Copacabana is a small town in Bolivia that is located on the coast of Lake Titicaca, just a stone’s throw away from the Peruvian border. Life in Copacabana is chilled, laid-back, and slow-paced. It’s a perfect place to take a boat ride to the ruins of the famous Isla del Sol, witness the strange tradition of priests and shamans giving blessings to cars in the Basilica, watch the sunset from Cerro Calvario or eat delicious local trout in one of the family-owned kiosks next to the beach.

Spend at least two days in this little Bolivian outpost to discover all the best things to do in Copacabana.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Copacabana Beach and Port in Bolivia

8 Best Things to Do in Copacabana

Chances are, Copacabana may not be in your travel plans for Bolivia or Peru – yet. It’s not too popular among tourists, often only a transit city to get into Peru or Bolivia, and sometimes skipped because it’s a little farther away from major cities such as La Paz, Arequipa, or Cusco. And while this is totally fine, we found Copacabana to shine on the second look. It’s authentic, tranquil, and beautiful. Plus, there are plenty of unmissable things to do.

We’ve spent a week in Copacabana, as we backpacked through South America, and put together all the things that you can do in and around Copacabana.

1. Take a Boat Ride to the Isla del Sol

Visiting the Isla del Sol is by far the most popular thing to do when in Copacabana. This not-so-little island is located a two-hour boat ride from the coast and has some beautiful white sand beaches, panoramic hiking trails, and more than 80 discovered ancient ruins. The vibe there is chilled, with no motorized traffic, truly welcoming and hospitable islanders, and always sunny weather.

On the island, there is a lot to see. You can hike to the Southern Mountain peaks for breathtaking views over the whole island or visit the Templo del Sol, an ancient and quite well preserved Incan ruin. While in the North, you can visit the historic Chincana Labyrinth, hike to the Cerro Tikani, and visit the Arku Punku, a natural stone arch that almost looks like a gate to the sun.

As there is limited signal on the island, make sure to download an offline map in case you want to explore the island on your own. Trails are easy to follow but with limited signs along the way. Most of the time, however, you’ll see where paths are going, which makes it easy for inexperienced hikers.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Visit Isla del Sol

There is also a hiking trail connecting the North and South of the island, which takes almost a day to complete. Don’t underestimate the size of the island. From the lake, the island looks fairly small, but once you cross the first mountain, you’ll see how large Isla del Sol really is. Moreover, there is no flat path, but a lot of ups and downs. So only do this trail, when staying longer on Isla del Sol.

While you can book tours to get to the island, we recommend that you take the local ferry boat. You can visit the North or South of the island, depending on the boat you choose. A round trip to the island costs 50 BOB (≈ 7 USD) (South) / 60 BOB (≈ 8 USD) (North) and boats leave every day at 08:30 am and 01:30 pm and return at 10:00 am, 03:00 pm., and 04:00 pm. The tickets can be bought at the Copacabana beach, in a hut right in front of the wooden harbor jetty. If you visit the North, local guides can be taken from the harbor for around 20 BOB (≈ 3 USD) that will show you around the sites.

If you have the time, pass by the ticket booth the day before to book your spot on the boat.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Isla del Sol Ruins
Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Hiking on Isla del Sol
Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Hiking on Isla del Sol

2. Visit the Isla de la Luna

The Isla de la Luna, sometimes also called Isla Koati, is a beautiful little island, only 7 km (4 miles) east of Isla del Sol. Legends refer to the Isla de la Luna as the place where Viracocha, an ancient Incan god, commanded the rising of the moon. It matches the mystery around the Isla del Sol, where the Incans believe the sun god was born.

But whatever the story was, it’s a stunning, isolated piece of land amid Lake Titicaca. On the island, there is an archeological site (Iñakuyu), a beautiful untouched beach, and even some very basic accommodation options, if you’re looking to stay on a cast-away island.

Getting there is best by booking an organized tour from Copacabana, but also on your own. You can either hire a private boat from Yumani on Isla del Sol (Southern Part) to Isla de la Luna for around 250 BOB (≈ 35 USD) or take the daily boat at 10:00 am. for around 50 BOB (≈ 7 USD) one way.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Visit the Isla De La Luna

3. Stroll through the Avenida 6 de Agosto

While the islands around Lake Titicaca have plenty to offer, Copacabana town has some nice places too. There’s not too much sightseeing to be done but strolling around the main road leading to the coast is a cool thing to do. Following the Avenida 6 de Agosto leads you to the coast.

Along the way, you’ll find plenty of nice restaurants, shops, and coffee places. We simply loved the chilled vibes in this street, chatted with locals, practiced our little Spanish, and headed into a local restaurant that played some good old Bolivian vibes.

Take the time to get a coffee, watch the people pass by, and enjoy the sunny day in town.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Breakfast at Pit Stop Copacabana

4. Walk along the Playa de Copacabana

The Playa de Copacabana is a great spot to relax and wind down. There are plenty of family-owned kiosk restaurants, that serve delicious local garlic trout and ice-cold beers for very little money. You have a great view of the yacht-filled lake, watch the boats arrive at the port, and see the sunset over the Cerro Calvario.

You can’t swim there, as the water is very murky and boats are all around, but you can rent a paddle boat to explore the shore if that’s something for you.

We spent the late afternoon at the Playa, right after we returned from the Isla del Sol, and had some food and drinks before we started to hike to the Cerro Calvario for sunset.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana -Walk along the Playa de Copacabana in Bolivia

5. Sunset at Cerro Calvario Viewpoint

The views from the Cerro Calvario over Copacabana, Lake Titicaca, and the island are just gorgeous, especially for sunset. Taking a little afternoon hike to Cerro Calvario is a definite must-do when in the city and worth every step.

The hike to Cerro Calvario starts a little north of the Plaza Surce, following the Calle San Antonio. Depending on your fitness, plan for a good 30 minutes to reach the mountain peak before sunset. Don’t forget to bring a headlamp and torch for your return, as the path is not illuminated. While there are two paths leading up the mountain, we’d taking his one, as the other is way steeper and less well-maintained.

The Cerro Calvario Viewpoint is free to visit. (It only takes your breath away.)

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Visit Cerro Calvario for Sunset (Picture of Cerro Calvario)
Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Sunset Views from Cerro Calvario
Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Sunset Views from Cerro Calvario

6. Visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana

For us, visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana was one the best thing to do in Copacabana. It’s an impressive catholic church and landmark of the town. The Basilica was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1998 due to its cultural and historical significance and is also one of the oldest churches in Bolivia.

Inside the church, you’ll find a beautifully ornamented hall and a statue of Our Lady of Copacabana, the patron saint of Bolivia.

Visiting the Basilica of Our Landy of Copacabana is free. The church is open every day from 09:00 am. in the morning and masses take place at 11:00 am. You’ll find the church next to the Plaza 2 de Febrero (here).

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana (outside view)
Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana (outside view)
Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana (outside view)

7. Watch the Car Blessings in Copacabana

An unmissable tradition when in Copacabana is the car blessings, the Bendición de Movilidades. Yes, you read right. Since the 1950s, the tradition around the Bendición de Movilidades was born. Many Bolivians and Peruvians drive their new car to Copacabana to get their cars blessed by priests and witchdoctor’s and to receive a safe passage in return.

On a busy weekend day, you’ll see flower-decorated cars lining up around the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana waiting for their turn. Once the blessings are given, the owners usually splash a couple of beers on their car to still the thirst of Pachamama (Mother Earth), before they start stilling their thirst. What a strange tradition!

Head to the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana between 10:00 am. and 2:30 pm. While you can see this spectacle every day, weekends and especially Sundays are the busiest and best days.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Car Blessings in Copacabana (Blessed Car)

8. Visit the Local Market in Copacabana

Visiting the local market in Copacabana is another cool thing that you can do. The Copacabana market takes place in a side street of the Avenida 6 de Agosto, not far from the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana and the Plaza 2 de Febrero.

We found the market very authentic and cool. It’s small, located in a narrow street, you’ll see many locals shop and Cholitas selling all kinds of fresh fruits, vegetables and bread.

In case you don’t know what Cholitas are. Cholitas are the nice ladies you’ll see behind almost every market stall. They are true sales experts because although they all sell more or less the same things, they get their regular customers by being very caring and talkative. Cholitas always know the latest gossip.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Cholitas at a local market in Copacabana, Bolivia

How to get to Copacabana?

For many travelers, Copacabana is either their first or last stop in Bolivia. If you’re backpacking through Peru and Bolivia, chances are high that you will come across Copacabana at some point in your journey. It is a common route travelers take when planning to visit both countries, as Copacabana connects both countries perfectly by bus.

Getting to Copacabana is pretty straightforward. Either by bus or private transport from La Paz in Bolivia or Arequipa, Puno, or Cusco in Peru. To ease your planning, we’ve listed all the options to get to Copacabana.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - How to get to Copacabana, Local Bus Station in Copacabana

From Puno to Copacabana by bus

After traveling through Peru for almost two months, we decided to continue our journey to Bolivia by taking the bus from Puno to Copacabana.

Getting to Copacabana from Puno is a 3-hour long bus ride, plus 1 hour for the immigration/emigration at the border. There’s nothing too complicated about the border crossing, as all bus companies assist you with the process.

Once you arrive at the bus terminal in Puno, you need to scan a QR code to fill out a registration form. The bus will then stop at the border for you to emigrate from Peru and walk through the gate into Bolivia. There, you’ll need to head to the Bolivian immigration office to receive your passport stamp. That’s it.

Buses from Puno to Copacabana leave every morning at around 7 a.m. and arrive around 11 a.m. There are two major bus companies (Transzela and Titicaca Tourist Transportation). And the ticket costs around 33 PEN (≈ 9 USD). You can either book your bus ticket online or at the Terminal Terrestre de Puno. And don’t forget to buy your embark ticket at the bus terminal counter for 1.20 PEN (< 1 USD).

Before you hop on the bus to Bolivia, don’t forget to spend your remaining Soles! We had only a few minutes left, rushed into the next shop, and spent all our leftover cash on their full supply of Snickers bars. The owner had a great laugh, and so did we.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Border Crossing from Peru to Bolivia (walking across the border)
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From Arequipa to Copacabana by bus

When planning to go to Copacabana from Arequipa, you’ll come across two options: Flying from Arequipa to La Paz or taking a bus from Arequipa to Copacabana. If you decide to travel by bus, you’ll most probably pass through Puno and -depending on the bus company- change buses.

The bus ride from Arequipa to Copacabana takes around 11 hours. It’s a long ride, so you may want to consider booking a trip to Puno first and visiting the city before continuing to Copacabana the day after. The bus ride from Arequipa to Puno takes around 5.5 hours.

Most buses leave Arequipa at night, so be prepared for an overnight trip.

As for other major cities in Peru, in Arequipa, buses sometimes leave from different locations in the city. While most buses leave from the Terminal Terrestre de Arequipa, some bus companies do have their terminals. So, make sure to double-check your departure point.

You can book your bus ticket online or by booking a ticket at the bus terminal. Look for Cruz del Sur and Transzela, as those are the two major companies operating along the route from Arequipa to Copacabana. A ticket from Arequipa to Copacabana will cost around 220 BOB (≈ 31 USD), while a ticket from Arequipa to Puno will cost around 105 BOB (≈ 15 USD).

To get to the Terminal in Arequipa, simply take an Uber or order a taxi from your accommodation. Both options are readily available in the city.

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From La Paz to Copacabana by bus

Getting to Copacabana from La Paz by bus takes around 4-hours, plus a short ferry ride of around 30 minutes. Buses from La Paz leave for Copacabana every day in the morning from the Terminal De Buses La Paz.

As Copacabana is a peninsula, you’ll need to get off the bus in San Pablo de Tiquina and take a boat to cross the Strait of Tiquina, while the bus will be transported on a little wooden ferry (a spectacle on its own!). Have some cash ready, as the ferry ticket needs to be paid separately from the bus ticket, which costs you around 2 BOB (≈ 0 USD).

Bus tickets from La Paz to Copacabana cost around 50 BOB (≈ 7 USD) one way and can be easily purchased online or at the Bus Terminal in La Paz. At the terminal, there are plenty of booths from bus companies and even more people that will help you get the right ticket. We chose Titicaca Tourist Transportation and can also recommend them. Buses were not too fancy with little legroom, but they drove nicely.

To get to the Terminal in La Paz, simply take an Uber or order a taxi from your accommodation. Both options are very affordable, but expect some waiting time if you decide to take an Uber as they are very limited in the city.

Where to stay in Copacabana?

Accommodation in Copacabana is simple and affordable. Options for a luxury stay are very limited, but we heard about a popular and very interesting hotel owned by a German expat who has built modern and well-designed tree houses, as well as other fancy-looking apartments. The place is called Hostal Las Olas and was also featured on German television, in case you want to check it out.

Other than that, we had a quite nice private room overlooking the lake for as low as 120 BOB (≈ 17 USD). The owner was super friendly, and the place was clean and nice. So, we can recommend staying there in case you want to follow in our footsteps.

Here are all our accommodation picks for Copacabana.

Where to eat in Copacabana?

In Copacabana, you can find Western and authentic local restaurants all over the city.

The places we enjoyed the most were the little kiosks at the Copacabana beach and a town restaurant serving decent Italian food. To get some coffee and freshly baked empanadas we went to a coffee bar called “Pit Stop” right next to where the buses leave.

We’ve also tried to visit a cool restaurant at the foot of Cerro Calvario, called Restaurante La Cúpula. From there you’ll have great lake and town views. The restaurant was closed when we arrived, but maybe you’re lucky. It’s worth a try!

Here are our top three favorite places.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Garlic Trout in Kiosk Restaurant at the Copacabana Beach in Bolivia

How to get around Copacabana?

Getting around Copacabana is easy – everything can be explored on foot. It’s a bit hilly in Copacabana, but other than hiking to the top of Cerro Calvario, there are no long distances from one place to another. So, you’re very flexible about how you spend your days in town.

In case you want to visit the islands, get a boat ticket at the port or if you want to travel to more remote places, consider taking a taxi from the Plaza Sucre. The Plaza Sucre is also the place where all the buses leave for Puno or La Paz.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Pier in Isla del Sol in Copacabana

When is the best time to visit Copacabana?

The best time to visit Copacabana is between May and August when the sun shines consistently and skies are clear. During this time weather conditions are perfect and ideal for day trips to the islands.

If you are looking to take part in the festivals in Copacabana, consider visiting the town during February and March for Carnival or on the 5th of August for the Virgen de Copacabana festivities. Keep in mind that precipitation between November to March is the highest.

Over the year, temperatures in Copacabana usually vary around the 15°C – 16°C mark, so it can get chilly at night. Over the day, temperatures are very pleasant in the sun. Especially if you are visiting the Isla de Sol, be prepared for some heat. And don’t forget to apply a lot of sun protection. Due to the high altitude of Copacabana at around 3,841 meters (12,602 feet), there is an extreme level of UV. You’ll feel it, we promise!

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What does it cost to visit Copacabana?

Copacabana is a very affordable town. Major tourism is a foreign word, as most foreign people arrive in the cities as part of day tours from La Paz and local tourism is moderate. Hence, your stay in Copacabana will be wallet-friendly but no less pleasant.

Expect to pay between 210 USD and 945 USD for a week in Copacabana.

Here is our daily cost breakdown for Copacabana.

How many days to stay in Copacabana?

How long you want to spend in Copacabana depends on your preferences and time. Most people (sadly) skip Cochabamba and only explore South Bolivia, while others visit Copacabana as part of their backpacking route through Bolivia and Peru.

Whatever the reason, we’d recommend staying at least two full days in town or a little more, in case you would want to spend some days on the islands.

On the first day, you can opt for a boat ride to visit La Isla del Sol in the morning and hike the island over the day. When you return, have an early dinner in one of the town’s restaurants and plan to hike to Cerro Calvario for sunset.

On your second day, sleep out and have a late breakfast. Plan to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana at noon and witness the car blessings in front of the church. Take a walk through the city, across the plazas and market stalls, before you spend the afternoon in one of the beach kiosk restaurants.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Where to stay in Copacabana? Beach Hotel in Copacabana

How to get a SIM card in Copacabana?

Copacabana was our first stop in Bolivia, and hence we were looking for options to get a SIM card in Bolivia that we’d like to share.

While a lot of shops in Copacabana sell pre-paid SIM cards, there is a large Entel store in town. Prices were 100 BOB (≈ 14 USD) for 13 GB of internet, plus a small fee of 10 BOB (≈ 1 USD) for the SIM card.

Before you head to the Entel store, check its opening times. At the time of writing the Entel store in Copacabana is open from 08:30 am. – 12:30 pm and 02:30 pm. – 06:30 pm. from Monday to Friday and from 10 am. – 1 pm. on Saturday to Sunday.

Is Copacabana safe to visit?

Copacabana is a safe place to visit in Bolivia. It’s a popular backpacking destination for people traveling across the Peruvian-Bolivian border and we have never felt unsafe during our time in town. Locals are very friendly, and chatty and love to see more tourists coming to their place.

Having said that, always take standard safety precautions as for any other place you’re traveling. Don’t expose valuables, don’t leave your belongings behind, and avoid walking through empty streets at night. That way you’ll have a safe and enjoyable journey.

Best Things to Do in Copacabana - Isla del Sol Viewpoint

Is Copacabana worth visiting?

Copacabana in Bolivia is worth visiting for its ideal location close to the Bolivian-Peruvian border and access to day trips to the beautiful island of Lake Titicaca.

We were glad that we didn’t skip on Copacabana and had a great time. We loved our self-organized trip to the Isla del Sol, the delicious food, and the sunset views from the Cerro Calvario the most. And while we can understand that not everybody may have the time to explore this town to the fullest, we’d recommend spending at least a day or two in this charming little Bolivian outpost.