The lakeside town of Copacabana Bolivia is nestled between two hills facing the world’s highest navigable body of water, Lake Titicaca. Often only used as a stopover for travelers from Puno (Peru) to Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. For the curious traveler, Copacabana is worth more than a couple day’s stop and should be explored.
1. Hike to the hilltop of Cerro Calvario
The Cerro Calvario, or Stations of the Cross, is used for meditation by devout Catholics. The cross, which is visible on the waterfront, sits on top of a hill overlooking the Copacabana waterfront and Lake Titicaca. While it may not look daunting at first, you’ll soon breathe heavily and be grasping onto each molecule of oxygen as you try to make your way up. Lake Titicaca’s surface elevation sits at 12,507 feet (3,812 meters).
The hike up the Cerro Calvario requires a Herculean effort if you haven’t acclimated, but you should be able to manage it. Just take your time and walk at a manageable pace. The views at the top are worthwhile. If you make your way up late you can avoid the crowds and the annoying hawkers and catch a breathtaking sunset.
2. Chill at the Waterfront
Lake Titicaca has a vast volume of water spread out in such expanse it feels like you’re in an ocean instead of a lake. The views of the waterfront are stunning and relaxed. Feels like a beach and packed with restaurants, bars, and street various street vendors selling trinkets. In the summer, the water is warm enough for a swim but you can chill at a beachfront bar with a cold Cerveza or pisco sour.
A lot of the restaurants advertise “Free Wi-Fi” but only a few have it. I think it’s a ploy to get customers to go into the restaurant. Test it out before you order something and move on if it doesn’t. If you are traveling with kids in Lake Titicaca, check out my this cool guide from my friends at The Wandering Wagars: What To See At Lake Titicaca With Kids.
3. Try the Trucha (Salmon Trout)
It’s served at every single restaurant on the waterfront. It’s fished and caught fresh from the lake. Trucha is Spanish for trout and it’s plentiful in Lake Titicaca. There are several versions of the dish. You can have it grilled, fried, or sautéed. My favorite is Trucha à la Diabla. It’s trout sautéed with onions, tomatoes, and spices. The dish comes with fries, rice, and salad. It’s also cheap. You’ll only pay $3 per meal.
4. Visit the Sun (Sol) and Moon (Luna) Islands
There are several tourist sales offices in the center of town where you can book a day or overnight on the Isla Del Sol or Isla de la Luna. The islands are small but full of character. You can hike the entire circumference of each island in less than 4 hours. There are plenty of prehistoric ruins to discover and it’s just plain fun exploring the little islands.
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You’ll need plenty of cash. Several stores and vendors operate in the islands but they close early and have inflated prices. There’s a restaurant at the top of Isla Del Sol, called Las Vellas that offer vegetarian pizza. The views are magnificent and worth checking out.
5. Check out the Basilica
While it’s surrounded by the local market in the center of town, it’s hard to miss the Basilica. There’s a Moorish look to its architecture it feels like it doesn’t belong in the town. Ornate gold and silver accents cover the most elegant structure in all of Copacabana. The Basilica is dedicated to the patron saint of Bolivia, the Virgen de Copacabana.
6. Take a Stroll in the Avenida 6 de Agosto
This is the main street in Copacabana. Here you’ll find Cafes, bars, and restaurant of all sorts. You can’t miss it. It’s not for the faint of heart but still worth the experience. Why? There’s a bunch of aggressive hawkers shoving their restaurant’s menus at your faces trying to usher you into their restaurant. Most of this is in the lower half of the street and it mellows down as you make your way up towards the Cathedral where there are fewer restaurants and more vendors selling fruits and local produce.
It won’t take long before you’ll notice that there’s a lot of trash everywhere. Littering is just something of the ordinary here so don’t let it bother you. There are also a lot of aggressive hawkers, peddlers, and vendors. They’ll get up on your face trying to get you to spend money on something worthless. They’re very aggressive and persistent to where they become annoying. Avoid eye contact and learn to say, “No, gracias!” and move on. Aside from that, Copacabana is a beautiful place.
Can’t find good coffee in Bolivia? You can find it at the El Condor & the Eagle Cafe which is an Irish restaurant owned by an Irish guy who married a Bolivian. It’s the strangest place to find an Irish restaurant but it’s by far one the best restaurant in the Avenida 6 de Agosto.
GETTING TO COPACABANA BOLIVIA
- Take care of your Visa requirements prior to entry to Bolivia. American’s have it harder to get into Bolivia.
- The closest airports are in Juliaca, Peru and El Alto in La Paz.
- From Peru, there are buses from Puno to Copacabana. It takes about 4 hours with about an hour spent sorting out your visa at the border. From La Paz, there’s a bus at the cemetery terminal. It will cross Tiquina Strait on a ferry and takes about 4 hours. Beware, pickpocketing is rampant here. Keep an eye on your valuables at all times.
- The Avenida 6 de Agostofunnels down to the waterfront town’s central square, Plaza 2 de Febrero.
- Brings lots of cash. Credit cards aren’t widely used.