6 Best things to see in Copacabana Bolivia


The lakeside town of Copacabana in Bolivia is nestled between Mount Calvario and Mount Niño Calvario, and facing the world’s highest lake called Lake Titicaca. It is often only used as a stopover for travelers from Puno (Peru) to Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. However, Copacabana is worth more than a couple of day’s stop and should be explored in more detail.

Things to see in Copacabana
Things to see in Copacabana in Bolivia

Copacabana also serves as the departure point for boats heading to the sacred Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna, islands steeped in Inca mythology and believed to be the birthplace of the sun and the moon. Still, it is mostly known for its tranquil atmosphere and stunning natural beauty. Here are the best things to see in Copacabana in Bolivia:

The Cerro Calvario, or Stations of the Cross, is primarily used for meditation by devout Catholics. The cross, which is visible on the waterfront, sits on top of a hill overlooking the Copacabana waterfront and Lake Titicaca. While it may not look daunting at first, you will soon breathe heavily and be grasping onto each molecule of oxygen as you try to make your way up. Lake Titicaca’s surface elevation sits at 12,507 feet (3,812 meters).

Cerro Calvario in Copacabana
Cerro Calvario in Copacabana (Image source: Flickr)

The hike up the Cerro Calvario requires a Herculean effort if you haven’t acclimated, but you should be able to manage it. Just take your time and walk at a manageable pace. The views at the top are definitely worth the effort. If you make your way up late, you can avoid the crowds and the annoying hawkers and catch a breathtaking sunset.

Lake Titicaca has a vast volume of water spread out in such an expanse it feels like you are in an ocean instead of a lake. The views of the waterfront are always both stunning and relaxed. You will have a feeling like you are at a beach packed with restaurants, bars, and street various street vendors selling trinkets. 

In the summer, the water is warm enough­­­ for a swim but you can chill at a beachfront bar with a cold Cerveza or pisco sour. A lot of the restaurants advertise “Free Wi-Fi” but only a few have it. I think it is a scam to get customers to go into the restaurant. Test it out before you order something and move on if it doesn’t. 

Trucha, or Salmon Trout, is served at every single restaurant on the waterfront, so you won’t have a problem finding it. It is a pretty authentic dish because the salmon is caught fresh from the lake. Trucha is actually a Spanish word for trout, and it’s plentiful in Lake Titicaca. There are several versions of the dish. You can have it grilled, fried, or sautéed. My favorite is Trucha à la Diabla. It’s trout sautéed with onions, tomatoes, and spices. The dish comes with fries, rice, and salad. It’s also cheap. You will only pay $5 per meal.

Trucha dish
Trucha dish (Image source: Flickr)

There are several tourist sales offices in the center of town where you can book a day or overnight on the Isla Del Sol or Isla de la Luna. The islands are small but full of character. You can hike the entire circumference of each island in less than 4 hours. There are plenty of prehistoric ruins to discover, and it’s just plain fun exploring the little islands.

You will need plenty of cash. Several stores and vendors operate in the islands but they close early and have inflated prices. There is a restaurant at the top of Isla Del Sol, called Las Vellas that offer vegetarian pizza. The views are magnificent and worth checking out.

While it’s surrounded by the local market in the center of town, it is really hard to miss the Basilica. There is a Moorish look to its architecture it feels like it doesn’t belong in the town. Ornate gold and silver accents cover the most elegant structure in all of Copacabana. The Basilica is dedicated to the patron saint of Bolivia, the Virgen de Copacabana.

Basilica de Copacabana
Basilica de Copacabana (Image source: Flickr)

This is the main street in Copacabana. Here, you will find Cafes, bars, and restaurants of all sorts. You can’t actually miss it. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s still worth the experience. Why? Well, there is a bunch of aggressive hawkers shoving their restaurant’s menus at your faces, trying to usher you into their restaurant. Most of this is in the lower half of the street, and it mellows down as you make your way up toward the Cathedral, where there are fewer restaurants and more vendors selling fruits and local produce.

It won’t take long before you will notice that there is a lot of trash everywhere. Throwing trash everywhere is just something of the ordinary here, so don’t let it bother you. There are also a lot of aggressive hawkers, peddlers, and vendors. They will get up on your face trying to get you to spend money on something worthless. Keep in mind that they are very aggressive and persistent to where they become annoying. Avoid eye contact and learn to say, “No, gracias!” and move on. Aside from that,  Copacabana is a beautiful place.

Can’t find good coffee in Bolivia?  You can find it at the El Condor & the Eagle Cafe, an Irish restaurant owned by an Irish guy who married a Bolivian. It’s the strangest place to find an Irish restaurant but it’s by far one the best restaurant in the Avenida 6 de Agosto.

  • Take care of your Visa requirements prior to entry to Bolivia. Americans have it harder to get into Bolivia.
  • The closest airports are in Juliaca, Peru, and El Alto in La Paz.
  • From Peru, there are buses from Puno to Copacabana. It takes about 4 hours, with about an hour spent sorting out your visa at the border. From La Paz, there’s a bus at the cemetery terminal. It will cross Tiquina Strait on a ferry and take about 4 hours. Beware, pickpocketing is rampant here. Keep an eye on your valuables at all times.
  • The Avenida 6 de Agostofunnels down to the waterfront town’s central square, Plaza 2 de Febrero.
  • Brings lots of cash. Credit cards aren’t widely used.