Sixth in a series about Bolivia
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
The harbor is also a great place to watch the sun sink into Lake Titicaca in the evening.
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.
Series on Bolivia
Planning a Trip to Bolivia and Peru (introduction)
Introduction to Copacabana, Bolivia