Around La Paz
In addition to the trips detailed below, many of the places described in the Lake Titicaca and the Cordilleras areas of the site can be visited as an excursion out of La Paz. For all outings keep in mind the high altitude and intense sun radiation, take protective dark glasses (especially in blinding snows), sunscreen, a hooded windbreaker, a plastic bag for picnic refuse, bottled water, and of course, comfortable shoes with good grip.
Mallasa and Valle de la Luna
To the south of the city, in the district of Mallasa are several attractions that can be visited on a day trip or you can stay there in a much warmer climate than that of the city (10-25°C).
The Cactario, is a pleasant terraced cactus garden worth walking through. The Valle de la Luna is a lunar landscape of eroded cliffs. The vistas can be inspirational, but beware that armed robberies have taken place, do not go alone or take valuables. Most of the local travel agents organize tours to the Valle de la Luna.
Just past the Valle de la Luna is Mallasa, where there are several small roadside restaurants and cafés and the Hotel Oberland. The zoo on the road to Río Abajo, is in a beautiful, wide open park-like setting. Conditions for the animals and birds are relatively good, but the public is allowed to feed the animals.
La Muela del Diablo
Of all the eroded formations located to the south of La Paz, most impressive is La Muela del Diablo, a huge, tooth-shaped rock that stands above the other ridges and can be seen from parts of the city and from the Valle de la Luna road. It is located to the south of the Zona Sur and accessed through the peripheral neighbourhood of El Pedregal. It is impressive, especially if the wind is blowing.
Illimani Lookout, Valle de las Animas and Palca Canyon
To the southeast of the Zona Sur the land rises to a ridge, which stands like a balcony right in front of Illimani and offers wonderful views. It takes 25 minutes to walk down from the lookout to Huni, a small village.
The Valle de las Animas offers impressive eroded cliffs which look like enormous organ pipes. A nice trail goes through a valley amid the cliffs. To walk between Ovejuyo and Huni through the canyon takes four to five hours; the views of Illimani from the ridge above Huni are wonderful. Pampa Koani is a valley that lies below the lookout and also has excellent views of the cordillera, here is Hotel Allkamari.
The Palca Canyon is an amazing eroded mud-valley surrounded by steep mud walls and pinnacles. The route follows the bed of the Quebrada Chua Kheri, a tributary of the Río Abajo, and should not be attempted in the wet season.
In a beautiful setting at the bottom of an isolated narrow canyon are the Urmirithermal baths. The complex, part of the Hotel Gloria group, includes several hot pools, a couple of saunas, a hot waterfall, massage service and a hotel, built in 1933 and faithful to the style of that era, despite some modern additions. The water comes out of the ground at 72°C (it takes two to three minutes to boil an egg) and is cooled in several tanks amid pleasant gardens. It gets quite busy with families on weekends and holidays. There are nice walks including an 8-km downhill walk to the village of Sapahaqui, though getting back can be a challenge.
Villa Loza (or El Tholar), is a dairy-producing village (with good cheese for sale!) and a couple of roadside hotels/ restaurants.
The Puya Raimondi, also known as century plant, is a large agave that flowers once every 100 years. Its compound flower, composed of hundreds of small flowers, shoots up some 10 m in the air; it is quite lovely. To see a stand of puyasflowering at once is a rare treat. By the village of Comanche, two hours from La Paz, you can find these special plants.
The Zongo Valley lies at the foot of Huayna Potosí (6088 m) and goes from the Zongo Dam to Huaji in Yungas. The valley starts at the end of a steep but scenic ride past several lakes (dams for La Paz's power plants) and an aqueduct on the left. Zongo valley is the starting point for climbing Huayna Potosí. From the Zongo Dam, the road drops over 3000 m in some 40 km to Huaji, and is popular with mountain bikers . As you descend into the Yungas, the vegetation gets green and lush. It is quite safe to drive yourself (in a suitable vehicle) and to hike; you have to return the same way as the road is a dead end.
Global warming has completely destroyed the ice cave, which used to be the main attraction here, but you can still reach the ice of the Charquini glacier. Do not go onto the glacier unless you have crampons and are roped.
Day walks around La Cumbre
To the north of La Paz, the road that leads to the subtropical Yungas climbs gradually out of the city canyon towards the Cordillera Real. At 4660 m it reaches a pass at La Cumbre. There is a lake to the left of the road and many possibilities for walking in the area. Views are wonderful, it is close to La Paz and transport is easy. Take good footwear; there could be patches of snow.
Trekking near La Paz
Four pre-Hispanic roads, referred to as 'Inca Trails', link the Altiplano with the Yungas, taking you from the high Andes to the sub-tropics, with dramatic changes in weather, temperature and vegetation. Each has excellent sections of stonework and they vary in difficulty from relatively straightforward to quite hard-going. In the rainy season, going can be particularly tough. Take water whenever you have the opportunity as there are dry sections. These walks are popular and littering is an issue, don't contribute to the problem. A brief description follows, more details can be found in Trekking in Boliviaby Yossi Brain and Caminos Precolombinos Departamento de La Paz by Montaño et al .
Climbing near La Paz
The Cordilleras Real and Quimsa Cruz offer wonderful opportunities for climbers with a number of peaks over 6000 m. Make sure you are acclimatized before attempting a climb and go with a reputable guide.
The most frequently climbed peak is Huayna Potosí (6088 m), which requires two days, with one night camped on a glacier at 5600 m. Experience on ice is essential.
Due to its difficult access, four days are required to climb.the magnificent five-peaked Illimani (6439 m). Going with a certified guide is recommended for this climb. It is not the most difficult technical climb, but the altitude makes it harder and there is one unforgiving spot that has claimed several lives.
This is a group of 13 mountains, 5100-5700 m, including Pequeño Alpamayo, which is beautiful and not technically difficult. Non-climbers can go to the mirador for fantastic views of the surrounding peaks, including Huayna Potosí.
Mountain biking near La Paz
Many dirt roads around La Paz are suitable for mountain biking. Those going from the Altiplano towards the subtropical Yungas are popular, note that you require a good bike to do it safely. The most popular biking route, which is offered by many operators, is La Cumbre-Coroico .
This ride involves a 40-km and 3600-m descent from the base of Huayna Potosí towards Yungas and is a fine alternative to the overused Coroico route.
Chacaltaya to La Paz
Chacaltaya (5345 m), quite close to La Paz, is a mountain that has lost its glaciers due to global warming. When it gets snow (in the rainy season) keen skiers still go to its slopes. The views of other peaks in the cordillera, the Altiplano and La Paz in the distance are fantastic. The Club Andino Boliviano has a mountain shelter on Chacaltaya and may arrange transport . It is a pleasant downhill ride first to the Altiplano, then relatively flat to El Alto and steep down to La Paz, for a total of 2000-m descent.