Introduction to Copacabana, Bolivia

Sixth in a series about Bolivia

16Copacabana-Cerro-Calvario
Copacabana as seen from the bus with cerro El Calvario towering above (taller hill at center).  Lowell Silverman photography, 2015

After arriving in Copacabana on a bus from La Paz around noon, we walked to Hostal Las Olas on Calle Michel Perez.  It was the top rated lodging on TripAdvisor and came strongly recommended by Lonely Planet (though be aware, there is another similarly named and much more conventional hostel near the bus stop downtown).

2 Snail Suite
Snail-shaped suite at Hostal Las Olas. It was my second choice of suite, but my first was still available when I booked…

Generally speaking, it’s a hostel in name only, considering it provides a number of unique stand-alone suites in a variety of shapes and sizes built onto a hillside.  For that reason, it probably shouldn’t be booked by anyone who can’t handle some stairs.

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Torre Mar, our three-story tower!  The flowering bush at right was popular with a multitude of bird species including the giant hummingbird, a robin-sized hummingbird!

I was delighted that when I reserved some months before, my top pick was available.  Suite 7, “Torre Mar” can comfortably sleep five.  As the name implies, it is a three-story tower!  The top level cupola has a hammock with a view of the lake; the middle level has two beds and a wood heater, and the lowest level had a bed, kitchen, and bathroom/shower.

1 View 2F
View of Lake Titicaca from the second floor

Incredibly, the cost was only $54/night.  (Payment must be either wired in advance or made in pristine US currency upon check-out.)  Though relatively high-end by Copacabana standards, I think it’s a great value overall.  The suite has solar-heated water (the Hostal Las Olas website indicates this is supplemented by electric), but even late in the day it was more reliable than most hotels in other cities during our trip.

There were only two aspects of the suite that are hostel-like: There were no toiletries provided, and the suite was unheated.  It’s not safe to leave the space heater or wood heater on while you sleep, so overnight the building got down as low as 50°F (10°C).  The rubber hot water bottles the hostel provides are absolutely essential for sleeping comfortably; strategic placement keeps the bed toasty warm.

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Copacabana seen from cerro El Calvario

Copacabana is a bustling, if somewhat touristy, town.  The first thing we did after getting settled was climb cerro El Calvario, the hill at the north end of the town that is crowded with enthusiastic pilgrims.  (Stay tuned for next post.)

HarborCopacabana
Docks at Copacabana’s harbor
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View back towards Copacabana from a boat en route to Isla del Sol

Copacabana’s crowded harbor is a popular starting point for boat rides to Isla del Sol, an island in Lake Titicaca that is rich in archaeological sites.  (Stay tuned for that tale as well.)

We had a pleasant round-trip boat ride to the island with Andes Amazonia during our second day in Copacabana, but a Canadian we met in La Paz told us a horror story of being marooned on the island temporarily after her boat’s crew tried to extort 3,000 Bolivianos  (about $440) to bring her back.

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Sunset in Copacabana

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The harbor is also a great place to watch the sun sink into Lake Titicaca in the evening.

5 Basilica Our Lady of Copacabana
Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Copacabana

Copacabana’s most impressive building is undoubtedly Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Copacabana (Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana), a beautiful colonial church.  Although I’ve seen enough cathedrals in Europe to be bored with all but the most spectacular, I found the basilica’s bright whitewashed walls and colorful tiles very attractive.

5a Basilica Our Lady of Copacabana
Tower at Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Copacabana
CopacabChurch
Entrance gate

Series on Bolivia

Obtaining a Bolivian Tourist Visa

Planning a Trip to Bolivia and Peru (introduction)

La Paz, Bolivia: Basílica de San Francisco

Mi Teleférico: La Paz, Bolivia’s Aerial Cable Car Network

Stuck in the Snow en Route to Chacaltaya, Bolivia

Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna), Bolivia

Across the Altiplano to Lake Titicaca: La Paz to Copacabana, Bolivia by Bus

Introduction to Copacabana, Bolivia

Ascending Cerro El Calvario (Calvary Hill) in Copacabana, Bolivia

Copacabana to Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) by Boat

Hiking from Challapampa to the Sanctuary on Isla del Sol

The Sanctuary on Isla del Sol, Part I: The Sacred Rock, Titikala

The Sanctuary on Isla del Sol, Part II: Chincana and Nearby Sites

Hiking from the Sacred Rock to Yumani on Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Scenic Tour of Lake Titicaca: Copacabana, Bolivia to Puno, Peru by Bus

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4 thoughts on “Introduction to Copacabana, Bolivia

  1. I can’t be the only one who started singing the song the moment I started reading….
    I am so in love with those accommodations,straight up fairytale material! This is absolutely on our must see list! Fantastic post and photos 🙂

    Like

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