The world’s largest high altitude lake is definitely worth a relaxing break after La Paz. A bus from La Paz to Copacabana, which is the typical stop on the Bolivian border of Lake Titicaca, takes around 4 hours. The bus drive itself is already one of the most beautiful I have seen so far in South America – the road goes along the lake`s coast, the country is amazingly green and from time to time you can see sheep, cows, donkeys or pigs pasturing on the meadows. Quite, colourful and fresh air – Lake Titicaca is clearly an opposite of the hectic life in La Paz.
Copacabana is a small city on the lake’s shore. It consists mostly of one main tourist street, the Av. 6 de Agosto. Here you can find a lots of restaurants, tourist agencies, hostels, small kiosks, and laundries. It is pretty easy to find a cheap accommodation here. We have stayed in “Hostal Andino” for 20 bs per night. The blue-white facade of the building in he courtyard looked very Greek and created a cozy atmosphere. The rooms were all right, even though the bathrooms were a little filthy, but seriously, who could complain for 20 bs per night?!
Although you can find tons of restaurants in the main strees, most of them offer the same menu every day: quinoa or vegetable soup, trucha (trout) or pollo milanesa (chicken schnitzel), and banana with chocolate as a desert for 25 bs. However, do not except to much, you are in Bolivia finally. I can highly recommend two places to eat in Copacabana: “La Orilla” and “Pit Stop”. La Orilla is located on a main street, but in comparison to other wanna-be exclusive restaurants, it does not try to draw the customers with any false promising promoters or signs (for example “Las Playas”, the restaurant right on the opposite side of the street – do not enter this place!! Horrible food, horrible service, horrible atmosphere!). La Orilla is run by an American expat, a bit more expensive, however this place definitely conforms western standards. La Orilla offers probably the best food in the city. Pit Stop is a bakery and rotiseria, opened just two and half years ago by an Argentinian. It is more of a take away place, where you can find delicious empanadas, pizzas, and pies.
In the center of the city you can find a market with fresh products and a beautiful Mediterranean-like cathedral. If you already got used to the altitude you can try to climb one of the hills surrounding the city or just lay down on the meadow next to the lake and enjoy the sunshine. From Copacabana you can easily book a ferry to Isla de Sol or a tour to the floating islands. We booked all of our tours as well as our bus tickets to Arequipa in the highly recommendable “apthapi” travel agency right on the Av. 6 de Agosto.
Although the floating islands are supposed to be more beautiful from the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, you can visit some of them from the Bolivian side. Our tour started in Copacabana, where we were picked up by a taxi and then drew to Sahuiña, a small village south of Copacabana. There a typical Bolivian elderly woman called Ana awaited us, it was a nice surprise, because we were expecting a classical tourist guide. Ana showed us and told us a lot of interesting things about the flora and fauna on the Lake Titicaca. Afterwards, she brought us to a floating island. Ana alone was paddling our boat of six people – yes, the Bolivian women are very strong. On the island she dressed us in the typical Bolivian women clothes – huge skirt, the Bolivian bolero and the typical hat. She taught us a dance from Sahuiña and danced with us. It was definitely an unexpected and unforgettable surprise we experienced on our last day in Bolivia.
Isla de Sol
A ferry from Copacabana leaves every day at 8:30 am and 1:30 pm and costs 20 bs. It is definitely wort a one or two days trip from Copacabana. You can get out of the ferry on either the south or north harbor. I can only recommend the north part of the island. Although once you are there you can easily hike from the north to the south part of the island or vice versa, which takes you around 4 hours. However, calculate the time wisely, as there no cars and respectively no taxis which could take you back to your accommodation. Once arrived in the North harbor, you will find couple or restaurants and hostels lined on the main streets. Most of the visitors decide to go to the right, however if you take a 10 min walk up the hill on the left you can find there an ecologic Refugio “donde Alfonso”, which offers rustic but traditional accommodation with beautiful view of the bay for 25 bs per night. Most of the restaurants offer the same menu for dinner and lunch: again, quinoa soup and trout or chicken schnitzel with rice and couple of French fries for 25 bs. However, the trout is really tasty as it is freshly fished from the lake. During the day you can decide to hike to the south of the island or just explore the north part of the island. About 45 min long hike can bring you to the Chincana Ruins, spectacular Inca ruins. Although the island is called isla de Sol or the Island of Sun and the sun shines here indeed the most of the time, however it can also change quickly, especially in the rainy season. Ferries and boats back to Copacabana are leaving every day at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm. However, depending on the weather conditions, the boat ride might become very adventurous – take some medicine in advance when it`s raining and you know you are likely to get seasick (unfortunately, I didn’t know that, thus I had very funny 2 hours of my life).
Traditionally vested Bolivian women, peaceful bays, green fields of quinoa and potatoes, ruins full of pre-Columbian Inca –energy – you can easily get lost in this untouched nature of this breathtaking island.