Copacabana Bolivia is a popular stop off on the South America backpacking trail. Particularly for those travelling overland from Peru to Bolivia, or visa versa. And for good reason.
Nestled between two hills facing one of the world’s most beautiful lakes, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana has got views. And then some.
And whilst the main streets and pier are rather rather touristy, it’s very easy to get off the beaten path.
Because most visitors just use Copacabana Bolivia as a base for exploring the nearby sacred Incan archaeological sites on Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna, you’ll likely have many of the sights to yourself.
And if you’re wondering in general is Lake Titicaca worth it? Yes. Yes it blooming well is!
What To Do In Copacabana Bolivia
Our recommendation when it comes to Copacabana Bolivia is to stay at least a couple of nights and do some exploring. Because trust us, as soon as you see some of the viewpoints of Lake Titicaca Copacabana in this guide, you’ll understand why.
Here’s our rundown of all the best things to do in Copacabana Bolivia, plus information on how to get there, where to stay in Copacabana Bolivia and lots of helpful travel tips.
How To Get To Copacabana Bolivia
Lake Titicaca straddles Bolivia and Peru with the border crossing at Kasani providing either entrance or exit to these South American countries for many. The border offices are notoriously slow so have all your necessary visa documents in order to avoid further delays.
For this route you should take an international bus. An easy and popular option is either the Bolivia Hop or Peru Hop depending on which side of Lake Titicaca you are coming from.
The cost is dependent upon how many stops you want to make along any given route. Puno on the Peru side is around 4 hours from Copacabana in Bolivia, and most people hit that up first. But buses do go onto Arequipa and Cusco too. And visa versa.
The journey from La Paz, Bolivia, is an easy one and takes around 4-5 hours with a stop at the Tiquina Strait. This is where the road meets water and you need to jump on a ferry.
You will need to get out of the vehicle to cross on a passenger boat while the vehicle goes across separately. Don’t forget to take your smaller backpack and valuables with you. And don’t mess about at the other end because driver likely won’t check that you’re onboard.
You can read our full guide on how to get to Copacabana from La Paz here.
Where To Stay In Copacabana
Copacabana is a very popular destination for both foreign and Bolivian visitors – we’ll get the reason for the next.
But as a result, the best accommodation tends to get booked up in advance. We missed out on our top choice because we left it too late, so don’t get caught out like us, book now.
Here’s our top picks of where to stay in Copacabana Bolivia:
Affordable Luxury: We have two recommendations if you’re looking for a touch of luxury. Both of these get booked up well in advance, so if you don’t have any luck with one you can try the other.
They’re virtually next to each other on the Copacabana hillside and both are stunning to look at. But that’s not where it ends, they’re also the highest rated properties and hands down the best hotels in Copacabana Bolivia.
Ecolodge Las Olas is one of the most unique looking hotels we’ve ever seen. The buildings are all kinds of weird and wonderful shapes, from seashells to little pixie houses. All rooms come with lake views and private bathrooms. This is the number one hotel in Copacabana.
La Cupula comes in a very close second best. The gorgeous rooms inside these white mediterranean-style domes have huge views and the suites even have indoor fire for the chilly nights. Plus the private gardens with llama lawnmowers are a great place to kick back.
Midrange: At Hostal Piedra Andina each room has a patio boasting garden views, and being slightly out of town means it’s super tranquil. Chill in a hammock overlooking the lake for out of this world views and enjoy an awesome huge breakfast selection included in the price.
Cheap and Cheerful: If you like to be in the centre of the action then Hostal La Casa del Sol is your place. It’s just a couple hundred metres away from many of Copacabana’s main attractions.
The bright rooms all come with private bathrooms while the gorgeous terrace provides the perfect place to chill and hang out. For sure one of the best Copacabana Bolivia hostels.
Lake Titicaca Bolivia
At 3810 meters above sea level, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable body of water. Stretching over 190km, it is also the largest freshwater lake in South America and is hugely significant for Bolivians.
This is because it substitutes the sea that Bolivia lost to Chile in the 19th Century War of the Pacific. And despite being landlocked Bolivia doe actually have a navy. You might even see them patrolling the border of Lake Titicaca Bolivia.
Maritime mourning is set deep within the national psyche of Bolivia and each year on the 23rd of March the nation grieves the historical injustice of losing the sea.
As a foreigner seeing this vast expanse of water for the first time you’d be forgiven for thinking that Lake Titicaca Bolivia is an actual sea. It really is that massive and just looks as though it goes on forever.
Most people who live around Lake Titicaca in Bolivia are of the Andean indigeous community of Aimara people. And for them the landscape has has even deeper connection.
You see in Andean belief Lake Titicaca was the birthplace of the sun. They believe this is is quite literally where the world began. Furthermore, it is also believed that the famous Inca Empire started right here in Lake Titicaca Bolivia on the Isla del Sol.
The primary language spoken around the basin of Lake Titicaca and stretching across into Northern Chile is Aymara. And while many people do speak Spanish, the Aymara language and unique culture is understandably very important around these parts.
The name of Copacabana comes from the Aymara language ‘Kota Kawana’. Which literally means ‘view of the lake’.
As part of the Spanish colonisation, their religion of Catholicism was pushed upon the ingenious people of Bolivia and missionaries turned Copacabana into a pilgrimage site. The religion that exists today is kind of a mix of different beliefs. A little more on that next.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of the Aymara culture and Catholic missionaries, Catechizing Culture: Missionaries, Aymara, and the “New Evangelization” by Andrew Orta is a good read. Click here to check it out.
Things To Do In Copacabana Bolivia
The Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana
Or Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Copacabana as it is known in Spanish, is a 16th century colonial shrine. It’s situated on Plaza 2 de Febrero and is impossible to miss because it’s bright white and so huge it takes up a whole block.
Inside is a 15th century statue of the Virgen de Copacabana. The Virgin is the Patron Saint of Bolivia and is an emblem of the mix of Catholicism and Andean cultures. She is said to be responsible for countless miracles throughout history.
So she’s a big deal and is celebrated across the whole of South America. It’s said that if she is ever removed from the Basilica, Lake Titicaca will rise up in rebellion and flood Copacabana.
It’s free to go inside the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana and it’s open every day, except Sundays. That’s reserved for mass and baptisms.
The Virgin is situated on a mechanical turnstile so depending on which day you visit you will go through a different side of the basilica to greet her.
It’s always busy around this area, but nothing compared to the Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria which is held every 2nd-5th February. The largest pilgrimage in Bolivia, every year thousands descend on the town. With some pilgrims even walking the 150km from La Paz.
Car Blessing Ceremony
As soon as you arrive Copacabana you’ll likely see the products of this. That is cars and minivans elaborately decorated with flowers, ribbons and even hats!
And that’s because it’s a Bolivian tradition that when you buy a new car, your first road trip must be to Copacabana to have it blessed for safe future journeys.
So everyday from 10am to 2pm in front of The Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana you’ll find a queue of dressed up cars with their families waiting to be blessed.
People come from all over Bolivia (and even Peru) with this sole ambition of receiving the protection of the Patron Saint of Bolivia. It’s an unusual and curious going on and definitely the most visually fascinating things to do in Copacabana Bolivia.
The priest throws holy water over the outside of the vehicle, the engine, the wheels and the seats inside. And then the owner and passengers. After that it’s time for a photograph with the priest and the family in front of the car.
Then it’s time for the vehicle to be dosed in beer, champagne or coca cola to quench the thirst of Pachamama. Good for miracles – not so much the paintwork I imagine!
Although once you’ve travelled anyway in a vehicle in Bolivia the irony of the whole process won’t be lost on you. And that’s because most Bolivians drive like absolute nutters.
But it appears that the divine protection of the Patron Saint of Bolivia holds more credence than driving at safe speed limits, staying on the right side of the road or wearing seatbelts.
There’s definitely been a few prayers (and swear words) said on our journeys across Bolivia!
Copacabana Bolivia Altitude
Okay now onto some of the more active things to do in Copacabana, but first a safety note.
When you read about it, it’s just a number, but the altitude in this part of the world is serious business. Especially when you first arrive.
Even if you don’t suffer from altitude sickness as such, unless you are used to being at such a high altitude you will still likely have some symptoms. Short of breath and dizziness being the most common.
So for this reason it’s important to let your body acclimatize to the Copacabana Bolivia altitude. Take any physical activities at a steady pace. Drink plenty of fluids and take some paracetamol. Or try the local remedy of drinking coca tea and chewing on coca leaves.
Just don’t take the coca leaves out of the country as they illegal everywhere except Bolivia!
And make sure you have good travel insurance for if you have any more serious symptoms and require medical treatment. We recommend World Nomads – get a quote here.
Copacabana Bolivia Things To Do
The Cerro Calvario or Stations of the Cross as it is otherwise known is also an important pilgrimage site within Copacabana. The crosses were built on the hill in the 1950’s.
It’s used for meditation by devout Catholics and also a place where Pachamama, the main Aymara goddess hears prayers. Otherwise known as MotherEarth she’s also a huge deal.
Cerro Calvario is another example of the fusion of Aymara culture and Catholicism.
You can burn a candle, coloured different for different wishes. We burnt a pink one for good luck and a green one for business. There will likely be a few witch doctors knocking about too providing consultations and blessing miniature objects of whatever people desire.
But even if you aren’t too much interested in the religious aspect of this popular spot in Copacabana Bolivia, there are alternative draws.
The magnificent views and sunset.
And if you only do one of the things to do in Copacabana Bolivia, it should probably be this.
It’s a 30-40 minute uphill struggle in the altitude. The name Cerro Calvario aptly meaning ‘The Suffering Hill’. But the reward is more than worth the effort. And there’s usually plenty of space to enjoy mother nature’s show of an evening over the horseshoe bay of Copacabana.
There are two routes, one a paved path and the other more of a scramble. We’d recommend going up the more difficult way. From the end of Calle Jáuregui and Avenida Costanera. Just because it’s bitch to find your way after sunset.
And then come back down the easier way onto the end of Calle San Antonio. It is still a little difficult in places as there are no street lamps. So have your phone charged or take a torch.
Although they’re not the most stylish pieces of travel gear, we use head torches for hiking in low light so we have our hands free. These lightweight, waterproof ones are the what we recommend.
When travelling in Bolivia we also recommend packing a lightweight down jacket as an essential. Because of the altitude the temperatures drop rapidly as soon as the sun sets so it’s always a good idea to have one to hand.
These are our recommended options.
Horca del Inca
This Copacabana viewpoint was our favourite. And the vista is equally as impressive. It’s also another one of the sacred sites in Copacabana Bolivia.
As an ancient form of an astronomical observatory, it is thought early Inca civilizations carved the holes and marks that you will see in the huge rocks so that the sun would form different shadow patterns on the ground.
You likely won’t find too many people up at Horca del Inca and might even be lucky enough to have the whole place to yourself.
Horca del Inca should be high on your list of what to do in Copacabana Bolivia.
Except during the June solstice which is the Aymara New Year. During that time Aymara people hike up to use the rock projections to predict whether the coming year will bring a prosperous harvest with it.
If you go up Horca del Inca during that time look out for cocoa leaves and incense tucked into rock crevices. These are offerings to Pachmama that Aimara people place there.
It will take you 20-30 minutes to climb up, depending on how high you go and how you’re faring with the Copacabana Bolivia altitude. There’s a ticket office part way up and you’ll need to pay a $10 BOB ($1.50 USD / £1.20 GBP) entrance free.
Lake Titicaca Bolivia Side
Hike To Yampupata
Okay let’s ramp up the adventure stakes with this next itinerary suggestion for what to do in Copacabana Bolivia. Yampupata is a village in the countryside surrounding Copacabana and the 17 kilometre hike there takes you truly off the beaten path.
It’s a beautiful verdant adventure that takes you right along the edge of Copacabana Lake Titicaca Bolivia.
The terrain isn’t too difficult, it’s more or less flat with just a few short uphill sections. But again due to the altitude it can get pretty challenging. There’s also no shade and being so much closer to it, makes that big ball of fire in the sky seriously strong.
There are many toiletries that it’s easier to buy as you go when travelling. But sunscreen is one we never take a chance on.
First of all, it’s expensive in South America. But second of all, you can never be quite sure of the quality. We personally always pack a couple of bottles of Pizbuin because it’s affordable and widely trusted. Get yours here.
And don’t forget to drink plenty of water. The great thing about Copacabana Lake Titicaca not being salt water is that you can drink the water. That is if you have a filter water bottle. There’s quite a few spots where you can fill up, saving you having to carry unnecessary extra weight.
There did seem to be quite a few minivans operating up and down the route, but we would recommend taking a minivan there and walking back. Rather than the other way round. The ride should cost around $8 BOB ($1.20 USD / £1 GBP) and takes 45 minutes.
You won’t meet many along the hike, other than the local quinoa farmers or the odd donkey. So it’s a seriously peaceful way to spend the day. Minus the huffing and puffing! Yampupata is also completely different to touristy Copacabana.
It is also possible to take a boat directly from Yampupata Isla del Sol, but you will need to check locally for times before setting off because they change seasonally.
This is a new addition to things to do in Copacabana Bolivia. In fact, the show we caught was the very first one that had been held in the town so we’re not sure of the frequency ongoing.
To be honest we were pretty sceptical about it. After seeing them advertised in La Paz, we had the opinion that the shows were probably taking advantage of indigenous Bolivian culture for the sake of entertaining foreign tourists.
But as it turned out, most people that came to watch it were indigenous Bolivians. And they bloody loved it! Especially the kids. It was like a local pantomime with the crows booing and jeering at ‘bad guys’.
Not that we know jack all about wrestling, but the characters were pulling out what looked like some genuine proper wrestling moves.
So yeah if you get a chance to see the Cholita Wrestling while in Copacabana Bolivia it will make for a couple of hours of entertainment. Of the more unusual kind anyhow.
Things to do in Lake Titicaca
Sure the waterfront right at the bottom of the main drag with all it souvenir shops and tourist touts isn’t the prettiest. A few too many inflatables and pedalos blocking the view for our liking.
But walk along and you’ll find some better views and quieter vibes.
There’s a few kioskos to stop and buy a cold beer at to enjoy with the views. Being so close to Peru, you’ll have your pick of Bolivian or Peruvian beers too.
During the summer people do swim in the water but I wouldn’t fancy it much in the winter.
There’s also a tonne of identical small fish restaurants running all along too. More on that in the what to eat section that’s coming up.
There are some ‘floating islands’ that you can take a boat to or walk to if you head north towards the village Yampupata. But we wouldn’t recommend them. They are marketed as authentic local experience where you can catch your own trout for dinner.
But in reality it’s just a tourist trap and nothing more than a few pallets covered in straw. If you are heading to Peru and Puno you are far better going to the Uros floating islands there.
Isla del Sol
You simply can’t visit Copacabana Bolivia without taking a trip to at least the Isla del Sol.
After all it’s the sole reason many travellers come to this part of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia!
It simply has to be on your itinerary for what to do in Copacabana Bolivia.
It takes around 2 hours to get there so you can go on a day trip. But having spent 5 days exploring the gorgeous Isla del Sol, we feel confident in telling you that if you will immediately regret only going on a day trip.
Of course if you only have one day, don’t not go. We’re just saying if you have the time to spend longer, do so.
We won’t go into too much detail here, because we have a complete seperate guide on Isla del Sol.
You can also visit the smaller Isla del Luna too on one of the Lake Titicaca Bolivia tours.
But in a nutshell you can expect white beaches, crystal clear waters, no traffic because there aren’t any motorised vehicles, a beautiful indeginous culture and lots of seriously pretty hiking routes.
We didn’t even have any idea that these kind of Bolivia beaches existed until we came here.
Oh and don’t believe what you read online or hear locally in Copacabana Titicaca or on the south of Isla del Sol about it not being permitted to visit the north.
You can totally go. And it is not dangerous. At all. Just a little more difficult.
We stayed in the north of Isla del Sol and it’s even prettier that the South. Plus way more peaceful, the people are so much friendlier and the Inca ruins up there are just on another level compared to the south.
What To Eat In Copacabana
Or trout to give it it’s English name. And will likely never see as much of it as you will in Copacabana Bolivia. It is everywhere! And it’s delicious too.
You get it all along the waterfront at those identical restaurants I mentioned above. They all have pretty much exactly the same menu. So just pick one that’s busy or you like the look of.
We recommend the Trucha con Ajo (Trout with garlic) or the Trucha a la Diabla (Trout with a spicy tomato sauce). The cost of a plate is $30 BOB ($4.50 USD / £3.50 GBP).
Alternatively you can get Trucha with the lunchtime menus in Mercado Copacabana. Just near Plaza 2 de Febrero. It’s a bit more rough and ready, as markets in Bolivia tend to be but we ate here a couple of times and really enjoyed the atmosphere and the food.
Plus it’s a bit cheaper at $20 BOB ($3 USD / £2.50 GBP) instead. Plus you get two courses. Go hungry though because it’s a lot of food.
A popular snack throughout South America, especially at breakfast time, you have to try these deep fried treat while in Copacabana Bolivia.
And the place to do so is in Mercado Copacabana. Separate to main lunchtime bit you’ll find drinks stalls with seats around the edges and a couple of buñelos stalls in the middle cooking up them up.
They are seriously cheap, we paid $12 BOB ($1.75 USD / £1.50 GBP) for 6 of these delicious bad boys. Just grab a plate of them & sit yourself down at one of the tables to order a drink.
If you haven’t had it before we recommend trying the Api. Made from purple maize, cinnamon, water and sugar, it’s quite heavy but delicious and really popular in Bolivia.
You’ll see these giant puffs of corn everywhere. And again if you’ve never tried it before you totally should. They are coated in sugar and while not as crunchy as ‘standard’ popcorn they are just as morish.
Back on the menu again for what to eat in Copacabana Bolivia it’s more fish. But this time ceviche. We were more cautious about eating this, because ya know, raw fish. But we just made sure we went early in the day and picked a busy stall.
The one we went to was in Plaza Sucre. The ceviche was delicious, nice and spicy, and we were totally fine. Expect to pay around $15 BOB ($2.20 USD / £1.80 GBP) for a small bowl.
Speaking of getting ill, a lot of visitors do seem to get ill while in Bolivia. Personally we think probably due to the altitude rather than the food. But there’s one thing for sure, you definitely can’t drink the tap water.
In restaurants and bars the water they serve you will be bottled. And the ice cubes made from filtered water. So there’s no need to be one of those over cautious fannies piling ice out of their cocktail onto a napkin.
But outside of that the best thing you can do is nab yourself a filter water bottle before you travel.
This are the ones we use. They are fab and we have never gotten sick from drinking water from them. Even when sourced from a lake, a puddle or a tap in a skanky public bathroom.
Copacabana Bolivia weather
The best time to visit Copacabana Bolivia weather wise is October and November. The temperatures are at their highest around 14-16°C (57-61°F) and the rainfall isn’t too much.
December through March are also warm but being a tropical climate, there are some mega thunder storms at this time of year.
As mentioned above, because of the altitude the sun is seriously strong during the day. Even over the winter months. And as soon as it goes down, the temperature gets seriously cool.
Best Travel Insurance for Bolivia
Whilst the country as a whole and especially Copacabana is very safe to travel around, Bolivia has some of the worst safety standards in South America.
We’ve already mentioned the driving but it’s no secret that Bolivia is a relatively poor country. And this translates into the infrastructure and available facilities.
As a westen traveller, you will often be quite far away from the standard of medical you are used to. So do make sure that you have a good travel insurance in place should you need it.
Our go to travel insurance provider is World Nomads. Simply because they have a no bullshit approach to policy wording and cover a tonne of adventurous activities as standard.
And just in case you have set off without it, they are one of the only few travel insurance providers that you can buy a policy from while on the road. Get a no obligation quote here:
We’ve tried to pack this guide to what to do in Copacabana Bolivia with as much information as possible. But sometimes there’s just no substitute to having a good old fashioned guide book to hand.
We certainly think so anyway and always have one with us.
Here’s the pick of the bunch for Bolivia.