Copacabana, not to be confused with the famous beach in Rio is located on Titicaca Lake in Bolivia. If you are in Peru, an alternative place to access lake Titicaca is the town of Puno. With not all that much to do other than kick back and enjoy this lakeside town, most travellers plan a visit to Isle de Sol otherwise known as the Sun Island to make the trek through inca ruins from the north to south.
Things to do
Visit the Copacabana Cathedral
The Copacabana Cathedral is a very interesting, moorish style church located in the Centre of Copacabana. The architecture of the church is very interesting and there is a quaint park adjacent to the Cathedral which are worthwhile to explore.
Take a boat to Isle de Sol
Probably the most popular thing to do from Copacabana is to visit Isle de Sol, a beautiful island to relax and just watch the world go by. The Inca legend is that Viracocha’s children sprung out of the water to find Cuzco. If you intend to stay the night & hike the next day north to south, leave your big bags in luggage storage at your hotel in Copacabana. You can get a boat to either the north or the south part of Isle de Sol. The north is further away and costs 20 bob as opposed to 15 bob to get to the south. This is the best deal that we found and different operators will quote different prices. There are many operators in town that sell these tickets with clearly displayed signs. Surprisingly, the vendor closest to the boat terminal offered the highest prices. If you wish to stay the night at Isle de Sol, the return journey is 10 bob more as you are stranded on the island and the locals can charge as they please. It takes 1.5 hours to get to the south and 2 hours to get to the north part of the island. The boats are very very crowded and you begin to wonder whether they would meet basic safety requirements. Still, we survived to tell the tale!
We chose to go to the North part of the island as the traditional route is to hike from the north to the south of the island. When we arrived at the island, you had to pay 15 bob entry fee. There is a 15 bob entry fee to the south and north part of the island and a 10 bob entry fee to the central part. Some South Americans tried to argue their way out of this fee to no avail.
You can purchase a room on the internet for Isle de Sol but it is more pricey. Many locals will approach you as you exit the boat to sell you rooms at bargain basement prices. We scored a private room with a nice clean shared bathroom for 50 bob (Our cheapest room in south america!) If you wanted a private bathroom, it will cost around 100 bob. Alternatively, if you have a tent you can camp on the beach for free on the North part of the island!! A lot of people took advantage of this opportunity. There are toilets you can pay to use on the beach but there are no showers. If you chose to stay in the South part of the island, there is a steep climb from the pier to the town of Yumani where the accomodation is.
The island is what you imagine living to be like in the 1900’s, very old fashioned, with farmers self herding their cows, pigs and donkeys around the island and people living in very modest constructions. This too means that there is generally no internet! If you are desperate we did see a cafe or two with wifi advertised but I imagine the internet to be very slow. If internet is a big thing for you, the South part of the island also has internet in the accommodations.
The food on the island is a little more expensive than Copacabana and we saw a lot of young backpackers bringing supplies over with them on the boat. In saying this, the island is still very cheap by western standards. You can buy the most delicious empanada for 5 BOB, a bottle of wine for 25 BOB, a banana for 1 BOB, a sandwiches for 10 BOB or a freshly squeezed juice for 10 BOB as some examples of the price of food.
One of the most popular things to do on the island is to hike from the north to the south part of the island. The hike takes around 4 hours. We attempted doing this hike, setting off early at 8.00am. After about an hour and a half of walking in blistering heat we came to a dead end and realised we took the wrong path. We turned back and subsequently realised we hiked to the most northern part of the island as opposed to the south. We did however, see fantastic Inca ruins on this journey and enjoyed some fantastic views!
Food in Copacabana
Food in Copacabana is very cheap, much like the rest of Bolivia with a little less variety than La Paz. You can get a large main meal from between 10 – 20 bob in a family restaurant. During our time in Copacabana, we regularly frequented Restaurant Avaroa, a family run establishment where you can get a delicious soup followed by a main meal for only 10 bob (what a bargain!). This restaurant is popular with locals and tourists alike.
Where to stay in Copacabana?
We stayed at Hostal Olas, a cheap and clean but basic place with a private bathroom and breakfast included. We paid 120 Bolivianos for the night in this hostel.
Getting to/from Copacabana
La Paz – You can get to Copacabana direct from La Paz for 35 Bolivianos from the bus terminal or buy the tourist transfer that picks you up at your hotel for 40 Bolivianos pp. We booked our transfer with Diana Tours. If you wish to go the other way, we saw many collectivos offering this route.
Puno – If you want to go to Puno from Copacabana, the best price we saw was 30 Bolivianos per person.
Cusco – If you want to go to Cusco from Copacabana, you can get an overnight bus. The cheapest semi-cama seats cost 120 Bolivianos and the upgraded cama-seats cost 160 Bolivianos. If you want the cama seats, be sure to purchase the tickets a few days in advance.