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Copacabana, Bolivia - Explore The Inca Ruins At The Island Of The Sun

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Map location: Copacabana, Bolivia
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Bolivia travel blog by Mark Berman - Apr 2008 Apr 2009 Sep 2011 Jan 2019   » View Photoset (59 Photos)

Mark Berman, South America backpacker for over 12yrs!
Copacabana is a little paradise on the shores of Lake Titicaca just 2 and a half hours north of La Paz or 2hrs 30mins south-east of Puno in Peru. The contrast between Copacabana and La Paz couldn't be greater. I have stayed in Copacabana on 4 occasions in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2019 for 7 nights in total. Backpackers pass through here for a break from hectic 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 and you pass many small islands along the way. When you arrive, you are greeted by the locals of the Challapampa community. The first thing my group did was visit the museum Museo de Oro, we paid $10 Bolivianos for this, the museum is quite tiny. 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 would love to come and stay out on Isla del Sol for a week, it is that beautiful!

Isla de la Luna (Island of the Moon)

The Island of the Moon has the ruins of the Inca Temple of the Virgins of the Sun, you can see these ruins on the same tour as the Island of the Sun.

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 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. The journey to La Paz from Copacabana is a nice trip that crosses the waters between San Pedro de Tiquina and San Pablo de Tiquina.


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My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Copacabana, Bolivia:

Hostal Roca Sagrada, Copacabana, Bolivia - Large Photo
Hostal Roca Sagrada, Copacabana, Bolivia (January 2019 - 2 nights) - Nice room on the first floor with 2 beds, a private bathroom, tv and wifi for $150 bob ($21USD). Located in the center of Copacabana next to shops. Hostal Roca Sagrada is very comfortable and a good place to stay for a couple of nights or more. Recommended.
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.

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Copacabana, Bolivia - Explore The Inca Ruins At The Island Of The Sun. Copacabana is a must, it's so beautiful and peaceful here. The town is nice and of course you must take a boat out to the Island of the Sun!