America,  Bolivia,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Copacabana (Bolivia): no beach but a nice city

Copacabana is the gateway to Isla del Sol, considered the cradle of Andean civilization. Unlike Copacabana in Brazil, here there is no beach, bikini and hot water, but a more traditional atmosphere

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

How to get there

From Potosí, we take a night bus to La Paz at 9:30 pm, arriving in La Paz at 6:30 am. We will spend one night in La Paz (for practical reasons: I needed a good Korean meal too much). The next day, we take the bus at 7:30 am with Bolivia Hop to be in Copacabana at 11:30 am (Bolivia Hop is a hop-on hop-off bus company where you buy a pass for a defined route and you have one year to complete that route)

Part 1: Travel Diary

The route from La Paz to Copacabana is very pretty. We first pass on one of the mountains surrounding La Paz and we have a panoramic view on the city (it is there that we also realize the pollution of this city at the bottom of the valley, La Paz is often compared to a basin). Bolivians take a lot of public transport, there are few individual cars on the roads. This is already a good thing!

Then we stop in Estrecho de Tiquina to take a boat to San Pedro de Tiquina. Our bus will travel on a ferry while we take a small boat with a nice smell (because of the engine). Note for later: do not sit at the back of the boat anymore

We take the bus (very comfortable, blanket and water provided) and before arriving in Copacabana, everyone gets off to enjoy the viewpoint that gives a splendid view of the lake and the small town where we will sleep tonight

We are dropped off right in front of the port at 11:30 am. The bus will leave this evening for Puno in Peru at 5:00 pm, which makes it possible to take a boat tour at 1:30 pm to visit Isla del Sol very (too?) quickly. This option is chosen by most of the backpackers of our bus, surely to save one night of accommodation

As for us, we are in “we have a lot of time” mode. We even spend one night in Copacabana while most of the tourists hurry to go on the Isla del Sol. While going up the street (sloping) towards our hostal, we discover a very tourist district filled with restaurants proposing all the same menu at 25$B and tourist agencies

But the city isn’t only touristy: it has a beautiful white basilica decorated with Portuguese style ceramics. Inside, there is a statue of the Virgin of Candelaria. The cars (kitsch-decorated) come here to be blessed by the priests and thus avoid accidents for a long time. I show you here a picture found on the Internet of the inside of the basilica (which we aren’t allowed to take pictures of)

Walking along the street perpendicular to the basilica, one discovers another world, the district of the premises, where the city market is full of fruits of all colors. At the back of the market, you can taste the api, a hot drink made of corn and cinnamon, not bad at all, for 2.5$B

At noon, near the “bus terminal” (a street where there are lots of buses), there are lots of stands including one that sells the best ceviche in the city for 20$B. The Bolivian ceviche (raw fish marinated in lemon) is different from the one we tested in Chile, and looks much more like the Peruvian version. There are some sweet potatoes in addition, and a little taste of ginger (I may be dreaming) that I like. It’s not sour like in Chile. Finally, it’s super fresh because the fish (trout or king fish) come directly from Lake Titicaca

In the evenings, all local restaurants are open, full of Bolivians. Barbecue stands are set up in the street to sell us for 6$B a small plate of marinated potatoes and llama heart skewers, or 15$B a hyper-consistent traditional dish based on rice, potatoes and meat. The wild dogs take a seat in front of their favorite restaurant and watch people eating with a desperate look on their face. From time to time, someone throws them a piece and they are all happy. A real contrast to the alley of tourist restaurants on the main street and by the lake. Everything seems more authentic and warm here, it speaks Aymara between locals

I attract a lot of attention with my Asian face (I hope I’m not the first Asian they’ve seen, imagine the pressure!!!), and especially when I speak Spanish then there, people are intrigued. It’s the children who look at me the most, the bravest even try to say “Holà”, which is a huge effort considering how shy the Bolivians are at the base. It’s funny! This only happens to me in South America

It is very cold and despite my 4 layers of clothing, I feel the need for a poncho or alpaca sweater. Unfortunately, everything is really ugly. I see a lot of tourists wearing the clothes from the souvenir stores, I don’t know if it’s to look “local” (in this case it’s not the case, Bolivians don’t dress like that), or because they didn’t bring enough warm clothes

As we have absolutely nothing to do in the afternoon, we opt for a visit of the floating islands by boat with Inca Tour. We knew that these islands were built for the tourists, to show them what it looked like. But unfortunately, neither the construction nor the decorations do not correspond to the real floating islands in Peru. It isn’t too serious, we lost only 15$B/person to see the floating islands without interest like Disneyland

Our hostal (Wendy Mar) is the cleanest and most pleasant hotel that we have chosen since our stay in Bolivia. It is good to have a good hot shower (even if between hot water and strong pressure it is necessary to choose), but especially clean sheets. The view from the terrace at sunset is splendid, that avoids us to go up to the top of the mountain next door (30mn). Moreover, they accept to keep our bags for free for 2 days, during our escapade on the Isla del Sol

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • Transportation

    • Potosi – La Paz: 100$B/person in cama with Trans Copacabana
    • La Paz – Copacabana – Cusco: US$39/person with Bolivia Hop
    • La Paz – Copacabana in short: from 30 bolivianos/person

  • Food

    • 60$B a very good pizza
    • 15$B/ plate in a local restaurant
    • 25$B/menu in a restaurant for tourists
    • 6$B a plate of skewers in the street
    • 6$B a bottle of water 2L

  • Lodging

    • Wendy Mar: 194$B for two, private room with private bathroom and hearty breakfast. The hostal can keep your luggage for free during your stay on Isla del Sol. Other cheaper hostels can be found, but make sure the water is hot (as it is very cold at night)
    • Luggage storage: several hotels, stores and travel agencies will store your luggage for 20$B (see the street perpendicular to the port; or the street perpendicular to the basilica). Be careful not to leave anything of value, of course. Hostal Sonia has a locker, but beware of your valuables.

  • Excursion

    • 15$B round trip by boat to the floating islands. 1h on site
    • 25$B one way by boat to Isla del Sol (North part)
    • The agencies propose day tours, going to the North of the island, then to the South, then back to Copacabana via Isla de la Luna, but I advise you against it, it’s too short to visit


  • Don’t go through the agencies for your boat tickets (I had some negative feedback), go directly to the port and buy the tickets at Inca Tour or Asociacion Union Marines : the boats leave at 8:30 am and 1:30 pm, but if you are numerous, you can rent a private boat
  • Have your luggage guarded at Copacabana before going to Isla del Sol where you will be taken to walk and climb a lot (it goes up dry)

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