La Paz is the perfect example of what happens when two wildly different cultures collide. While there are modern parts to the city, visitors can’t help but feel like they have gone back in time. From palaces that have been burnt down multiple times to wild indigenous traditions, La Paz hasn’t forgotten its rebellious history. Here rules are an afterthought and anyone trying to be punctual is in for a nasty surprise. While this may be off-putting for some, this refusal to conform is what makes La Paz a delightfully unique place to visit.
When visiting La Paz, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Thanks to its bustling population and never-ending novelties, there’s literally too much to absorb. From a nearly continuous list of celebrations to multiple natural wonders, La Paz is packed with things to see. While most of them are moderately tame, others break all the rules. Despite being condemned by the catholic church and local officials, these red-lined rituals and attractions continue to flourish.
While we don’t personally agree with everything on this list, it doesn’t stop them from being a reality. These traditions take everything taboo and spin it into a lucrative celebration. In a weird way, they are the embodiment of defiant Bolivian ingenuity. For this reason, these peculiar acts of dissent need to be highlighted. After conducting extensive research, we were able to create this list of the weirdest things to do in La Paz. Prepare to be simultaneously shocked and captivated, since these activities would never be allowed anywhere else!
Weirdest Things to Visit In La Paz
Attraction #1: Las Ñatitas – Every 8th of November, thousands of Bolivians in La Paz celebrate Las Ñatitas. This ritual involves either purchasing a recently uncovered human skull or digging up a beloved relative’s corpse. From there the skulls are cleaned up and adorned with sunglasses, crowns of flowers, lit cigarettes & coca leaves. This is done right across the street from the main cemetery in La Paz.
As families huddle around their Ñatita, they light candles and pray to the skulls for blessings. The entire time generous amounts of alcohol is consumed, countless cigarettes are smoked and mountains of coca leaves are chewed. All this is complimented by live bands and lone guitarists who offer to play music at each Ñatita for a small fee. While some Ñatita celebrations are simple, others draw dozens of people. This completely fills the street with large crowds as dozens of groups of Ñatitas are worshiped. At the end of the day, each family takes their skull home to protect their house from thieves and ensure that their dreams come true.
This eye-opening tradition dates back to pre-columbian times. Long before the Spaniards conquered the natives, las Ñatitas were worshipped in the Tiwanaku empire. This civilization had a penchant for collecting human heads and using them in a wide range of ceremonies. These rituals varied from asking for rain to summoning protection for personal crops and property. The word Ñatitas was derived from the term “ñato” which refers to the reduced nose of the skulls.
Despite being condemned by the catholic church in 2008, this shocking ritual is still celebrated to this day. Every year, thousands of Bolivians ask the Ñatitas for good luck, prosperous businesses, better health and protection for their homes. Through violence and suppression, the catholic church was never able to stamp out Bolivia’s unapologetic connection to their original cultures. While the modern practice of worshipping Ñatitas may be troubling for some to recognize, it’s an inspiring “fuck you” to the oppressive catholic church.
Attraction #2: Route 36 – While this underground cocaine bar has nothing to do with Bolivian culture, it highlights the epic failure of the drug war. Every night after midnight, this illicit operation opens its doors to countless tourists seeking an illegal treat. While they claim to switch locations frequently, odds are they just pay off the police and stay put. On this website we do not endorse drug trafficking or the consumption of hard drugs, but that doesn’t stop it from existing. Route 36 has been operating for over a decade, and the novelty and resilience of this cocaine bar can’t be ignored.
To get to this hidden after-hours cocaine cocktail lounge, tourists simply have to ask any taxi driver in La Paz. From there they are whisked to a building that appears to be abandoned. Once the taxi driver honks the horn, a door will quickly roll up and the tourist is ushered in. As soon as the tourist is inside, the door is shut behind them and they are led up a dark staircase. The entire building appears to be abandoned, so when they reach another security guard it’s impossible not to feel relieved.
Once the entry-fee is paid, a door to a seemingly abandoned room is opened. Loud music and flashing lights that were previously cloaked by soundproofed walls instantly pour through the open door. From there the tourist is led to a bar where they can order cocktails and grams of “cocaine”. Unfortunately, this bar doesn’t sell what’s advertised.
Instead of selling extremely cheap and easy to get Bolivian cocaine, Route 36 ups the ante. Their “cocaine” is so oily and shimmers and sparkles so much that it could easily be confused as conserved sperm from a unicorn or perhaps Michael Jackson. While it absorbs nicely, it has an unmistakably speedy overtone. At 150 bolivianos ($21.72) a gram, this is far from a good deal. While the bar is undeniably novel to visit, if you’re looking for pure coke you are going to the wrong place.
Disclaimer: While our staff has no problem with marijuana and hallucinogens, Gringofamoso.com does not advocate the consumption of cocaine. The production and distribution of this drug has caused irreparable damage to Latin America. If choosing to indulge in this substance, realize that every dollar spent on it causes more corruption, mass incarceration and violence that ripples throughout the world. Until the destructive war on drugs is finally ended and corporations wrestle control of the industry from violent cartels, we will never condone the use of this notorious narcotic. Stick to weed and save yourself the problems that come with using hard drugs!