Dan and I lunched at one of the best restaurants I have been to in a while for his birthday in April – Restaurant Gustu in La Paz, Bolivia! Restaurant Gustu is the creation of Claus Meyer, the father of New Nordic Cuisine and co-founder of the famous (now closed) Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. Gustu means “flavor” in the local Quechua language and the restaurant uses ingredients exclusively from Bolivia. Gustu only opened in 2012, but it has won many awards since. Its currently on the 50 Best Latin American Restaurants.
Dan and I spent ten days in Bolivia earlier this year visiting the Uyuni Salt Flats and Bolivia’s wine region, Tarija. We ended the trip with a couple days in La Paz and, while not expecting to love La Paz, we ended up having a grand time. This post details what we did on our few days in La Paz, Bolivia.
LA PAZ (AND EL ALTO), BOLIVIA
La Paz as most travelers see it, is actually made up of two adjacent cities high in the Andes mountains: La Paz and El Alto. El Alto is home to the La Paz airport, where many travelers fly in (including us!), and is located at over 13,000 feet above sea level. La Paz abuts El Alto, but is located at a lower altitude, with the lowest parts being around 10,000 feet. The difference in altitude is wild! The two cities are connected by cable car but, for most casual tourists on a short visit, there’s not a noticeable difference between the two. Most tourist attractions, besides the airport, are located in the city of La Paz. La Paz is one of two capitals of Bolivia (the other being Sucre). In terms of tourist attractions, La Paz does not have many “bucket list” sites IMHO, but I listed some of the things we enjoyed below. On a quick trip, I probably wouldn’t spend more than 2 or 3 days in La Paz, unless you have something planned.
WHAT WE ENJOYED DOING IN LA PAZ
As I mentioned, there are not a ton of must see sites, but here are some things we enjoyed.
Vallee de la Luna: Located on the outskirts of La Paz near “the highest golf course in the world,” Vallee de la Luna (or “Moon Valley”) is a natural park comprised of an eroded mountain left with really cool clay spires jutting out of the Earth. There are clearly marked trails and the views and photo opportunities are really cool. Tourists can go on their own, but our guide gave some additional context. Note that the altitude will making walking around here much harder than you think.
Like its big sister, Buenos Aires, just across the Río del Plata, Montevideo is a meat lovers paradise. Beef is king, and often served grilled in a casual setting. Meat-eaters cannot leave Montevideo without enjoyed a grilled meat extravaganza at a paradilla. Like in Buenos Aires, You can find paradillas all over Uruguay, and touristy ones in the Mercado Del Puerto. We choose to go a bit off the tourist beaten path and visited Paradilla La Pulperia in the Punta Carretas neighborhood of Montevideo.
Paradilla La Pulperia, or La Pulperia for short, is an institution in Montevideo that is only open Tuesday – Saturday, 19h – 00h. The actual restaurant is not much more than a glorified bar surrounding the most amazing grill. You will find both locals and tourists at La Pulperia, and you should arrive right at 19h (when it opens) or prepare to wait a while for a table.
A “parrilla” is a casual restaurant serving all types of meat, are extremely popular in Argentina and other South American countries (hello, Uruguay!). Buenos Aires is home to several famous parrillas, and you really shouldn’t visit Buenos Aires without a proper meal at one. When Dan and I first visited Buenos Aires, we dined at a famous parrilla called La Brigada, and decided that this was the spot for our only dinner in Buenos Aires this trip!
If you are traveling between Buenos Aires and Uruguay, even for a day trip, chances are that you will at least look at taking the ferry across the Río de la Plata. Dan & I have done it a few times, and its much easier than one would think. Its also much quicker than flying between countries considering the time getting to the airport, security, etc.
Buenos Aires (BA), Argentina is quite close to Uruguay, only separated by the Río de la Plata. As such, a common and convenient way to get between BA and Uruguay is to take the ferry, generally referred to as the “BuqueBus,” between the two countries.
In fact, ferries depart several times a day between BA and Colonia, Uruguay and BA and Montevideo, Uruguay and back. The journey to Colonia takes a little over an hour, while the journey to Montevideo takes around 3 hours.