Bolivia travel blog by Mark Berman -
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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. Spend 2 days or 2 nights in
Copacabana and enjoy the slow, laid back atmosphere!
Accommodation and Restaurants
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. 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.
Things To Do
Things to do in Copacabana include hiring a canoe or peddle boat shaped like a swan, there are dozens of them on the lakes 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.
Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun)
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 takes about 1hr 20mins to get out to
the Island of the Sun, you pass 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 sites, 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 standing 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!
Sights in Copacabana
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 (Hill)
Climbing Cerro Calvario hill 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 here 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 the hill 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.
Stations of the Cross
There are many stations of the cross along
the way, pilgrims place stones on top of these stations. I have climbed Cerro Calvario all 3 times I have visited Copacabana 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 your 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!
Buses to La Paz and Peru
From Copacabana most people head for either
Peru, which is 10 minutes to the border crossing at Yunguyo
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.