You may be asking yourself the same question, “Is visiting Copacabana Bolivia worth it?” or “Is visiting Isla del Sol worth it?” Everyone we spoke with before arriving to Bolivia said to visit Copacabana and Isla del Sol. Since we were going to be driving by the Copacabana on our way to La Paz from Peru, we decided to check it out.
As we traveled from Peru to Bolivia, we thought we might as well see what the hype was all about. We were in a word disappointed.
Copacabana saw a huge rise in tourism and capitalized on it. The small town of Copa is teeming with overtly tourist, westernized restaurants charging a small fortune for Bolivia standards on the main road down towards the lake. A trout menu of the day will set you back BOB 25 – 30 which is roughly USD $3 – $4. I know, not expensive based on Western standards. But after being in South America for six months you will realize how expensive this really is.
For those of you willing to eat where the locals eat, head over to Plaza Sucre on Bolivar road. They may look like shacks, but here you can order fried trout AND ispi meal both with boiled potatoes and rice for only BOB 32. Don’t know what ispi is? An ispi is a small fish from Lake Titicaca which is roughly the size of a tadpole. The whole ispi (head and all) is deep fried and served by the handful. Trust me. It is delicious, but VERY salty.
Other than delicious ispi and trout, Copacabana was unimpressive to us. Lake Titicaca, however, is a different story. If you are overlanding, head north out of the city towards the peninsula. Once outside of the city, the lake is peaceful and serene. Look for the Gruta de la Virgen de Lourdes where a road leads towards the beach. Francisco, the property owner and trout farmer, will let you stay on his land. Remember to respect his property for other future guests. Find out the GPS coordinates here.
Isla del Sol, Bolivia
Isla del Sol is a large island in Lake Titicaca known as the birthplace of sun and the Incan dynasty. Although close to Copacabana, a boat ride takes an hour and a half to get there. Alternatively, you can drive to the end of the peninsula to Yampupata and catch a private boat which takes 20 minutes. Make sure you bring your negotiation skills though otherwise you might get swindled like we did.
Once on the island there is a BOB 10 entry fee per person to access the island. There are plenty of basic accommodations available on the island or alternatively spend just the day. We spent two hours on the island which was more than enough. People rave about the beauty of the island (and do not get me wrong it is pretty), but in our opinion it did not live up to the hype. There are lots of hiking trails to explore though which offer great views over Lake Titicaca, but we preferred sitting by the lake enjoying the warm sun.
Still interested in hiking without the cost of a boat ride or entry fee? Make your way north towards Yampupata. The views along the walk here are the same as the views on Isla del Sol minus all the tourists. Make sure you bring lots of water and snacks with you as the area is fairly remote.
The Ride to La Paz
Most articles rave about Copacabana and Isla del Sol, but ours as you have seen hasn’t. The most fun and exciting part of our visit was the journey back to La Paz. On the ride from Copacabana, Bolivia to La Paz, you have to cross Lake Titicaca. Expecting there to be a bridge, we were shocked to find we would be crossing on a barge. Well this is what we thought.
Upon arrival, we peered out at the crossing looking for the barge only to find what looked like make shift rafts carting cars, trucks and buses across the narrow strait. An attendant points to a raft urging you to drive your vehicle onto it while the raft driver “tries” to hold it steady (i.e., no chaining up to the dock). Eddie carefully drove the van on board and we quickly set off. Floating across the river, we kept laughing and laughing at the antiquated method and praying the raft would make it safely. Luckily it did and we bolted down to La Paz to explore the city high in the Andes.
The Nuts and Bolts
How to get there:
Bolivia Hop: Check out Bolivia Hop for safe and comfortable travel in Bolivia. Trips from La Paz and Cusco can be arranged to reach Copacabana. Refer to their website here for the latest prices.
Where to Stay:
Camping near Copacabana? Head over to Fransisco’s for a beautiful secluded rocky beach right on Lake Titicaca. Just make sure to be respectful of his property. Ask permission to stay and clean up after yourself. Find out the GPS coordinates here.
- Entel 4G is available in Copacabana and in some of the surrounding area (i.e., at the campsite above).
- WIFI is available at most cafes and restaurants but service is patchy.