Top 5 Things to Do in Copacabana, Bolivia inc Isla Del Sol Guide

By on Published: December 12, 2019 | Last Updated: February 18, 2020 in BOLIVIA, Latin America, South America with 2 Comments

Top 5 Things to Do in Copacabana, Bolivia

Located in the north of the country, on the edge of the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, for most people crossing the border from Peru into Bolivia (as I was), the town of Copacabana is a perfect first stop.

And for those not shuttling to or from Peru, but perhaps just visiting Bolivia, or at least, ending their journey here, let me point out that Copacabana is definitely still worth a visit.

Ok, well maybe the town isn’t all that, but the stunning natural surrounds, including the high altitude views and that oh so magical lake, definitely make it worth a few days on your travel itinerary.

And to give you some more ideas about why this place should be on your Bolivia list, here’s my list of the 5 best things to do in Copacabana, Bolivia.


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My transport through Peru and Bolivia was, in part, sponsored by Bolivia Hop, but as always all views are my own.

This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.


 

#1 Visit the Church

Bolivia, Copacabana, Church

I’m going to start with the in-town attractions on this list of the best things to do in Copacabana, Bolivia and top of the pile is to visit the fascinating church of this small town, as well as its many side rooms.

I didn’t realise before I came to Copacabana, that this town is actually an important pilgrimage site for many Bolivian Catholics, as a miracle is said to have happened here back in the 1500’s with the creation of the black virgin or La Morena.

To reflect its religious importance, the Church in Copacabana is particularly grand, with some very unique architectural Moorish-influences and stepping inside, you’ll discover its beautiful interior decor too.

Explore the side rooms if you can, including the one that houses the famous Black Virgin de Candelaria, and then hop across the road to check out the weird candle / memorial room come graffitied bunker!

It’s quite the combination!

 

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#2 See the Car’s Being Blessed

Bolivia, Copacabana, Car Blessings

And sticking with the religious theme, absolutely one of the best things to do in Copacabana, Bolivia is see the blessing of the cars aka the Bendiciones de Movilidades!

Yup, given this is a place of pilgrimage, you can’t miss this spectacle which, twice a day, sees people bringing their new cars to the church to be blessed by the priest here.

Happening at 11am and 2pm daily (with more vehicles on Sundays) this is quite the sight, with the spraying of the holy Coca Cola and / or beer depending on the spirit of the occasion!

In fact, it reminded me quite a lot of some religious ceremonies I saw in Mexico and Guatemala, where many indigenous spiritual beliefs have been incorporated into the colonial Christian faith, prompting strong church-based traditions that look utterly bizarre to a western outsider.

 

HOW TO GET TO COPACABANA

The easiest way to get to Copacabana, and to experience the simplest Peru / Bolivia border crossing of all time, is to use the great company Bolivia Hop.

I used these guys to travel down from Cusco to Puno (which is on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca) and then across to Copacabana and the whole experience couldn’t have been simpler (especially when you consider this involved a night bus too!)

Safe and secure, with great English-speaking guides to help you navigate the border and arriving in a new country, I honestly couldn’t recommend Bolivia Hop enough, especially for first time South America visitors (because they make everything so easy) and solo travellers (because being in the bus is a great way to meet others).

 

#3 Eat!

Bolivia, Copacabana, Lady in Market

And third on my list of the best things to do in Copacabana, Bolivia is… eat!

This might sound like a bit of a weird one, as Bolivia, and certainly Copacabana, are not known as a foodie destinations. But honestly, this town has some of the best grub I found throughout my whole time in this country.

Mainly I reckon this because other destinations I visited in Bolivia were certainly not up to much food-wise (namely La Paz and Uyuni) and also because I’m a veggie – there were some good travel plant-friendly places to eat in Copacabana.

Joshua’s Vegetarian Cafe, which was linked to the hostel where I stayed, was definitely a highlight, as was the superbly named Baguette About It!

The local market provided plenty of fresh produce, there were tons of pizza restaurants lining the main streets and the cute little roadside joint, Pitstop, did some of the best vegan and vegetarian empanadas I’ve tried.

Safe to say, I definitely didn’t go hungry in Copacabana!

 

 

A WORD ABOUT ALTITUDE

There is something so important you need to know about Copacabana and that is altitude!

Being in the Andes and situated at over 3,800m above sea level, Copacabana is high and altitude sickness is a real and serious thing here.

This is even more true given that some of the hikes in this area go up to 4,000m above sea level.

As such, you must, ABSOLUTELY MUST, take altitude issues seriously when you come to Copacabana and spend at least 1 day here (better 2) acclimatising before attempting any hiking.

I’ve had altitude sickness myself in Ecuador and can definitely attest it is not nice.

In fact, it can be very serious and sometimes lead to hospitalisation and even death.

Do not take this issue lightly when travelling to Copacabana and if you start to suffer any symptoms then take the necessary precautions.

You can learn more about altitude sickness, what causes it, what the symptoms are and how to avoid or treat it in this useful article.

 

#4 Take a Hike

Bolivia, Copacabana, Lake Titicaca

And after all that food, you’ll be delighted to know that there’s plenty of hiking in and around Copacabana you can enjoy to burn it all off too.

First up, just wandering around the town and up a few of the hilly streets is a good workout in this lofty setting which, situated at over 3,800m is pretty damn high!

The town is also safe and pleasant to walk around, with the near-constant view of the lake making it easy to navigate too!

For something a bit more challenging, why not choose a hike out of town to the village of Yampupata, which is around 20km away. Walking there and then hitching a ride back can be a great option!

And my last option for a hike is probably the best yet, thanks to the amazing views.

Yes, puffing your way up to the top of the hill, Cerro Calvario, that overlooks the town is definitely one of the best things to do in Copacabana, Bolivia, for the amazing vista of Lake Titicaca it affords.

Sparkling before you, as far as the eye can see, this stroll is most impressive around sunset, when golden hour really puts on quite the lightshow and the sun is not quite as fierce for the hike up!

 

WHERE TO STAY IN COPACABANA ON A BUDGET

The ever-highly rated La Cupola Hostel in Copacabana has great views, lovely design features and a peaceful feel to it. Although it’s a little pricey, if you ride with Bolivia Hop you get a good discount on a stay here, which I was certainly keen to take up.

However sadly they were full when I arrived, so making sure you book in advance is the moral of the tale here people!

Failing that, I’d stay at the peaceful Joshua’s Eco Hostal. This is where I found myself after the sad-La-Cupola-fully-booked discovery, but I actually ended up loving the great garden, hammock and day beds vibes of this place. The water was always hot, the place was clean and the veggie food in the cafe was delicious!

Check La Cupola availability HERE or book your stay at the cheaper Joshua’s Eco Hostal HERE

 

#5 Explore the Islands

Bolivia, Isla Del Sol, Me,

And now we come to the best of them all, yes last on this list, but certainly, the first reason you should head to Copacabana in Bolivia is for La Isla Del Sol and Isla De La Luna.

2 of Lake Titicaca’s prettiest, quaintest and most authentic islands, spending a day (or a day and a night) over on one of them is absolutely worth it.

These islands are central to Incan theology and seen as highly sacred places by indigenous people.

If, like me, you didn’t realise you can stay on the islands, then do think carefully before booking your accommodation in Copacabana – I honestly wish I’d given myself enough time to spend 1 night amongst the idyllic island scenery, as well as on the mainland.

Otherwise, if it’s not possible for you to spend a night on the islands, a day trip to see them is still certainly one of the best things to do in Copacabana, Bolivia.

 

Day Trip to the Islands

Bolivia, Isla De La Luna, Pier,

Day trips to both Isla Del Sol and Isla De La Luna run every day from Copacabana (unless there’s some real choppy waves on the lake) and are operated by local boat companies.

Basically all the travel agents in town sell boat tickets for one of the 2 companies, so it doesn’t matter which agent you go with, they are all selling the same package at the same price.

Boats leave at 8:30am for the full day tour and arrive back in Copacabana at roughly 5:30pm (meaning you can still travel onto La Paz with Bolivia Hop that same evening).

Same day return tickets to the islands cost 30 Bolivianos and should be purchased the night before.

When you take the full day trip, you get the chance to visit both islands.

First the boat will go to Isla Del Sol (do not get off here!)

Stay on the boat and you will be taken to Isla De La Luna, where you’ll be given an hour to wander around, before returning to Isla De Sol, where you’re then given a few hours to explore too.

If you’re not staying the night, this is ample time.

Isla De La Luna is tiny and 1 hour is enough time for you to head up and see the ruins, then complete a quick half circuit of the island which takes you up to a lookout and then around and back down to the harbour.

Isla Del Sol is much larger but is split in half, and currently, only the south side of the island is open to visitors due to a dispute between the island communities.

With the north of Isla Del Sol closed off to visitors, again a few hours is plenty of time to explore the southern half of this island with its walks, lookouts, views, and cafes.

You should also try to check out the Sun Temple if you have time (although this will likely involve you either a) spending a night here or b) not going to Isla De La Luna and instead getting off at Isla Del Sol when the boat first docks here so you’ve got more time.

Both islands cost 10 Bolivianos to visit and the crystal-clear waters and high altitude lake vibes are really worth it!

 

Overnight Trip to the Islands

Bolivia, Copacabana, Llama

If you can stay the night, then I suggest you base yourself on Isla Del Sol.

Leave your main pack in Copacabana and just come with a small overnight bag… after you’ve made the hike up from the boat jetty to the town where the hostels etc are, you’ll thank me!

Top recommended hostel is Jacha Inti, so check this place out HERE if you are looking to stay somewhere.

Either you can come over from Copacabana on the 8:30am boat too, otherwise the 1pm afternoon departure from Copacabana might suit you better.

This would give you the late afternoon and one evening on Isla De Sol, you could hop over to Isla De La Luna for an hour with the boat the next lunchtime and then spend a few more hours on Isla Del Sol before sailing back to Copacabana.

It’s worth noting however that the boats are slow (so you always have less time on the islands than you forecast) and that a single boat trip is 20 Bolivianos.

Supplies are pricier on the island, so take some food and water over with you from the mainland if you’re really watching those pennies and take all waste out back with you – there’s no proper way to dispose of rubbish on either island.

 

 

5 BOLIVIA PACKING ESSENTIALS YOU CAN’T FORGET

#1 Good Camera – I would never dream of travelling to Bolivia without a camera good enough to capture the amazing landscape and people of this country. Both my Sony A6000 and GoPro Hero 7 were perfect for the job!

#2 Waterproof / Windproof Jackets – With so much of this country situated high in the Andes, taking a waterproof and windproof jacket is essential if you’re going to be hiking or sightseeing in the mountains. I highly recommend the North Face Venture 2.

#3 Hiking Boots – You can’t come to Bolivia and not do some trekking, so make sure you come prepared with some good, supportive hiking boots… I’ve never worn mine so much in my life! These Keen Targhee II’s are the perfect solution.

#4 Day Pack – Also for the hiking and sightseeing, a good daypack to carry water, snacks, camera, hat, gloves and other clothing layers is key in Bolivia! This one from Osprey is my pick.

#5 Travel Scarf – And finally, I’ve just discovered the amazing travel wraps from Sholdit and am so happy I took mine to Bolivia. Acting both as a scarf to keep you warm, and a place to store your valuables while you’re out and about, this great invention is perfect for travel in South America.

 

PIN IT TO PINTEREST!

 

And there you have it, my guide of the best things to do in Copacabana, Bolivia, including this mini-guide at the end to visiting both Isla Del Sol and Isla De La Luna.

I hope I’ve convinced you to make a trip here too!

Have any questions?

Shoot them into the comments box below and I’ll do my best to answer them…

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. GertJ Dellange says:

    Great stories and pictures !! good to get some recent info on things to do in Copacabana and on boats to Isla del Sol..
    unfortunately, you mention nothing on boats to the North-side of the island (where most of the Inca remains are as well as a small museum..). I am aiming to visit Copa/Isla del Sol in mid-May-2020, and am browsing/reading internet now for 4 days, and still have no clue what is feasible and what not.. a. are there boats to N-side (and if so at what times..); b. can a walk be done from N to S, or not.. (see ongoing? dispute between villages)

    • Steph says:

      Hey Gert, thanks for taking the time to read the article and leave a comment. Hoping the advice will prove useful to you. As I do mention in the article, the north side of the island is not accessible to tourists at the moment due to a community dispute. This has been the case for several years I believe. As such, there are no boats running there and, as a visitor, you cannot go even on foot via a hike etc. In answer to your question therefore, a visit to the north of the island is not feasible. Hope you still make it to the southern end of Isla Del Sol and enjoy your time there. Best, Steph 🙂

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