• Marco

Desert Hiking Outside La Paz

Updated: May 30

La Paz is a city clinging to the coastline, on the edge of the desert. I wanted to get out and see some of that desert! So we booked an Airbnb Experience with a local guide. We met on the outskirts of town and set out to climb Cerro de la Calavera (Skull Hill). It's a rock formation a few kilometres out of town; wind and weathering have eroded parts of it into weird shapes, and from the sea it's meant to resemble a skull.

(I was on the water a few days later and passed by; I think you need a degree of imagination to see a skull, although the formations are certainly beautiful.)

Saúl and his wife were lovely; they knew the area and its wildlife, and between their English and our Spanish we got on pretty well.

The hike was a little more energetic and steep than I anticipated (wear good boots!) but not overly taxing. Scrabbling between the rocks and over scree, we picked our way up the hill. Dotted everywhere were cactus and scrub.

Saúl was surprised at how green the desert was. The previous week or two had seen some pretty heavy rain; we were, apparently, seeing it as its verdant best. Most of the year it's brown and... well, deserty :)

Not only that, but some of the cactus had produced fruit - overnight. He'd been up the day before and since then, some of the small plants had sprouted delicious little red fruit. I would never have considered trying them, but since he knew what he was doing I took a few. They taste a bit like kiwi fruit. Very tasty!

"Are there lots of snakes here?"
"Yees", he nodded.
"Dangerous snakes?"
"Yees. But they don't go up hill..."

We didn't see any, but I did spot a small black scorpion scurrying behind a rock as we climbed.

Half way up!

Up towards the top, we wandered around some of those cool rock formations.

Really, really cool rock formations:

This one looked to me as if it had a monkey clinging onto the rock, looking out to sea

After plenty of water, lots of Q&A, and a fair bit of huffing we finally reached the top, and the view was well worth the effort:

There were a few locals up there already, admiring the sunset. We all said hi and sat to watch for a bit. A runner passed by at full tilt. Apparently he does this every day - runs to the top of the hill and back down. Gotta admire the effort, but not for me 😀

After it got dark we walked down the other side of the hill. Saúl helpfully provided head torches and walking poles, as there was no lighting and the path was a little precarious in places. We stopped a couple of times and looked at the stars. For a city this size, it's very dark even a short way out of town. It's perfect for astronomy - naked eye, binoculars or telescope - or just if you want to lie back and enjoy the view of the skies.

Mrs Wench admiring the sunset


All up we paid £17 each for about 3 - 3½ hours with Saúl and his wife. They were great company, and provided water, torch and poles as well as guiding. A really lovely experience and highly recommended.

We took the trip with Saúl, booked through AirBnB. His trip is called "Discover La Paz from the heights". Recommended.

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Mexico Travel Blog | marco@jocksaway.com