Amazing Places – Where to buy souvenirs and artisan handicrafts in Bolivia?

Bolivia is a beautiful country located in the center or heart of South America. This country, for years, has been one of the least recognized since, unfortunately, it has always been given more prominence to its neighboring countries.

However, over the years, tourists have begun to show some interest in this beautiful country, which has made them want to know more and more about it.

Markets in Bolivia

In Bolivia, street markets are still the most important places where food is transhipped. There are fixed, mostly covered market halls as well as weekly markets with mobile stalls on the streets and squares of Bolivia.

For the weekend street markets, trucks arrive in the big cities early in the morning at 4 a.m., fully loaded with fruits and vegetables from the rural regions. The market women are already waiting for them to grab the food in large quantities.

Immediately, the sellers set up their stalls, which usually consist only of a tarpaulin and fruit crates. A sunroof made of plastic foil protects the goods from the intense sun.

In the city of La Paz, housewives from all walks of life traditionally go to the Mercado Rodriguez on weekends, which is located in the San Pedro district and extends over several streets. Here they do their weekly shopping.

Unlike the supermarkets, the food is fresh and cheap. If you turn into certain side streets, you will come across primarily elderly ladies selling their purely organic fruits and vegetables fresh from the garden. Cosmetics, detergents, clothes and tools can also be found in the vast market.

Witches Market, La Paz, Bolivia
Witches Market, La Paz, Bolivia

On the other hand, the market halls are in operation all week long. They are a development of recent years, with cities trying to move market women off the streets and into special buildings to create a more orderly cityscape. Whether the massive concrete halls are a more attractive sight remains to be seen.

Inside the usually multi-story markets, each entrepreneur rents her stall, where she offers food, stationery, clothing, tools, lunch, and breakfast, depending on the sector. However, due to poor hygiene often, tourists with sensitive stomachs should refrain from having a meal in these markets.

For tourists, these markets are ideal for getting to know the country and its customs better. In addition, these markets are very diverse, so a weekend stroll through one of the picturesque street markets is always worth it.

You may also find a nice souvenir to take home. Popular with tourists are especially fine fabrics and clothing made of the finest alpaca.

About Bolivia

Bolivia is located in the heart of South America, enclosed by the countries of Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile. Despite its small size, the country surprises with great diversity. There are 12 different ecological regions in Bolivia.

More than 356 species of mammals, 1,400 species of birds, 203 species of amphibians, 266 species of reptiles and about 600 species of fish are registered.

In Bolivia, three geographic regions are distinguished – the Andes, which cover about 28% of the country’s surface and include some of the highest mountains in the Americas. The Valleys and the Yungas landscapes cover about 13% of the surface and are characterized by their warm climate and agriculture. Finally, the Subtropical Lowlands cover 59% of the surface and extend to Paraguay.

Cityscape of Copacabana city and the Titicaca Lake at sunset, Bolivia.
Cityscape of Copacabana city and the Titicaca Lake at sunset, Bolivia.
Bolivia - Travel Guide
Titicaca Lake, Puno
Titicaca Lake, Puno

La Paz is Bolivia’s government seat, but the actual capital is Sucre. The approximately 10 million inhabitants speak mainly Spanish. The languages Quechua, Aymara and Guarani are also spoken.

Of all South American countries, Bolivia is the most authentic in terms of the number of its indigenous inhabitants. As a result, many traditions and rites are still alive today and shape Bolivia’s culture and life.

Bolivia is an enchanting South American vacation country with superlatives. The inland country inspires tourists with varied landscapes, rich flora and fauna, and vast salt deserts with small lagoons in rainbow colors.

Lake Titicaca is the largest inland lake in the world. History buffs will enjoy visiting fascinating archaeological sites and majestic colonial cities.

The market of the Brujas in the city of La Paz

One of the most visited markets in Bolivia is the market of the witches of La Paz. This market is one of the centers of the Aymara worldview. It is located between Sagarnaga, Illampu, Santa Cruz and Linares streets, thanks to its vast extension where you can find thousands of things that allow you to enter the Bolivian culture.

The Witches Market of La Paz has become one of the largest tourist attractions in the city, in addition to having been declared an intangible cultural patrimony of the Andean city. This market allows the expression of the city’s beliefs and general of the whole country.

Bolivia, in general, and especially La Paz, is a city shaped by the mysticism of the native people. The traditional belief of the ancestors has prevailed until today. Bolivia has a high percentage of indigenous people, even more so in La Paz.

Therefore, within this market, you can find a variety of offerings to Pachamama (Mother Earth), as well as different rituals that allow you to find the way to love, fortune, work, study and much more.

Undoubtedly, the market is the ideal place to learn a little more about Bolivian culture and find one or another traditional souvenir. The witches’ market is one of the most varied markets since tourists can find almost everything they need.

It is the ideal place to buy alpaca sweaters or scarves, souvenir llamas, key chains and paintings from Bolivia. Here, any tourist can find the ideal souvenirs to show a bit of Bolivian culture. You will also find beautiful fabric patterns, national crafts, charangos, tarot cards, fortune figures, etc.

Witches Market, La Paz, Bolivia
Witches Market, La Paz, Bolivia

One of the most striking aspects of the witch market are the famous llama fetuses that you can find hanging on strings inside the stores. Llama fetuses are used in various rituals because they are supposed to bring good luck. Within the market, you can find fetuses of all sizes, colors and shapes.

Superstition in Bolivia

According to traditional beliefs, when a lama fetus is buried under the ground on which a house is to be built, it augurs well for the new home.

In the witch market, you can also find natural remedies used to cure the original population for years. However, traditional medicine can be very effective, which is proven because a large part of the population now uses it for colds and more.

The Coca Leaf, the famous Wira Wira, eucalyptus, etc., are the most famous plants that can eliminate a stuffy nose within a few hours.

As we mentioned, you can find the tratitional Ritual, better known as “K’oa,” used for different purposes. There are K’oas to attract money, work, love, for a person to do well in studies and much more.

You can contact one of the women from the land who prepare the ritual, and they can add to your K’oa anything you need at that time so that you can hold an individual offering, for example, to bring you Love and Work.

The K’oa is held on the first Friday of each month, and it is believed that the more smoke you receive from the K’oa, the greater your good omen will be.

Market Feria El Alto (Feria 16 de Julio), the highest Market in the World

You can visit El Alto, Bolivia, one of the largest markets in South America, but especially the highest in the world. El Alto, which is also called the sister city of La Paz, is the fastest-growing city in Bolivia and is located at an altitude of 4150 m on the dry plateau of the Altiplano.

The market “La Feria 16 de Julio” is a real insider’s tip because there are hardly any tourists – and the view from El Alto over La Paz is simply breathtaking.

Market Feria el Alto - Highest Market in the World
Market Feria el Alto - Highest Market in the World

The ride with the cable car “Mi Teleférico” to El Alto is already an extraordinary experience. The longest cable car in the world connects the cities of La Paz and El Alto, located over 4000 meters above sea level. Every day, about 300,000 people use the gondolas, which float 30 kilometers through the landscape.

The market of El Alto, better known as Feria 16 de Julio, is open all day twice a week, on Thursday and Sunday. Pretty much everything you can imagine is sold here. So if you love to rummage for second-hand goods on markets, the “Feria 16 de Julio” is the right place for you.

Cable Car LaPaz
Cable Car LaPaz

Cultural Importance

Since the urban or rural Aymara population mainly visits the market, it also has particular cultural characteristics.

It is estimated that the economic transactions that occur here move around 2,000,000 USD per week, equivalent to 150,000,000 Bs.

For example, there are streets where only clothes are sold in various sizes, colors and cuts. You can see only car accessories in another street as far as the eye can see. From tires in all possible sizes to the smallest screws and spare parts, the Bolivians buy everything they can not get anywhere else so cheap.

In addition to many other alleys in which furniture, electronics, household goods or even things for house construction are offered, you can, of course, just sit down at one of the many market stalls, watch the hustle and bustle of the Bolivians with a small snack and let the various smells waft around your nose.

Even if you are not looking for something specific, I recommend you to visit the “Feria 16 de Julio”, because there you will meet almost only locals and the atmosphere is authentic and unforgettable.

So if you are in La Paz during your South America trip, you should definitely stop by El Alto.

Tarabuco Traditional Market - Historic City of Sucre

The traditional market of Tarabuco is located about 40 kilometers southeast of Sucre in Bolivia at an altitude of almost 3300 meters. Sucre is considered the most beautiful city in Bolivia and the best-preserved colonial city in South America. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

Church-hospital near the Obelisk of the Freedom Tower monument in Sucre, Bolivia
Church near the Obelisk of the Freedom Tower monument in the historical city of Sucre, Bolivia

The traditional market in Tarabuco is an important weekly event for the Yampara, the region’s indigenous people. Starting as early as Saturday evening, merchants travel from far and wide to set up their stalls.

Tarabuco’s Sunday market is the largest rural market in Bolivia and arguably the best place to learn about the unique culture of the Yampara Indians and mingle with the locals, who appear in their eye-catching traditional dresses and a wide variety of colorful hats.

The colorful, exciting and energetic market is one of the most popular destinations from nearby Sucre. However, much of the market is also focused on textiles for tourists. Many tour operators in Sucre tout the textile market as a must-visit, as there are numerous handmade textiles made from fine alpaca wool to be purchased.

Colorful Alpaca clothes at a Tarabuco traditional market, Bolivia
Colorful Alpaca clothes at a Tarabuco traditional market, Bolivia

Many of the stores and stalls, Aguayos, offer blankets and ponchos made of alpaca. There are two types of fabrics: homemade, which is quite thick and sometimes not processed, and light-colored industrial fabric, which is easily recognizable.

Unfortunately, many stores and stalls sell goods purchased from Peruvian mass-production factories. Also, in Tarabuco, progress has moved in, and donkeys or Llamas no longer bring the goods to the market. Instead, on the eve of the market, delivery trucks and lorries clog the narrow streets of the small town.

However, many stalls sell genuine, authentic handicrafts. The trained eye immediately knows the difference between artfully handcrafted products and mass-produced goods from the factory.

Meeting Place for Indigenous People

The vast market serves as a weekly meeting place for various indigenous groups from the area. For the Yampara, the Tarabuco market is much more than a place to do their weekly bulk shopping. If you have come to Tarabuco for a unique cultural experience, this traditional Sunday market is the place to be.

The indigenous people of Bolivia show off in all their glory, and you can see various traditional costumes and garb. There is so much more to see in Bolivia than just the Quechua and their iconic melon hats.

In Tarabuco, the men wear poncho-like shirts, while the women flaunt the most colorful aguayos, a voluminous and bright cloth that they drape around their shoulders. This important garment, made of merino wool, is used by almost all Bolivians to carry everything from children to supplies.

A visit to the Sunday market in Tarabuco can be a very fascinating way to spend the day. Visiting local markets worldwide is always a unique adventure, but the Tarabuco textile market is exceptional.

Tarabuco Sunday Market
Tarabuco traditional textile market, Bolivia
Tarabuco traditional textile market, Bolivia

Souvenirs from the largest salt lake on earth - markets in Uyuni and Colchani

Its salt crust is so thick that cars can drive on it: The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is the most giant salt pan in the world. So an island in the middle of this desert, on which 1,000-year-old columnar cacti thrive, looks particularly bizarre.

Uyuni - Salt Lake
Uyuni - Salt Lake
Uyuni Cuty Center and Tourist Market
Souvenirs made from salt at the market in Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, South America
Souvenirs made from salt at the market in Salar de Uyuni

The Market in Uyuni

Uyuni is a city in the southwest of Bolivia and is known for the beginning of the salt desert. The city of Uyuni lives mainly from tourism so you can find hotels, travel agencies and restaurants in its streets.

There is also a market and a pedestrian zone where you can find various stores selling typical souvenirs of the region – such as figures made of salt and fabrics and sweaters made of alpaca.

In the city, there is the “Museo Arqueológico y Antropológico de Los Andes del Sur,” which is the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology of the Andes. It has a collection of mummies, skeletons, textiles and ceramics from several areas.

Uyuni was initially known for its crucial role as a railroad hub: the picturesque Uyuni train station is accordingly also worth a short visit.

The Market of Colchani

Colchani is also known as the “gateway to the salt” the municipality of Colchani is located a few kilometers from the city of Uyuni and is characterized by housing the workers who extract salt from the salt flats.

There is a small museum built of salt and a market selling the typical souvenirs made of salt and handmade Alpaca Clothing.

During most tours to the Salar, a stop is made here as food can be purchased. Additionally, travelers have the opportunity to interact with locals here.

Typical Salt Souveniers in Colchani
Colchani village
Colchani Village

Map with most famous  markets in Bolivia

The Street Market of Cochabamba - Valle Alto

For many, the street market of Cochabamba in Bolivia, the Cancha, is the largest shopping center in the world. The merchants’ stalls are spread over several parts of the city, and it is not easy to find what you are looking for.

Plaza in Cochabamba, Bolivia
Plaza in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Take a shared cab down Avenida Ayacucho, get off at the bus station, and you’re right in the middle of the Cancha. A tight hustle and bustle of hectic customers and flying merchants. You get leggings, pots and fly swatters held under the nose.

Quechua is spoken in the Cancha – one of the country’s most important indigenous languages. Nevertheless, when it comes to business, everyone here also knows Spanish.

From east to west, the Cancha swallows up almost 30 streets. Anyone who travels here every day has to walk many kilometers. And that makes you hungry. Punctually at 10 o’clock, there is the second breakfast everywhere on the Cancha. Minced meat, beans, chicken stew, plus lots of hot sauce. The plates are filled to the top.

Cochabamba is the gastronomic capital of Bolivia. Here, people cook from morning to night. Today, for example, breaded meat with a delicious sauce and noodles and the whole thing with a spicy sauce. This is how it must taste in Cochabamba.

La Cancha Market in Cochabamba
Pucacapa pie of cheese, onion and black olives with seeds on top in Cochabamba market (Bolivia).
Pucacapa pie of cheese, onion and black olives with seeds on top in Cochabamba market

Central Market in Santa Cruz de la Sierra

Santa Cruz is considered the Amazon city of Bolivia, at about 430 meters above sea level. Different cultures from the highlands in the west, the Amazon culture in the north and the Guaraní culture in the east meet.

The region of the city separates the rain-fed jungle in the north from the dry area of the La Plata basin in the south.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia

Santa Cruz de la Sierra is the economic center of the vast pampas of southeastern Bolivia. It is both the most modern and largest city in Bolivia and one of the fastest-growing cities in Latin America. The lively metropolis wants to become the hub of the continent.

The wealth acquired so far is clearly visible in the streets of Santa Cruz. Despite its size, the city resonates with a serene, joyful atmosphere. This is best experienced in the city’s central square, a beautiful tropical garden.

Among the most exciting sights are numerous museums, such as the Museum of the Noel Kempff National Park or the Museo Etno Folklórico, various churches and basilicas, the El Arenal amusement park, the Zoological garden, but also the large market and handicraft stores.

The ideal place to find handicrafts of all kinds, traditional ceramic objects, representative paintings of Santa Cruz, key chains, and many other souvenirs.

Historic Center of Santa Cruz 
two female tourists walking in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
Tropical Flair of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia

The Central Market is located in the historic center of Santa Cruz, so getting to it is too easy.

This Market in the Center is recognized for being one of the most representative cultural fairs of the place since it brings together all kinds of artisans and artists who want to show their art.

This is the ideal place to find hand-woven Alpaca Fashion, which attracts a lot of attention from tourists thanks to the different colorful patterns.

Here you can also find unique souvenirs from Bolivia or enjoy the tropical flair of this city while enjoying a delicious Somó drink or the famous traditional Santa Cruz coffee.

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