Witches' Market of La Paz

by Jane Calvert
Excerpt taken from Backpacker Essentials website

La Paz, Bolivia is a bustling city of more than one million. In its heart, you could almost be forgiven for forgetting its third world status. Amongst the high rises you can even find a McDonalds. But the illusion of first world grandeur is quickly shattered once you step into the side streets. High-rises give way to haphazardly assembled stalls laden with everything a witch could desire. Surrounded by the plethora of shriveled fetuses, a quarter pounder with cheese is the last thing you'd expect to find.

However, if it's dried frogs, Bolivian armadillos, ceramic figures of naked couples or dried llama fetuses that you're after, you've come to the right place. But what are they used for? And how does a backpacker with only backpacker Spanish find out?

You could hire a translator, as I did, or simply refer to the list below:


  • Llama fetus (dried): To protect the house. An estimated 99% of Bolivian families have a dried llama fetus thrown under the foundations of their house for luck.

  • Llama fetus (burnt on a plate of sweets and herbs): To ensure luck for a new business venture.

  • Dried frogs: For money. If you stick a cigarette in your frog's mouth, your chances of striking it rich will increase.

  • Bolivian armadillos: Kind of like a Chubb alarm. Stick one above the entrance to your house, and it will prevent thieves from entering

  • Amulette d'amor (ceramic couple embracing): To get yourself hitched.

  • Naked ceramic couples: To improve the sex life, rectify impotency, and increase fertility

If you're exploring with us on the Bolivian Backroads tour, you'll have plenty of time in La Paz to navigate the markets. After returning from an outing to the Salt Desert, any adventurer worth her weight in, well, you know, won't want to miss out on the wares and wonders of the Witches' Market. It's only a few short blocks away from the hotel where you'll be staying. We'd hate to deny anyone the opportunity to take home a dried frog and hit the jackpot - as long as you send some of your new-found wealth our way!