemporary art gallery displays the work of the owner, the renowned Bolivian artist Gastón Ugalde, alongside a carefully curated collection of international artists. Known as the ‘Andean Warhol’ it’s a delight to meet him or the gallery curator, his son Mariano Ugalde – a fantastic exclusive experience which Aracari can organise for art lovers. I had previously met Gastón, in Lima, at one of his art exhibitions.

The Verdict. Previously only a launchpad for trips to the salt flats in Uyuni, La Paz is changing, and can justify itself as a destination in its own right. There are so many new and exciting things on offer in the city – hotels, restaurants and experiences exclusively available through Aracari Travel. We make the connections so you can have exclusive access to some of the hottest experiences in town.

To plan a trip to Bolivia including a stay in the multicultural La Paz, contact us at travel@aracari.com

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