Witches Market in La Paz: A Look into Bolivia's Soul

Written by Peter Lauffer
June 1, 2022

At first sight, the Witches Market doesn't look so “witchy.” For the first 30 meters, there are just stalls with small figures stacked on top of each other and older women sitting lazily on the stairs of the cobblestone streets. You wouldn’t expect from this that you’ve entered a market that sells, among many other things, powdered dog's tongue, which can be hidden in your partner's food to make him as faithful to you as a beloved dog to its master.

Cholitas at the Witches Market in La Paz

The market’s true nature becomes clearer, however, once you notice the llama fetuses, which aren't displayed to create a horrific atmosphere but are, rather, an essential aspect of an offering to Pachamama, referred to by the indigenous people as Mother Earth. Locals burn the llama fetus along with sugar, cotton, and other tiny objects (which you can also buy at the market) and place the ashes inside their houses for protection. By the way, the locals don't actually kill the llamas; the latter are born dead from miscarriages.

Liquids for sale at the Witches Market in La Paz

Llama fetuses may be the most visible part of the Witches Market, but there are plenty of other intriguing objects for sale there that will catch your attention, including small condor statues (for good travel), Incan sun amulets (for good energies), and dehydrated frogs (for good luck). Most of the little shops in the market sell herbs, plants, powders, lotions, and soaps intended to influence the gods, spirits, or other humans. You can even hire a sorcerer from the market whose magic will help you get back at a cheating ex-boyfriend—or make a fortune at your job.

Meljior Jimenes Street at the Old Town in La Paz

How to find the Witches Market

The Witches Market spans two lanes in La Paz's hilly old town. Medicine women, witches, astrologers, fortune tellers, and sorcerers have lived and worked on these streets for generations, so visiting them is like getting a glimpse into Bolivia's spirit and past.

Visiting the Witches Market is one of the cultural highlights in Bolivia. Getting to the market is easy, requiring only a five-minute uphill walk from the San Francisco Church. Walk up to Meljior Jimenes Street and turn left. There is no place to park a car, so if you go there by taxi, have your belongings ready because the taxi will not be able to stop for a long time. 

Museo de Coca, La Paz

The Coca Museum

On Linares Street, not far from the Witches Market, is the Museo de Coca, which is also well worth visiting. You can buy various items made out of coca leaves at the museum shop. Especially worth mentioning are the candies, which are the strongest I have tried in South America. (A word of caution: If you visit the Museum late in the day, it’s best to buy the candies and save them for the next day; otherwise, if you eat them immediately you may stay awake the whole night!)

Get inspired by some photos of this amazing trip:
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