Copacabana is a tiny town located in the southern shores of Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world. Once a sleepy fishing village best known for its many religious festivals, Copacabana is now one of the most popular destinations in the country, especially for tourists traveling overland from Peru to Bolivia, or the other way around.
There is Isla del Sol, Isla de la Luna, sacred pre-Inca sites, fresh trout, hiking, and a few other interesting places to explore and things to do in Copacabana. It is a great location to stop over and soak in the panoramic views of Lake Titicaca, and explore what the Incas believed to be the actual birthplace of their empire.
Copacabana also offers a variety of artisanal shops, local restaurants, and bars lining the main streets. The summit of the “Stations of the Cross” walk offers the best views of the lake, with opportunities to spot the wondrous wildlife of Lake Titicaca.
Keep reading if you would like to learn more about Copacabana, and how you can make the most out of your trip.
Visit Isla del Sol & Isla de la Luna
Take a boat trip from Copacabana to Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna to properly explore the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. The famous ancient Inca ruins that are found here are scattered throughout the islands, and the Aymara villagers that farm the land gracefully tend to these sacred sites on a regular basis.
Central to Incan theology, these two islands are valued as highly sacred places by indigenous people. They are definitely worth visiting, and it is even possible to spend a night or two here as they offer accommodation options too. If it is not possible to spend the night, a day trip is still a “must-do” expedition when you are passing through Copacabana.
Both these islands harvest a powerful energy, because of the traditional Aymara culture and their indigenous beliefs. There are English speaking guides that can share more history and philosophy which will blow your mind away!
Immerse Yourself in the Aymara Culture
The local residents who live around Lake Titicaca in Bolivia form part of the Andean indigenous community of Aimara people. These people have a deep connection to the landscapes and to the lake, and a lot can be learnt from this authentic culture.
The Aymara people believed that Lake Titicaca was the birthplace of the sun, and that this is where the world actually began. For this reason, they link the belief that the famous “Inca Empire” started here, in Lake Titicaca on Isla del Sol.
The local language is Aymara, and is spoken around the basin of Lake Titicaca and stretches across into Northern Chile. Even though most people have adapted to speaking Spanish, the language has been preserved by the locals. The name “Copacabana” translates to “View of the lake” in Aymara.
Hike To Yampupata
There are some great surrounding hills to explore in Copacabana, and the hike to Yampupata promises an exciting experience for hiking-lovers. Yampupata is located about 20 kilometers from the town center, and the hike can be done in a day.
It is a scenic day-hike that will take you along empty trails, past herds of fluffy alpacas and curious llamas, quinoa farms and across rolling hills. The views and landscapes provide breathtaking views of Lake Titicaca which is rarely seen from anywhere else.
The trail might be long, but it is mostly fairly flat and easy. There are only a few mild hills, so if you are used to longer, more challenging hikes, it should be quite a relaxing walk which is a great opportunity to soak up the incredible views.
Explore the town’s cathedral
In the town center, you will find the Copacabana’s Mudéjar cathedral in the plaza. It is an incredible site to witness, and a highlight for religious and non-religious travelers alike. Usually on Sundays the church is reserved for practices like baptisms and mass services, so plan your visit accordingly.
On the outside of the building you will see a large stone square surrounded by big white pillars and beautiful domes decorated with small blue and rust-red tiles. From the inside, there is an intricately carved, gold-plated altar and the walls are decorated with religious paintings that are more than 200 years old.
Cathedrals in South America are linked to the primarily Catholic religion that has been adapted after the Spanish colonization, and today it is interesting to see the contrasts of different traditions and cultures in one small place like here, in Copacabana.
Plan Your Visit for The Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria
Every year, at the beginning of February, people travel from all over the globe to the sacred shores of Lake Titicaca to honor the Patroness of Bolivia, Our Lady of Copacabana. The calm fishing village of Copacabana comes alive with music, delicious food, drinking and dancing to celebrate a mixture of traditional Andean and Catholic beliefs.
Also known as “The Dark Virgin”, Our Lady of Copacabana is highly respected in Bolivia for a series of miracles that she performed in the area. According to the legend, Inca fisherman were caught in a horrible storm in 1576 on Lake Titicaca. They prayed for survival, and then the Virgin Mary suddenly appeared and saved them from the storm.
So, to pay tribute to the Virgin, the fishermen built a shrine for a sculpture made by Tito Yupanqui. The Virgin Mary appeared to Tito through a dream, and after that he travelled to Potosi to learn the art of sculpting. Till this day the four-foot statue still remains safely inside the Basilica de Virgin de la Candelaria.
Let Kuoda Craft Your Ideal Itinerary
Lake Titicaca and the sacred town of Copacabana offers a unique experience, with breathtaking natural beauty, which attracts spiritual seekers and nature lovers alike. Other than that, the intertwined cultures and traditions create an ambience like no other in the world.
It can be quite overwhelming to plan a trip like this, considering that there are so many locations in the country that resemble its own uniqueness. Especially, if you have your daily duties and responsibilities to attend to.
We at Kuoda understand the importance of a well-planned travel itinerary, especially one to such a diverse country – where you don’t want to miss anything. We are passionate about designing custom-made packages, and our trip designers have extensive experience in creating authentic and memorable journeys that satisfy the individuals’ specific needs and requirements.
Contact us today to talk more about what you need specifically for your trip, and let’s start planning it today!