Chilling in Bolivia’s Copacabana, Lake Titicaca

August, 2011

Lake Titicaca’s cold deep, crystal-clear Andean waters, gently ripple the shores of Copacabana. And, at a height of just over 3,800 metres and bordering Peru, Bolivia’s Copacabana is a great town for chilling.

Each time I hear the name Copacabana I have to laugh. Images of a very young and smooth Barry Manilow singing the Copacabana song about a sleazy nightclub, starts manifesting in my head. Yeah I know, showing my age now, and I’m not even a Manilow fan.

La Paz, Copacabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South AmericaGetting there

From La Paz, it’s an easy three to four-hour journey by bus until arriving to Lake Titicaca.

As Copacabana is on the other side of the lake, the bus is then loaded on to a timber raft moved around with an outboard motor for 15-minutes, until hopping back on the bus to continue to Copacabana (Copa).

Short bus hops in Bolivia are so much easier than some of the 13-plus-hour bone shattering journeys.

Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Crossing back from Copacabana

Expect random stops along the way, for young girls or elderly women to board the bus and sell their snacks or souvenirs – happens throughout Bolivia.

Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America


Lake Titicaca’s dry southern shores snuggle Copa between two hills – Mount Calvario and Mount Niño Calvario.

Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Long walk along the lake

With expansive shimmering lake waters reflecting on this small town, Copa exudes a breath of tranquillity and respite from the chaos of La Paz.

Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Another view

This picturesque small lake town is famous locally and internationally for religious festivals, and so, is host to numerous fiestas throughout the year.

Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Popular with locals
Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Map credit: Wikipedia


Lake, lake, and more stunning lake views, especially at sunset.

Most of us perhaps first heard of Lake Titicaca whilst in school, when described as the “highest navigable lake” on earth. Just this description is enough to conjure up images of an impassable and inhospitable lake, stretching as far as the eye can see…

Rest assured, these images are quickly quashed when you first set eyes upon this serene lake-scape.

It’s very easy to really relax along the waterfront, whilst casually meandering from one restaurant to another, or one snack stand to another.

Going for long romantic strolls along the shore, lined with small boats whilst trying to dodge the occasional lake vendors selling trinkets, is a great pastime.

Vendors, Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
On the job

Sunsets over Lake Titicaca are something to behold – striking hues and colours grace your lens.

Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Titicaca tones
Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Andean saturation

Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana

This impressive 16th-century Spanish ‘colonial shrine’ dazzles brilliant white, against the deep blue sky. At this altitude, the air is crisp and clear.

Basilica, Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Spanish beauty

Several beggars set up patches of territory for the day, around the basilica’s courtyard.

Basilica, Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Earning a crust

These guys can be annoying with constant badgering, especially at the entrance – be firm.

Basilica, Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Splendid entrance

An impressive bronze sculpture of Bolivia’s indigenous sculptor Fransisco Tito Yupanqui – descendent from the Quechua people and from the 1500s – stands proud on the basilica grounds.

With Yupanqui’s increasing monotheistic beliefs whilst studying, the legend of the sculpture’s inception goes something like this…

In the 4th month of the Indian calendar, a beautiful woman carrying a child appeared before Yupanqui, which forced him to re-create this image. Contrary to the parish priest’s request of creating the sculpture to resemble European facial characteristics, Yupanqui created the face to resemble indigenous Bolivians instead.

Yupanqui, Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Fransisco Tito Yupanqui

This then was known as Nuestra Senora de Virgen de la Candelaria (Our Virgin Lady of the Candles) – patron Saint of Bolivia.

Cerro El Calvario

Start your walk at the northern end of town, at the brightly-coloured red church, Capilla del Señor Colquepata Cross (Calvary) on 3 de Mayo.

Climbing past the 14 Stations of the Cross during the half-hour steep climb up this hill, will leave you slightly breathless.

Cerro El Calvario, Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Steep ascent

As does the breathtaking views of Lake Titicaca arrest your senses…

Cerro El Calvario, Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Sweeping vistas

…and the scent of heavy smoke-filled air, from continual burning of offerings to Gods and saints, at the blackened alter atop of the hill.

Cerro El Calvario, Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America

Thick dried candle wax drips down the stoned crosses and locals also make wax drawings on the stones.

Built in the 1950s, this popular mecca is frequented by pilgrims, especially on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Cerro El Calvario, Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Wax reclamation

A popular picnic spot with locals, the views across the lake are memorable.

Spend some time up here wandering around, to see the best vantage points of Lake Titicaca. I’m not sure whether there is anywhere else in the region that offers such spectacular views of the lake.

Cerro El Calvario, Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Bay view

It’s such a shame that locals can trudge picnic goodies up this hill, but when the time comes to leave, garbage is either left on the hill, or tossed over the side to the next level down.

Cerro El Calvario, Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Christianity crossroads

I can never understand this mentality…

Day trips

Although quite touristy, a day trip from Copa to the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) across stunning Lake Titicaca, is worthwhile for some hiking and to see the island’s beauty. You can also include a visit to a floating island made of reeds on this trip.

Hearing about day trips from the Peruvian side and as we’re heading there next, decided to also go on the longer day tour that includes Taquile Island and the floating reed Uros Islands from Puno.


Amble along the lake’s shores to any of the restaurants offering lake trout or other various types of delicious fish. You can’t go wrong here really and of course, it’s fresh. Copa is famous for Trucha (trout) and hailed to be the freshest in Bolivia.

Everyone dines at these rustic waterfront abodes, so they are inexpensive and have to be good.

Copa Cabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America
Lakefront restaurants

Where to stay?

Hostal Brisas del Titicaca comes with clean rooms and gorgeous views of the lake. Enjoy a refreshment on the patio whilst watching the ever-changing sunset vistas.

Just check details before booking and make sure you know exactly what you’re getting in the room’s price.

Leaving Copacabana

Most travellers arrive in Copa and stay several days before crossing the border into Peru with Puno as the first stop, or making their way to La Paz.

After reading a couple of stories about dodgy bus trips crossing the border between Copa and Puno, still decided that the bus is the best way to go anyway…

Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on Bolivia at Image Earth Travel.

Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Going home…

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43 responses to “Chilling in Bolivia’s Copacabana, Lake Titicaca”

  1. Tandi Tales Avatar

    Another fantastic article! Bolivia was always skipped in my geography classes, except for a passing mention of the lake and the Amazon. Thanks for filling in the blanks. Your photos are stunning.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks again for your kind feedback!

      Bolivia is often the “forgotten” South American country. I have to say that it’s my favourite so far, but I haven’t explored all the countries on the continent yet.

  2. wanderingraks Avatar

    by the way, i’m retiring this site and moved to another site. Hope to see you there.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks for letting me know, I’ll check your new site out…

  3. wanderingraks Avatar

    great read and great photos as usual! thanks

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you and glad you liked the post.

  4. Aixa Avatar

    I always love how you convey the excitement and adventure of travel! I’ll visit Peru for the first time in 2019 but whenever I see photos, I’m reminded of Guatemala’s thriving indigenous culture. Guatemala so far has been my favorite country to visit!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Aixa for your kind feedback. Where in Peru are you visiting?
      I’m yet to visit Guatemala…

  5. gillmorris Avatar

    Gorgeous photos! When I saw your post title, I immediately thought of the song! LOL I am listening to it right now… Have a fab weekend 🙂 x

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks Gill and yes, funny how our brain works! 😉 x

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for your feedback. 🙂

  6. Melissa Gerke Avatar

    I didn’t know Copacobana was in Bolivia, the song made me think of it as a resort town by the ocean.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Melissa, the song is about the Copacabana Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, but Copacabana is also in Bolivia, so a little confusing.

  7. Patty Avatar

    Beautiful travel report again, dear Nilla. Hope all is well? Sending a hug again, XxX

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Patty, thank you for commenting. Peru is next. 😉
      All is well and just waiting on my renewed visa to arrive. Hope you’re well? x

      1. Patty Avatar

        Ah prolonging your stay in Italy, I guess?
        I am ok again, thanks for asking. XxX

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Yes, but the paperwork and timeframes are killing me!

      3. Patty Avatar

        Ah, bureaucrat-icy…it’s terrible everywhere I think 🙁 Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I guess, but seems worse here…
        Thank you. What are you up to these days?

      5. Patty Avatar

        Writing a lot ! Asked to do some articles and also finishing another coaching program of my own, as we speak. In between, playing with our dog, preparing our garden for winter-time, etc etc.

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        So busy…you put me to shame! 😉

      7. Patty Avatar

        And we also got Netflix last week… No troubles falling a sleep at night, lately, with all the things I want and need to do 😉

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Road to ruin with Netflix. 😉

  8. etiliyle Avatar


  9. Robert Parker Avatar

    I agree with the other comments, terrific travel piece! And I highly approve of buses braking for anybody selling snacks. 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Robert, thank you for commenting. 🙂

  10. the eternal traveller Avatar

    That song comes into my head too! It looks like you could buy a bit of everything at that stall.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Funny how we associate music to many things.
      Yes, you can buy almost anything in Bolivian stalls – it’s very convenient.

  11. Puzzles of the Soul Avatar

    First thing I thought of when reading Copacabana was Barry Maniloe and his songs. Fabulous photos as always, the views are just breath taking. I agree if the locals can carry the food up to the monuments then they can carry the rubbish presumably lighter down again, it is an awful mentality. So many countries do this. Thank you for your good insights into Boliva.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi, maybe it’s our age with that song? 🤣
      I’ve seen this mentality in so many countries and in the most prstine of places, makes me both sad and angry.

  12. fakeflamenco Avatar

    Copacabana is an earwig song! Might be humming along today. ; ) I have altitude sickness and may not get to the heights you traveled in Bolivia. Thanks for the virtual tour. Breathtaking photos as always! Rebecca

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Indeed it is Rebecca. What a pain, maybe you could do it staying along the way but gradually?
      Thank you for taking the time to leave me a comment.

      1. fakeflamenco Avatar

        Thanks for your interesting post. : )

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        My pleasure, stay tuned for Peru next. 😉

      3. fakeflamenco Avatar

        Awesome. Can’t wait.

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thank you for your continual support!

  13. sheetalbravon Avatar

    Your photos are absolutely stunning and to see Lake Titicaca, something I had studied in school but never imagined it like that, was an absolute treat. I can now see Bolivia’s rugged beauty.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey…many thanks for your feedback. I’m glad I could take you on a tour of the lake. ☺️

  14. Emma & Nathan’s Travels Avatar

    Wow. Another stunning post! Phenomenal photos too!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you and am happy you enjoyed this post!

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