- For other places with the same name, see Copacabana (disambiguation).
Copacabana is a small town located on the Bolivian shore of Lake Titicaca. Situated relatively close to the capital of La Paz, it's a popular resort destination for foreign travellers and locals alike.
This is the original Copacabana -- actually lending its name to the beach in Rio de Janeiro. The name derives from the Aymara kota kawana, meaning "view of the lake", and the region was revered by the Inca even before the Spaniards built their chapel of the Virgin and turned it into a Catholic pilgrimage site.
The town's central square is Plaza 2 de Febrero, and from there Avenida 6 de Agosto slides down to the lakeside. It's packed with souvenir shops, hostels, and restaurants, largely catering to foreign tourists. Avenida Jaregui one block north has a more local feel, with street markets and grocery stores.
Local buses leave from La Paz cemetery terminal, while tourist buses leave from the main terminal; the fare is around Bs25 and travel time is 3-1/2 hours. At the Tiquina Strait, you get off the bus and take a quick ferry ride (Bs2) to pick up the bus (which is ferried across by barge) on the other side. Buses arrive in Copacabana at Plaza 2 de Febrero and leave from Plaza Sucre.
Buses also leave from Puno in Peru, and take roughly the same 3-1/2 hours to arrive in Copacabana; half an hour is typically spent at the border, just 5 miles south of Copacabana.
If you take a bus from Cusco to Puno, be aware that the saleswomen on the counters will be dishonest and tell you anything just to sell you a ticket! If you want to travel during the day from Cusco to Copacabana, you will need to spend the night in Puno, no matter what the bus companies tell you! The bus from Cusco to Puno arrives in Puno between 3-4PM. The buses from Puno to Copacabana leave ONLY at 7:30AM and 2:30PM. There are three companies leaving Cusco at 10.00 pm. In all three options you have to change bus in Puno! All of them arrive around 6.00 am in Puno, the bus on to Copacabana leaves at 7.30AM. Vans and/or shared cabs leave for the Peruvian border from Plaza Sucre as soon as they fill up. 3 Bs, 30 minutes. From the border to the Peruvian town of Yungani its about 2 km, 1 Sol by van. From Yungani to Puno buses and vans leave several times every hour, 5 Soles. This way is somewhat slower and less comfortable, but cheaper, than direct buses.
It is possible to get to/from Sorata without going back to La Paz. Get on a La Paz bound bus/minibus/micro from either town, tell the driver you wish to go to Sorata/Copacabana and you will be dropped off at the small lakeside town of Huarina (2 hours from La Paz). Cross the road and wait for a Sorata/Copacabana bound bus/minibus with space to pass. They should honk their horn if they have space and see people waiting, but it wouldn't hurt to keep an eye out and flag one down if you see it first. Best to get started early as you may have a bit of a wait at Huarina - it should still be quicker than going all the way to La Paz then 2 hours back in the same direction though.
The town is quite small, so taxis are hardly needed. From 2 de Febrero, you can hire pedicabs to carry luggage to your hotel.
- Copacabana Cathedral, completed in 1619, is one of the oldest churches in Bolivia and is a fine example of Moorish style architecture. (The current structure dates to 1805.) It houses the statue of La Virgen de la Candelaria (also called the "Dark Virgin"), reputed to have miraculous healing powers. The original statue was carved from cactus in 1583 by Francisco Tito Yupanqui, nephew of Inca emperor Huayna Capac. It has made the church Bolivia's most revered pilgrimage site, and its reputation traveled far and wide in its time, even leading someone to create a replica and build a chapel for it on a beach in Brazil...
- Museo del Poncho, Tito Yupanqui street # 42 (Walk down the main av. until you reach the beach, turn to your right and walk one block, turn to your right again and 50 feet from you'll find it). 10.30 - 17.00. The Museo del Poncho exhibits a broad variety of weavings and clothing from Andean communities; particular pieces that are part of the male attire. It shows how the poncho is more than just a piece of clothing, but a symbol of identity, social status, authority and so much more. Bs 15.
The imposing hill of Cerro Calvario overlooks the town from the north end of the beach, and it's a moderately strenuous 30-minute climb. There are fourteen stations of the cross along the way, where you may want to stop and pray for stronger legs and lungs. The best time to go is around sunset, and hope the weather cooperates. Be prepared that there are tons of trash on the top of the hill!
On the other end of the shore are two hills with ancient Inca ruins.
Lots of stores and shops line the Avenida 6 de Agosto selling local handicrafts, alpaca wool garments and lots of hippies sell jewelry on the streets.
The Spitting Llama Bookstore and Outfitter has a huge book exchange, lots of maps, free tourist info, and new Lonely Planet guidebooks. They also sell and rent a full range of camping and travel gear. They are open 7 days a week 9AM-7PM. English is spoken. Tel: 2-2599073
There is one well guarded bank in Copacabana on Avenida 6 de Agosto, between Plaza 2 de Febrero and the cathedral, with an ATM that only supports cards issued by the bank itself. However, it is possible to withdraw money from ATM machines inside; bring your passport for identification.
There are several cambistas changing dollars, euros or Peruvian soles, but with poor rates. Prodem also change dollars for a better rate and gives cash advances on VISA and mastercard creditcards.
(13\01\12)There is an Atm that accepts foreign cards on Avenida 6 de Agosto near the top.
The one and only culinary specialty is trucha, or salmon trout, fished from the lake. Practically every single restaurant serves it, and there's a long row of identical stalls on the beach. Many places also serve pizza and pasta, presumably for those who've had enough (or don't like) fish.
- El Condor and the Eagle Cafe, Av. 6 de Agosto is a Bolivian-Irish owned cafe, probably the best place in town to have a coffee and breakfast. Free Wi-Fi. It is inside Residencial Paris. Open from 07:00 to 14:30, closed on Weekends.
- Pueblo Viejo, Av. 6 de Agosto. They have a real espresso machine. Friendly and helpful (free tour guide!) English-speaking owner. Live music at nights.
- Pachamama, Av. 6 de Agosto
- Mankha Uta, Av. 6 de Agosto
- Kala Uta, Av. 6 de Agosto
- Sujna Wasi, Av. Jaregui
- La Nimbo
- Kota Kauhaña, e-mail: email@example.com. The most expensive restaurant in town and dinner is under US$10. Located inside the Hotel Rosario del Lago.
- Cafe Bistrót, Av 6 de agosto. Very tasty Bolivian-International fusion food. Amazing Thai Curry. Owned by the friendly Bolivian Fatima who speaks French, English and Spanish. Bs20-35.
Av. 6 de Agosto has enough hostels and inexpensive hotels to accommodate hordes of backpackers.
- Hospedaje Aroma, Jáuregui & Destacamento. Basic but seriously cheap. Try to get a room on the top floor, the views there are great. Price Bs.10.Update Oct 2014: 15B per person, just room, not even an electric socket. Use of shower is 5B extra. Luggage storage only up to 12noon on the check out date. No choice of rooms.
- Hospedaje Las Playas, Near the dock on 6 Agosto, next to KM Zero Restaurant & Bar. Twin room 15B per person with hot shower and Wi-Fi (limited time, expect no more than 2 hours a day, and you have to tell them to switch on the Router whenever you want it). Lumpy beds and the shared bathroom smells sometimes. Good for the extreme backpacker with a low budget. <--Oct 2014
- Hostal Sonia, a 5-10 min walk from the main tourist drag. Cheap, but some showers are bad and lack hot water. Trucks and buses cruise by at all hours, always honking to make the turn around the hostel. Bs.50 for a room with double bed and private bathroom. Wi-Fi available in the rooms. You can negotiate the rates very easily.
- Hostal Central, new hotel on plaza Sucre. Comfortable and clean. Double with private bathroom for 70 Bs (May 2012).
- Hostal Elida, at the corner of Junin and Vallivan. Great alternative in quiet area. One block off from the Cathedral (away from the lake). Large and bright rooms. Run by friendly and helpful family with cat and dog. From Bs. 30 with private bathroom. There's no heating and no insulation.
- Hostel Arco Iris, Half way between Plaza Sucre and Plaza 2 de Febrero on Avenida 6 de Agosto, Restaurant with good food. One night cost between 20 Bs. (shared bathroom) and 30 Bs. (private bath). Internet connection by Wi-Fi in the restaurant and at 1st floor. On a trip to Isla del Sol, you can leave your heavy luggage for free at the hostel. However this hostel doesn't get only good reviews: there have been reports of disagreements and spats with the owner. Reports include owner blaming tourists for breaking already broken stuff in the hostel and charging them extra.
- Hotel Chasqui d'Oro, Av. Costanera 55 (on the lakeside, 2 blocks south of Av. 6 de Agosto), ☎ +591 2-862-2343. A grand-looking terraced hotel with a wonderful view of the lake. $10 per person (January 2005).
- The Mirador, Av. Busch esq. Costanera, Copacabana (on the lakeside). Check-out: 10:30. Every room has a beautiful view on the lake, but the matrimonial beds are a bit too small. Rooms are very big and clean, so is the bathroom. 1 min away from the main avenue. Wi-Fi si provided via 3G. The breakfast is continental with fruits, but may not be ready if you try to catch 8:30 boat. The staff could be more attentive. But with the price it is unbeatable." 120 bs for matrimonial/twin with bathroom.
- Hotel Wendy Mar, Av 16 de Julio at corner of Calle Potosi #22 (big pink building across the street from Hotel Gloria), ☎ +591 2-862-2124. Super friendly and helpful staff. Nice views directly west for sunset. Clean and modern rooms with cable TV. 50 Bs (not including breakfast).
- La Leyenda, On the beachfront. Beautifully decorated hostel, inside and out. The rooms are charming in a rustic sort of way, but some may consider overpriced for their condition. Try to get a room on the second or third floors, as the views (especially sunsets) are great. Comes with a simple continental style breakfast. Bs. 100 for a large room with double bed and private bathroom.
- Hotel La Cupula, ☎ +591 2 862-2029, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. La Cúpula is nestled on the hillside of lake Titicaca, a location, which overlooks both the lake and the Village of Copacabana. Calle Michel Perz 1-3. Singles from 75 Bs, heating, breakfast extra. Real hot showers.
- Hotel Rosario del Lago. Considered the best hotel in town and it's only US$35 a night (single, US$45 double, larger/suite US$45-95). The modern hotel is designed in the local contemporary style and decorated in traditional Bolivian textiles. Every room has a view of the Lake and the hotel includes a small museum and the top restaurant, Kota Kauhaña.
- Internet is among the most expensive in the country at Bs 6-8 an hour. There are a couple of internet cafes in town, but the connections are slow. The cheapest cafe in town is right across the market at 4 Bs/hour.
Most hotels, hostels and tourist oriented cafes and restaurants have free Wi-Fi at acceptable speed.
- There's hardly any point in going to Copacabana without a trip to Isla del Sol. Boats leave around 8:30 AM for full day tours with stops at the north and south of the island. Half day tours are also available in the afternoons, typically visiting just the south.
But since most tourist rush to the island after arriving and travel on to either La Paz or Peru, the town itself is pretty quiet during most of the day and makes it a nice place to chill out for a while.
- Walk all the way to Yampupata. It's about 17 kilometres or 4-5 hours, along a dirt road with a few ups and downs and very little traffic. The scenery on the way is superb. If you don't want to continue to Isla del Sol, it can be kind of hard to arrange transport back. A better option is probably to go there by car/bus/truck and return on foot. This also brings the advantage of walking with the sun mostly in your back.
- There are three daily buses to Puno for 30bs.