The Bolivian Witch Market

With potions, amulets, charms and a dried llama or two, the Bolivian Witch Market is a definite must see...



 

An Unusual Market

When traveling it's not uncommon to stumble upon local markets that sell foods, clothing and other items that are out of the ordinary for foreigners. Most markets have fruit, street foods, clothing and more, but the Mercado de la Brujas or the Witches' Market in La Paz, Bolivia has a more unique range of products.


Located in downtown LA Paz, the Witches' Market is home to an assortment of charms, remedies, potions, omens, totems, alters and yes, even dried llamas.


When walking around the bustling markets of downtown La Paz it's no hard to walk straight into the Witches' Market without even realizing it. The outsides of the shops and stalls are brightly colored and are seamlessly integrated into the "normal" vendors. A sudden realization will hit that you're int he Witches' Market when you look a bit closer and notice that fresh fruit has been replaced with boxed remedies, bottled spells and dried llama fetuses are hanging from the ceiling.






A Scary Place?

While it may sound scary to wander in the market of magic, I assure you there is nothing to worry about unless you get squeamish easily. For as far as I can tell, all of the market sells what is considered "white magic" or magic that is used for good, and I personally never felt uneasy. Everyone I spoke to was extremely kind and helpful.


What the market is infamous for is the dried baby llamas and dried llama fetuses at every vendor, usually hanging from the ceiling. These dried llamas are used as an offering to Pachamama for the safe construction of a home if the owner finds it too expensive to buy and sacrifice a live llama.

 

The shops are lined inside and out with different magical or spiritual items.

Colorful candles and bottled potions

Colorful candles for alters line the walls of shops next to bottled potions. The potions are remedies or spells, meant to be sprinkled around different areas like your house or anywhere you spend a significant amount of time, for a variety of effects. The effect is usually displayed on the bottles' packaging.

A wall of candles

Another common item is boxed remedies. These boxes are labeled with the issue they are meant to cure, and the treatments range from stomach ulcers to organ prolapse to weak bones and more.


Shelves of boxed remedies

Amuletos (amulets) are sold in varying sizes and figures. Each different figure represents a wish or charm. All are for good luck and blessings in varying areas of life.


A table of stone amulets for sale

The frog is for wealth and prosperity, the turtle is for long life, the sun is for blessings around your home and better sleep, the totem is for general good luck and the couple is for love.

There are a variety of other amulets for happy family, good harvest, fishing and more. There is so much more for sale around the market (like coca leaves, teas, bowls, dried plants and more) and it is 100% worth checking out.



Be Respectful

While the Witches' Market may be a bit out there for you or may even creep you out a bit, it is so important to stay respectful. Do not mock or disrespect the beliefs, the items or anything for sale. It has cultural, spiritual and religious value.


On the note of respect, be mindful taking photos. While yes, the Witches' Market has become a more popular tourist destination over the past few years, but these are still normal people living their lives. The cultural attire is beautiful, but ask before you take photos of the women walking around. Ask the shopkeepers if you can take photos of their products and consider buying something. The same basic rules of respect apply everywhere in the world, even if the area is unfamiliar to you. Being respectful, asking questions and making an effort to speak the local dialect goes far.



My Thoughts

If you are planning to visit the Witches' Market I'd advise you to set aside time to wander around. The market extends down many alleys and roads. The entire thing is extremely photogenic, so bring a camera. The walkways are all decorated with beautiful street art, which only adds to the ambiance.

Speaking of ambiance, the Witches' Market is open all day and closes at around 9 pm. While the shops merchandise doesn't change, the vibe does, especially in the surrounding streets with views of La Paz. If possible, consider visiting twice, once during the day and once again at night.

The stalls closed for the night

If you are in La Paz, you cannot leave without visiting the market.