3 Best Things to Do on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia
A guide on three best things to do in Copacabana, Bolivia, a town situated on the bank of famous Lake Titicaca. Enjoy the sunset from Cerro Calvario, hike the countryside from Copacabana to Yampupata village or visit Isla del Sol with our guide.
This word probably evokes in your mind vivid images of sun, ocean, sand, and people in a bikini. But there is also another Copacabana than the world's most famous beach in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
We will be talking about a town Copacabana in Bolivia, a town near borders with Peru which, even though it might seem unlikely, has some similarities with its more attractive Brazilian sister.
Copacabana in Bolivia doesn't suffer from lack of sun, it also has plenty of water around, and you won't have a problem to find here a beach to sit on (although it will be pebble beach, not a sandy one). The only thing you might struggle to find will be people in a bikini.
Simply because it can get freezing cold here.
Copacabana sits on the shore of a magnificent body of water, the biggest lake in South America and also the highest commercially navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. We already got used to the fact that everything in Bolivia lies in the high altitude, but Lake Titicaca, lying exactly 3810 meters above sea level, took our breath away anyway.
But this time we were not left speechless only because of the altitude but also because of the out of the beauty of this blue and sparkling wonder.
Without Lake Titicaca, Copacabana wouldn't have much to offer to its visitors and most likely would have been skipped by people traveling to or from Peru as even now it is an unappealing town where we didn't feel somehow welcomed.
But being on the shore of one of the world's most beautiful lakes has its advantages, and Copacabana became a must-stop place on a well-trodden travelers' path through South America.
Apart from several viewpoints near town, a pier from where you can take a boat to nearby islands and leisurely strolls on the waterfront, there is not much to do. The tourist infrastructure includes clothes markets, an overpriced shopping mall (you can buy some food on the local market), restaurants (prices are higher closer to the waterfront), hotels and banks.
The highest amount we were able to withdraw at once from ATM was Bs 1400.
HOW TO GET TO COPACABANA
It is fairly easy to travel from La Paz to Copacabana.
You can either book a ticket in one of many travel agencies in the city or go directly to the main bus terminal. Do not expect great quality bus but as the ride takes about 4 hours, it is doable. Ticket cost Bs 30, and you will have to pay another Bs 2 while you arrive at the Tiquina Strait because the road ends here and you must take a ten minutes ferry to the other side of the river.
When arriving in Copacabana, Bolivia from Peru, you must take one of the international bus companies. We traveled from Cusco with Cruz del Sur and the ride including border's crossing was without a problem. The ticket from Cusco to Copacabana cost S/85.
WHERE TO STAY IN COPACABANA
Accommodation standards in Bolivia are a bit lower than in the rest of South America, but still, you should be able to find a room which suits your level of comfort and budget. Copacabana is a small town, and almost every hotel is within walking distance from the center.
Budget: Hostal Puerto Alegre - One of the cheapest hostels in the town, but with decent wifi, clean rooms and breakfast in the morning.
Mid-range: Hotel La Cupula - Are you looking for the best ratio of price and quality? You've just found it. This hotel offers spacious light rooms with great views.
Luxury: Hotel Rosario Lago Titicaca - If you came to enjoy splendid views of Lake Titicaca, you can't make mistake with this hotel.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
In the whole Bolivia, you probably won't find more important natural site than Lake Titicaca.
In Andean belief, Lake Titicaca is the birthplace of the Sun and one of many theories about the famous Inca Empire says, that Inca's came from Bolivia and Lake Titicaca to be precise. As the lake is also the biggest water surface in Bolivia, it has another significant meaning for this nation - it substitutes a sea Bolivia lost to Chile in the war in the 19th century.
Lake Titicaca is straddling between Peru and Bolivia, and it is a perfect opportunity for a country like Bolivia to have a tourist attraction of an international dimension within its borders.
The income from tourism can boost the economy in the otherwise impoverished country.
3 BEST THINGS TO DO ON LAKE TITICACA NEAR COPACABANA
We don't know if it is even possible to get overwhelmed by the incredibly blue and vast Lake Titicaca.
But to at least try it, we chose three activities we liked the most when in Copacabana and can promise you one thing.
You won't take your eyes off from Lake Titicaca for the whole time.
This is also why you came here for, right?
Cerro Calvario, towering over Copacabana town is the most popular spot to watch the sunset in the whole area. Because most of all days in Copacabana are sunny, a spectacular sunset is almost 100% guaranteed - and we haven't seen such beautiful sunsets (yes, we went twice) in many months.
To get to Cerro Calvario, you must cross the small square where all buses wait for passengers and carry on uphill for about 30 minutes until you reach the top with many crosses.
Here, you only have to find your place and wait for the show to begin.
Surely, there are more viewpoints from where you can watch the sunset, but this one is the most visited one, and although it might be a good idea to find an abandoned place without crowds, this time it might be wise to follow others because of the safety in the area after dark.
Although we haven't experienced any issues, there is no street lighting (bring a torch or fully charged the phone for the way back) and several strayed dogs, so it feels better not to walk alone.
HIKE BOLIVIAN COUNTRYSIDE FROM COPACABANA TO YAMPUPATA OR VICE VERSA
If you are looking for a physical activity in 3800 meters above sea level combined with excellent views on an almost deserted road, you've just found it.
The 17 kilometers long dirt road from Copacabana to Yampupata village leads through several small communities but more importantly offers unforgettable views of Lake Titicaca at every step.
We did not meet any other hikers on this path, only a couple of minivans running between those two villages.
The hike is quite long, especially when you take into account that the sun is incredibly strong here and there is almost no shade along the way, but the trail profile is almost flat with two or three short uphill sections.
Do not forget to take sunscreen, sunglasses, some snacks and plenty of water.
You can hike either from Copacabana to Yampupata or vice versa. We decided to take public transport to Yampupata first and walk back to Copacabana to make sure we will get there, although it seemed that vans go quite regularly from Yampupata to Copacabana either and you shouldn't have a problem to get back to the town from there.
The ride cost Bs 8 and take 45 minutes. In Copacabana, you can catch a minivan on the street behind the central market, it goes approximately every hour on an hour.
When taking public transport from Yampupata back to Copacabana, wait either by the pier or anywhere along the road.
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ISLA DEL SOL
Two hours boat ride from the mainland lies Isla del Sol alias Island of the Sun.
The island offers white beaches (although the water is freezing cold), crystal clear waters, several hiking trails, and last but not least, the laidback vibe of an island without motorized traffic which we believe you will appreciate after having spent a couple days in one of 'modern' South American cities.
Unfortunately, for the past year and a half, Isla del Sol struggles a bit because of a dispute between communities living on the North and the South.
Those communities are in fight because of an income from tourism, and this misunderstanding has resulted in the closure of the northern part. Before your visit, do not forget to check what part are you allowed to visit, but as of December 2018, the situation hasn't been solved yet.
The boat round trip cost Bs 30, and there are two ferries leaving from Copacabana at 8:30 AM and 1:30 PM. To get back, take a ferry either at 10 AM, 3 PM or 4 PM. Right after your arrival to Isla del Sol, you must pay Bs 10 entrance fee which serves as a contribution to the local community.
The highlights of our visit were definitely Inca stairs, a small ruin on the shore of the lake and a viewpoint from where we were able to see Lake Titicaca and snow-capped mountainous range in the distance.
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