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Copacabana, Bolivia - Visit The Island Of The Sun & Climb The Hill

Bolivia experiences and stories by a backpacker - April 2008 April 2009 September 2011   » View Photoset (67 Photos)

Copacabana is a little paradise on the shores of Lake Titicaca just 2 and a half hours north of La Paz. The contrast between Copacabana and La Paz couldn't be greater. I have stayed in Copacabana on 3 occasions in 2008, 2009 and 2011 for 5 nights in total. Backpackers pass through here for a break from city hopping. It is a great place to relax on a journey from La Paz to Cusco. There is a lot of accommodation available in town. A hotel in front of the lake costs little more than a hostel near the cathedral at the back. The restaurants, take your pick, there are many serving all kinds of nice meals, breakfasts and drinks like coca tea which tastes extra good when made with the leaves rather than from a sachet. Things to do in Copacabana include hiring a canoe or peddle boat shaped like a swan, there are dozens of them on the lake edge. There are tours out to the Island of the Sun - Isla del Sol on a boat and it is possible to stay overnight there. I highly recommend at least a day tour to Isla del Sol. I was lucky enough to get a day tour for 30 Bolivianos, that's less than $5USD. It took about 1hr 20mins to get out to the Island of the Sun, we passed many small islands along the way. When we arrived we were greeted by the locals of the Challapampa community. The first thing my group did was visit the museum Museo de Oro, we had to pay another 10 Bolivianos for that, but honestly the museum is tiny and not worth it. Next we set off on foot to see the Inca ruins Ruinas Chinkana, this was the best part of the day. For a couple of hours we walked around the island visiting different sights, the views and scenery are absolutely stunningly beautiful. A photographers dream. The water around the island is crystal clear blue green and the beaches are golden. Houses and small farms are scattered around the island and donkeys are used by locals to carry stuff around. There are many ceremonial sites on the island including a ceremonial table, sacred stone, sacred rock, Willca temple and footsteps of the sun. We saw one of these sacred rocks near the site of the Chinkana ruins. The ruins overlook a gorgeous bay from its location on the hillside. We made our way back to the main beach where a big dragon boat was setting sail into the sun. Our boat left the Challapampa people on the north side and we travelled around the island a bit to the other community called Yumani on the southern side. 2 colorful Inca statues, a man and woman stand at the back of the beach on each side of the stairway leading up to the lookout at the top, it's 5 Bolivianos to go up. Other sights on the islands southern side include the temple of the sun - Templo del Sol Pilcocaina and garden of the Inca - Jardin del Inca. It was now the end of the day and the boat returned back to Copacabana by around 5pm. Next time I visit Copacabana I will come and stay out on Isla del Sol for a week, it is that beautiful! Copacabanas cathedral is worth a look. There are some intricately carved wooden panels just inside the doorway and gold ornaments inside and a nice plaza area outside with a beautiful archway monument with crosses underneath. There is a statue of Francisco Tito Yupanqui, a direct descendent of Inca royalty and possibly the first saint of Bolivia. There is a cute little park not far from the cathedral with a tall statue of a woman and a smaller one of Simon Bolivar - the founder of Bolivia. There is a cemetry at the far end of town away from the lake and some ancient Inca rock chairs that can be seen and sat in. There is a guy who sells tickets for this hanging around the general area where the rock chairs are located. In Copacabana there is a small indoor soccer stadium where the locals play often, I think more so in the late afternoon/evening. You will be able to hear the whistle being blown from some distance away. You can actually hear the whistle being blown from the top of Cerro Calvario, which is the great hill that stands beside the town and lake. Climbing Cerro Calvario is my favorite thing to do in Copacabana and you will be committing a major sin if you don't climb it and the gods will come and get you! The views up there are worth dying for and that's pretty much what happens while you climb up the steep cobblestone and rock staircases and pathways at an altitude of 3966 meters. You will need frequent breath catching stops along the way! There are 2 pathways to begin this adventure. Either off the street next to it and up the stone stairs and rocky path past a few houses and coca fields. There are some dogs that like to run out and bark about halfway up the path, watch out for them. Or, you can come around more to the right of the hill and find the red church called Capilla - Del Senor De La Cruz De Colquepata and head up the pathway beside that. There are locals selling souvenirs and drinks on this path past the church. Both of these entrance pathways converge at a point up the hill a bit. There are many stations of the cross along the way, pilgrims place stones on top of these stations. I climbed Cerro Calvario all 3 times I have visited and on one occasion saw, but didn't touch a $100USD bill underneath a stone on top of one of these stations. Depending on how fit you are or how long you like to stop and enjoy the awesome views, this steep walk up hill will take 30-40 minutes. There is a nice place to lay on the grass once you get up to the Jesus shrine and lookout area halfway up. As you get higher and higher the views get better and better as your breath gets lesser and lesser. But it is worth it by the time you reach the big row of shrines at the top and the beautiful views of the town, lake, hills and blue sky! Enjoy the time up here. Sit down and take it all in then jump for joy in the sunset. You will never forget the joy of traveling after this. Spend 2 days or 2 nights in Copacabana and enjoy the slow, laid back atmosphere. Eat some fresh trout (trucha) at a restaurant beside the lake. There is a great Mexican restaurant and a nice place called Pueblo Viejo with tables and chairs outside, they have great breakfasts and coca tea. From Copacabana most people head for either Peru, which is 10 minutes to the border crossing at Yunguyo or to La Paz. If going to La Paz you can get a ticket from an agent for 25 Bolivianos but if you go straight to the bus while it sits in the street waiting to fill with passengers, you can get on for 15.

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My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Copacabana, Bolivia:

Hostal Emperador, Copacabana, Bolivia - Large Photo
Hostal Emperador, Copacabana, Bolivia (April 2008 - 2 nights, Sept 2011 - 2 nights) - I have stayed here twice because it is a very nice hostel, about $7USD per person or cheaper without bathroom. The people are friendly, it's not in the center of town, it's up from the church. There is a lookout tower on the premises for views of Copacabana. Recommended.
Brisas del Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia - Large Photo
Brisas del Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia (Apr 2009 - 1 night) - Had a nice room with a tiny bathroom overlooking the lake, bed was just ok, price was good. It is not much more expensive to stay by the lake than at the hostels in the area around the church at the back of Copacabana.

Distances & times (if available) from Copacabana (Bolivia) to:
 A : Puno to Bolivian Border - Peru 14 kms 14 kms straight distance | 40mins 40mins by car (24 kms) | 48mins 48mins by bus (24 kms) (24 kms)
 B : La Paz to Desaguadero - Bolivia 44 kms 44 kms straight distance | 1hr 8mins 1hr 8mins by car (56 kms) | 1hr 21mins 1hr 21mins by bus (56 kms) (56 kms)
 C : La Paz to Copacabana - Bolivia 64 kms 64 kms straight distance | 2hrs 12mins 2hrs 12mins by car (96 kms) | 2hrs 38mins 2hrs 38mins by bus (96 kms) (96 kms)
 D : La Paz - Bolivia 110 kms 110 kms straight distance | 3hrs 39mins 3hrs 39mins by car (146 kms) | 4hrs 22mins 4hrs 22mins by bus (146 kms) (146 kms)
 E : Puno / Juliaca - Peru 104 kms 104 kms straight distance | 2hrs 38mins 2hrs 38mins by car (148 kms) | 3hrs 9mins 3hrs 9mins by bus (148 kms) (148 kms)
 F : Moquegua to Desaguadero - Peru 225 kms 225 kms straight distance | 4hrs 53mins 4hrs 53mins by car (328 kms) | 5hrs 51mins 5hrs 51mins by bus (328 kms) (328 kms)
 G : Oruro - Bolivia 288 kms 288 kms straight distance | 6hrs 7mins 6hrs 7mins by car (361 kms) | 7hrs 20mins 7hrs 20mins by bus (361 kms) (361 kms)
 H : Tacna - Peru 241 kms 241 kms straight distance | 5hrs 59mins 5hrs 59mins by car (362 kms) | 7hrs 10mins 7hrs 10mins by bus (362 kms) (362 kms)
 I : Chile Border to Tacna - Peru 275 kms 275 kms straight distance | 6hrs 40mins 6hrs 40mins by car (398 kms) | 8hrs 8hrs by bus (398 kms) (398 kms)
 J : Arica - Chile 286 kms 286 kms straight distance | 6hrs 50mins 6hrs 50mins by car (411 kms) | 8hrs 12mins 8hrs 12mins by bus (411 kms) (411 kms)
 K : Arequipa - Peru 261 kms 261 kms straight distance | 7hrs 13mins 7hrs 13mins by car (450 kms) | 8hrs 39mins 8hrs 39mins by bus (450 kms) (450 kms)
 L : Cochabamba - Bolivia 336 kms 336 kms straight distance | 8hrs 53mins 8hrs 53mins by car (505 kms) | 10hrs 39mins 10hrs 39mins by bus (505 kms) (505 kms)
 M : Rurrenabaque - Bolivia 257 kms 257 kms straight distance | 12hrs 30mins 12hrs 30mins by car (565 kms) | 15hrs 15hrs by bus (565 kms) (565 kms)
 N : Iquique to Arica to Peru Border - Chile 383 kms 383 kms straight distance | 8hrs 43mins 8hrs 43mins by car (581 kms) | 10hrs 27mins 10hrs 27mins by bus (581 kms) (581 kms)
 O : Camana - Peru 386 kms 386 kms straight distance | 8hrs 33mins 8hrs 33mins by car (588 kms) | 10hrs 15mins 10hrs 15mins by bus (588 kms) (588 kms)
Driving times are accurate but approximate and are listed in the order of driving distance! Drive times are always affected by weather conditions, the terrain, time of day, altitude, dinner and bathroom stops, animals on the road, protests, a fast or slow bus driver, police checkpoints, border and river crossings, dropping off and picking up passengers etc. These drive times are obtained from Google Maps and are meant as a guide. Note however, times quoted in the main text of this page are exactly as the author experienced it.
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