Copacabana is a small town located on the Bolivian shore of Lake Titicaca. Situated relatively close to the capital of La Paz, it's a popular resort destination for foreign travellers and locals alike.
This is the original Copacabana -- actually lending its name to the beach in Rio. The name derives from the Aymara kota kawana, meaning "view of the lake", and the region was revered by the Inca even before the Spaniards built their chapel of the Virgin and turned it into a Catholic pilgrimage site.
The town's central square is Plaza 2 de Febrero, and from there Avenida 6 de Agosto slides down to the lakeside. It's packed with souvenir shops, hostels, and restaurants, largely catering to foreign tourists. Avenida Jaregui one block north has a more local feel, with street markets and grocery stores.
Buses leave from La Paz' cemetery bus terminal; the fare is around Bs20 (Bs35 if you splurge for hotel pickup -- tickets are sold at all travel agencies in La Paz) and travel time is 3-1/2 hours. At the Tiquina Strait, you get off the bus and take a quick ferry ride (Bs2) to pick up the bus (which is ferried across by barge) on the other side. Beware of theft and keep a close eye on all valuables.
Buses arrive in Copacabana at Plaza 2 de Febrero and leave from Plaza Sucre.
There are now new direct buses to Copacabana called Bolivia Hop. They can bring you straight into Copacabana from La Paz or/and Puno and Cusco. This new service has brand new semi-cama buses and allows you to hop on or hop off at any of these places, they provide passenger assistance in Spanish and English at the border. Bolivia Hop includes hotel/hostel pick-ups and drop-offs they also can include a tour to the Islands.
Buses also leave from Puno in Peru, and take roughly the same 3-1/2 hours to arrive in Copacabana; an hour is typically spent at the border, just 5 miles south of Copacabana. Beware of dishonest border police issuing false fines. Refuse to pay and stand your ground.
Update Jun 2015:
Do not change money before Peruvian / Bolivian border as you will be instructed to do so by bus conductor. It's a scam operated by all bus companies and you'll end up with MUCH worse rate than exchanging your money later at the border or in Copacabana town. There is a number of exchange offices for competitive rates.
If you take a bus from Cusco to Puno, be aware that the saleswomen on the counters will be dishonest and tell you absolutely anything just to sell you a ticket!
If you want to travel during the day from Cusco to Copacabana, you will need to spend the night in Puno, no matter what the bus companies tell you! The border closes so this is the reason. The bus from Cusco to Puno arrives in Puno between 3-4PM. The buses from Puno to Copacabana leave ONLY at 7:30AM and 2:30PM.
There are three companies leaving Cusco at 10.00 pm. In all three options you have to change bus in Puno! All of them arrive around 6.00 am in Puno, the bus on to Copacabana leaves at 7.30AM.
Vans and/or shared cabs leave for the Peruvian border from Plaza Sucre as soon as they fill up. 3 Bs, 30 minutes. From the border to the Peruvian town of Yungani its about 2 km, 1 Sol by van. From Yungani to Puno buses and vans leave several times every hour, 5 Soles. This way is slower, more dangerous and less comfortable, but cheaper, than direct buses.
It is possible to get to/from Sorata without going back to La Paz. Get on a La Paz bound bus/minibus/micro from either town, tell the driver you wish to go to Sorata/Copacabana and you will be dropped off at the small lakeside town of Huarina (2 hours from La Paz). Cross the road and wait for a Sorata/Copacabana bound bus/minibus with space to pass. They should honk their horn if they have space and see people waiting, but it wouldn't hurt to keep an eye out and flag one down if you see it first. Best to get started early as you may have a bit of a wait at Huarina - it should still be quicker than going all the way to La Paz then 2 hours back in the same direction though.
Copacabana Cathedral, completed in 1619, is one of the oldest churches in Bolivia and is a fine example of Moorish style architecture. (The current structure dates to 1805.) It houses the statue of La Virgen de la Candelaria (also called the "Dark Virgin"), reputed to have miraculous healing powers. The original statue was carved from cactus in 1583 by Francisco Tito Yupanqui, nephew of Inca emperor Huayna Capac. It has made the church Bolivia's most revered pilgrimage site, and its reputation traveled far and wide in its time, even leading someone to create a replica and build a chapel for it on a beach in Brazil...
Museo del Poncho, Tito Yupanqui street # 42 (Walk down the main av. until you reach the beach, turn to your right and walk one block, turn to your right again and 50 feet from you'll find it), . 10.30 - 17.00. The Museo del Poncho exhibits a broad variety of weavings and clothing from Andean communities; particular pieces that are part of the male attire. It shows how the poncho is more than just a piece of clothing, but a symbol of identity, social status, authority and so much more.Bs 15. edit
The imposing hill of Cerro Calvario overlooks the town from the north end of the beach, and it's a moderately strenous 30-minute climb. There are fourteen stations of the cross along the way, where you may want to stop and pray for stronger legs and lungs. The best time to go is around sunset, and hope the weather cooperates.
On the other end of the shore are two hills with ancient Inca ruins.
Isla del Sol is the largest island on Lake Titicaca, it's a great day (or half day) trip.
Lots of stores and shops line the Avenida 6 de Agosto selling local handicrafts, alpaca wool garments and lots of hippies sell jewelry on the streets.
The Spitting Llama Bookstore and Outfitter has a huge book exchange, lots of maps, free tourist info, and new Lonely Planet guidebooks. They also sell and rent a full range of camping and travel gear. They are open 7 days a week 9AM-7PM. English is spoken. Tel: 2-2599073
There are three ATMs in total based around Avenida 6 de Agosto. Ask a local to point them out to you. There is one well guarded bank in Copacabana on Avenida 6 de Agosto, between Plaza 2 de Febrero and the cathedral, with an ATM that only supports cards issued by the bank itself. However, it is possible to withdraw money from ATM machines inside; bring your passport for identification.
There are several cambistas changing dollars, euros or Peruvian soles, but with poor rates. Prodem also change dollars for a better rate and gives cash advances on VISA and mastercard creditcards.
The one and only culinary specialty is trucha, or salmon trout, fished from the lake. Practically every single restaurant serves it, and there's a long row of identical stalls on the beach. Many places also serve pizza and pasta, presumably for those who've had enough (or don't like) fish. Most restaurants advertise free WiFi as a ploy to attract customers; however, it rarely works.
Try the giant popcorn. It's unique to Copacabana and is sweet and delicious.
El Condor and the Eagle Cafe, They just moved on Av. 6 de Agosto,inside Residencial Paris, 1st floor. It's actually a cafe and not a hostel, IT IS really the best place in town to have a coffee and breakfast, the best sandwiches we had in Bolivia. Interesting collection of English books, downloads of ebooks, audiobooks, music and movies. WI FI free for clients. BOLIVIAN-IRISH OWNED.
Pueblo Viejo, Av. 6 de Agosto. They have a real espresso machine. Friendly and helpful (free tour guide!) English-speaking owner. Live music at nights.
Pachamama, Av. 6 de Agosto
Mankha Uta, Av. 6 de Agosto. Food is terrible. You will need to eat somewhere else after.
Kala Uta, Av. 6 de Agosto
Sujna Wasi, Av. Jaregui
Kota Kauhaña, , The most expensive restaurant in town and dinner is under US$10. Located inside the Hotel Rosario del Lago.
Cafe Bistrót, Av 6 de agosto. Very tasty Bolivian-International fusion food. Amazing Thai Curry. Owned by the friendly Bolivian Fatima who speaks French, English and Spanish.Bs20-35. edit
KM Zero, 6 Agosto, near the dock (about 10 shops up from the dock on your right). Set menu 25Bs, soup served with bread, mains with nice portion, postre. HH 8-10pm drinks 2x1. Live music starting 8:30pm. Good working WiFi. Much better than the other one called Bamba with the same price further up the road.edit
Av. 6 de Agosto has enough hostels and inexpensive hotels to accommodate hordes of backpackers.
As of Sep. 2012, price of accomodations have increased considerably (minimum Bs. 30-50).
Hostal 6 de Agosto, (Nearly at the begining of the street, on your right.). checkout: 10.00 am strict. 35 bs. per person (6 dec 2012). Clean rooms with hot water. Bath, TV, towels included. They wake you crushing on your door if you don't tell them you will be staying one more day beforehand. edit
Georges Residencial, (Near the harbour on the left side of the road. Look for a sign above the street.). checkout: 10.30 am. 50 bs. per person (January 2015). Clean private rooms with your own bathroom. water is changing from mediocre to warm. Friendly people who always smile when you enter. Breakfast is not included but they have a restaurant.edit
Hospedaje Aroma, Jáuregui & Destacamento. Basic but seriously cheap. Try to get a room on the top floor, the views there are great. Price Bs.10++. Update Oct 2014: 15B per person, just room, not even an electric socket. Use of shower is 5B extra. Luggage storage only up to 12noon on the check out date. No choice of rooms.
Hospedaje Las Playas, Near the dock on 6 Agosto, next to KM Zero Restaurant & Bar. Twin room 15B per person with hot shower and WiFi (limited time, expect no more than 2 hours a day, and you have to tell them to switch on the Router whenever you want it). Lumpy beds and shared bathroom smells sometimes. Good for the extreme backpacker with low budget. <--Oct 2014
Hostal Sonia, a 5-10 min walk from the main tourist drag. Cheap, but the terrible shower had us changing accommodations after one night. No hot water, and the shower was located in our tiny bathroom almost overtop of the sink. Trucks and buses cruise by at all hours, always honking to make the turn around the hostel. Bs.50 for a room with double bed and private bathroom. Wifi available in the rooms. You can negotiate the rates very easily. Fine shower conditions, clean rooms. No noise.
Hostal Central, new hotel on plaza Sucre. Comfortable and clean. Double with private bathroom for 70 Bs (May 2012). EDIT feb 2013 - price is 40 or 50Bs per person. No breakfast.No wifi. They wake you crushing on your door if you don't tell them you will be staying one more day beforehand - disturbing. Edit March 2014 40 Bs per person. The hostel now has WIFI. Clean and big room. (single but i was put in a double twin room with private bathroom) Hot water? Close to the lake.
Hostal Elida, at the corner of Junin and Vallivan. Great alternative in quiet area. One block off from the Cathedral (away from the lake). Large and bright rooms. Run by friendly and helpful fammily with cat and dog. From Bs. 30 with private bathroom. Be careful that there's no heating and no insulation.
Hostel Arco Iris, Half way between Plaza Sucre and Plaza 2 de Febrero on Avenida 6 de Agosto, Restaurant with good food. One night cost between 20 Bs. (shared bathroom) and 30 Bs. (private bath). Internet connection by WiFi in the restaurant and at 1st floor. On a trip to Isla del Sol, you can leave your heavy luggage for free at the hostel. However this hostel doesn't get only good reviews: there have been reports of disagreements and spats with the owner. Reports include owner blaming tourists for breaking already broken stuff in the hostel and charging them extra.
Hotel Chasqui d'Oro, Av. Costanera 55 (on the lakeside, 2 blocks south of Av. 6 de Agosto), ☎ 2-862-2343, . A grand-looking terraced hotel with a wonderful view of the lake.$10 per person (January 2005). edit
The Mirador, Av. Busch esq. Costanera, Copacabana (on the lakeside). Every room has a beautiful view on the lake, but the matrimonial beds are a bit too small. Rooms are very big and clean, so is the bathroom. The breakfast is continental with fruits. The staff could be more attentive. 1 min away from the main avenue. But with the price it is unbeatable."$160 bs for matrimonial with bathroom (February 2013). edit
Hotel Wendy Mar, Av 16 de Julio at corner of Calle Potosi #22 (big pink building across the street from Hotel Gloria), ☎ 2-862-2124. Super friendly and helpful staff. Nice views directly west for sunset. Clean and modern rooms with cable TV. Edit march 2015: Price is 200Bs the room. 200 Bs (not including breakfast). edit
La Leyenda, On the beachfront. Beautifully decorated hostel, inside and out. The rooms are charming in a rustic sort of way, but some may consider overpriced for their condition. Try to get a room on the second or third floors, as the views (especially sunsets) are great. Comes with a simple continental style breakfast. Edit march 2015: Unfortunately another example of a hotel that hikes up their prices once listed in the lonely planet. Price is 200Bs per room and check out time is 9am! Bs. 200 for a large room with double bed and private bathroom. edit
Oasis Collections, ☎ +55 11 3042 9086 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A portfolio of 20+ handpicked homes and apartments that include concierge service and full guest support. Recently awarded Top Villa Provider by Condé Nast Traveler.edit
Hotel La Cupula, La Cúpula is nestled on the hillside of lake Titicaca, a location, which overlooks both the lake and the Village of Copacabana. Calle Michel Perz 1-3, Phone 862-2029, email@example.com. Singles from 75 Bs, heating, breakfast extra. Real hot showers.
Hotel Rosario del Lago, Considered the best hotel in town and it's only US$35 a night (single, US$45 double, larger/suite US$45-95). The modern hotel is designed in the local contemporary style and decorated in traditional Bolivian textiles. Every room has a view of the Lake and the hotel includes a small museum and the top restaurant, Kota Kauhaña.
Hostal Las Olas, . A set of seven individually desiged suites on the hillside past La Cupula on Calle Michel Perez. Each room in the suites has an almost perfect view of lake titicaca, making for amazing sunsets in beautifully artistic buildings. The complex has a plunge pool and hot water 24 hours a day. Expensive at from $32US for single accommodation to $62US for the largest suite. But the price is per suite, not per person. Breakfast not included.edit
Internet is among the most expensive in the country at Bs 8-12 an hour. There are only three internet cafes in town, the connections are extremely slow, and the computers are often full (busy). Only Hotel Gloria (the most expensive hotel in town) & Hotel Cupula has WiFi.
Dec 2012 - Most Hotels, Hostels, tourist oriented cafes and restaurants have free wifi at acceptable speed.
If traveling into Peru, buy a bus ticket to Puno, and once there buy a new ticket from the company of your choice. (Buying a ticket to Arequipa or Cusco just means you allow the Bolivian company to buy the cheapest ticket with the worst bus company for your onward travel past Puno).
Change money at the border (a lady on the street in front of the Peruvian office is an option. It might be others). It was a much better rate than in Copacabana or with the rude man that runs the Titicaca bus.
There's hardly any point in going to Copacabana without a trip to Isla del Sol. Boats leave around 8:30 AM for full day tours with stops at the north (25 Bs. - 2 hours) and south (20 Bs. - 1 1/2 hours) of the island. Half day tours are also available in the afternoons (1:30 PM), typically visiting just the south. (As at Dec 2013, the price for the full day trip with stops in the north and south was 35 Bs.).
Several companies make the trip and the prices are similar.
But since most tourist rush to the island after arriving and travel on to either La Paz or Peru, the town itself is pretty quiet during most of the day and makes it a nice place to chill out for a while.
Buses to La Paz leave at 1:30pm (connecting with buses coming from Puno and the Peruvian border in the morning), and around 6:30pm (20Bs. on a local bus - 3hrs (Dec 13)) - the later bus allows you to take the day trip to Isla del Sol and still catch the bus to La Paz in the evening.
Walk all the way to Yampupata. It's about 17 kilometres or 4-5 hours, along a dirt road with a few ups and downs and very little traffic. The scenery on the way is superb. If you don't want to continue to Isla del Sol, it can be kind of hard to arrange transport back. A better option is probably to go there by car/bus/truck and return on foot. This also brings the advantage of walking with the sun mostly in your back.