Copacabana is a small town on the shores of Lake Titicaca. This picturesque little town perched above the lake has some attractions of its own. It is also the departure point for ferries to the nearby islands of Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna. We spent three days on our trip to Copacabana, including travelling there and back. Here are my picks for the Top 10 Things to do around Copacabana.
Although only 96 miles from La Paz, the journey incudes taking a ferry across Lake Titicaca (in addition to fighting your way out of La Paz traffic through the crazy traffic), thus takes around 4 hours. There are a variety of buses and tours options to Copacabana. We went on a shuttle organised by our hotel, which offered hotel to hotel pick up/drop off, departing La Paz at 8.30 am. The cost was $19 each way.
We also travelled with Vicuña Travel which departs from La Paz Bus Terminal for downtown Copacabana at 7.30 am. This costs $5.11 each way and doesn’t do the touristy stops en route. Buses terminate at Plaza Sucre and return to La Paz daily at 1.30 pm.
Upon reaching Tiquina, you must catch a ferry across the lake. It’s not how I imagine a ferry – basically it’s a raft. Loaded with two buses. It’s a bit of a Top Gear moment. The first time we visited, we remained on the raft with our vehicle. The second time, we had to disembark and take a passenger ferry.
Copacabana is very close to the Peruvian border, so another option is to continue on to Cuzco. We went with Transzela. The bus departs La Paz at 6 pm, arriving in Cuzco at 5.30 am (12.5 hours, including a stop at Puno) and costs $28.
Copacabana is small enough to rely on walking everywhere. The elevation is 3800 metres, so (certainly in my case) walking needs to be at a sedate pace.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Hostal las Olas. I have travelled to 74 countries – that’s a lot of hotels. Hostal las Olas rates as one of my all time favourites. It’s quirky and unique. The rooms are lovely, the gardens are beautiful and the view is spectacular.
Each ‘room’ is a separate dwelling, in a beautifully landscaped garden on a hill overlooking the lake and town. We had La Tortuga; a turtle shaped apartment complete with round bed and a second floor with hammocks and view of the lake.
There are llamas roaming the hotel grounds. One even gave birth while we were there.
|2||Horca del Inca|
|3||Basilica Virgen de Copacabana|
|4||Plaza 2 de Febrero|
|5||Capilla del Señor de la Cruz de Colquepata|
|7||Mirador de Usijata|
|8||Isla del Sol|
|9||Escalera del Inca|
No 1 – Lake Titicaca
At 3812 metres above sea level, Lake Tititcaca is the highest (navigable) Lake in the world. It also the largest lake in South America, with a total length of 190 kilometres. There is even a photo frame detailing the lakes dimensions for that all important selfie.
There is a walkway (Costañera) which runs along the lake shore for great views and great photos.
Although, to be honest, we got a pretty cool view of the lake from our hotel room.
No 2 – Horca del Inca
Horca del Inca is an ancient astronomical site on a hill just outside Copacabana. It is described by Google Maps as a 14 minute ‘mostly flat’ walk. It took us 45 minutes!
To reach the observatory requires climbing 389 steep stone steps (yes I counted!). Quite a tough ascent at over 3800m altitude, but worth it for the views.
No 3 – Basilica Virgen de Copacabana
In the centre of Copacabana is the Basilica Virgen de Copacabana. It’s a beautiful 17th century building with white walls decorated with blue tiles and topped with domed bronze roofs.
The basilica houses an Incan black Virgen de Candelaria statue. It was closed when we visited.
No 4 – Plaza 2 de Febrero
The main square adjoining the basilica has a pleasant little park.
The rest of the area is bustling with traders and market stalls.
No 5 – Capilla del Señor de la Cruz de Colquepata
The quaint, orange coloured Capilla del Señor de la Cruz de Colquepata (a name which just rolls off the tongue) marks the start of the Cerro Calvario.
No 6 – Cerro Calvario
From the Capilla del Señor, you can follow this trail which ascends a hill, via the 14 Stations of the Cross, to a viewpoint. It takes about 30 minutes to walk to the summit.
No 7 – Mirador de Usijata
On the outskirts of Copacabana, on the way into town is Mirador de Usijata for that exciting first glimpse of Copacabana nestled by the side of the lake.
No 8 – Isla del Sol
From the shores of Lake Titicaca on the edge of town, you can catch a ferry to Yumani on Isla del Sol, an island on the lake. The ferry, run by the Asociación Unión Marinos, departs at 8.30 am and 1.30 pm daily. (Returning at 10.30 am and 4 pm). The 90 minute journey costs 40 bolivianos return. It costs a further 10 bolivianos to land on the island.
No 9 – Escalera del Inca
Once on the Isla del Sol, you can the Escalera del Inca, a kilometre long stretch of steps lined with touristy stuff. Access to the Escalera costs 10 bolivianos.
Not much remains of the ancient observatory, but the climb is worth it for the view across the lake (I think). Entry to the site costs 10 bolivianos.
No 10 – Huatajata
Not strictly in Copacabana, but across the lake on the way to/from La Paz. At Huatajata they construct ships out of papyrus reed. Here, the ship used by explorer Thor Heyerdal on his Kon-Tiki expedition was built. You can buy a replica if that sort of thing floats your boat, as it were.
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