While Copacabana may usually just be used as a gateway to Isle de Sol and the Peruvian town of Puno, this sleepy fisherman’s village really comes alive between the 2nd to the 5th of February each year during the Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaris.
During this time the town springs to life with song, dance and a lot of community drunkenness to celebrate the patron saint of Bolivia. For tourists, the pictures tell a thousand words about this fun, boozy and colourful festival.
The festival is truly an eye-opening experience at all levels. The best part of the day to see the festivities in full flight is between 12 – 2pm when there is an amazing dance parade through the streets of Copacabana. Of course the party continues until all hours of the night however, the locals are totally inebriated and don’t know their right from their left after about 7pm. Even during the hours of the parade, the wives would often have to put a drunken husband back into his place in the dancing line or even sit him down on the sidelines for a minute or two. At around 8pm at night when we were out to get dinner, the party had really taken a turn for the worse. We saw a lady, panties down around her angles peeing on the streets (thank god for the big skirts!) and a few couples having drunken arguments. The day had clearly gone on too long by this stage!
Even if you are not a particular fan of public intoxication, it is a great opportunity to get some photos of the locals in their traditional outfits. Usually, they are not a fan of tourists taking happy snaps in the streets of them and will even tell you off for doing so. On this day however, the locals couldn’t care less how many photos are taken and would likely even pose for a few snaps!
If you want to include this festival into your itinerary, despite the festival saying it lasted for several days, the most active part of the festival was on the first day, the 2nd of February so if you can plan your travel around this date, it is the most ideal.
For more general information on Copacabana, see our travel guide here.