25 Apr 2014

The Other Copacabana

Our final stop in Bolivia was Copacabana, where unlike it’s famous Brazilian namesake this Copacabana sits on the banks of Lake Titicaca, one of the world’s highest lakes at 3,812m ASL. This lakeside town is only a four hour drive north of La Paz and less than 30 minutes from the Bolivia and Peru border making it a popular traveller spot. Our bus ride to Copacabana started in the rather rough Cementario neighbourhood of La Paz with an unpleasant breakfast of bread filled with cheesy, lumpy milk. Note to Sticky: Just because the locals are eating it doesn’t mean you will like it too! 

A few hours into our journey we took a boat driven by a boy of about thirteen years old to the Copacabana peninsula whilst our coach floated across beside us on another type of budget lake vessel, thankfully neither parties sank and soon we were trying to find our bearings on the streets of Copacabana. 

copacabana laketiticaca bolivia
"All aboard!"

We were dropped off in the main square which is much more the hub for the locals as they buy, sell and eat on the cobbled streets. Our part of town aka the tourist centre was closer to the shore of Lake Titicaca just a few minutes walk away.

isla del sol lake titicaca copacabana bolivia

We stayed at Hotel Utuma which was a lovely and bright local run place. After a swift check-in we headed out for a late lunch and discovered Bolivia’s best street food, a delicious tiny fish called Ispi. 

ispi lake titicaca bolivia
"Bolivia's best street food!"

There are a few small cafes on Plaza Sucre that serve up this delicious meal of white rice, potato and corn topped with a huge portion of deep fried ispi and a spicy tomato salsa on the side. Ispi are basically like tiny sardines or giant whitebait, so very fishy! They are dipped in a very light batter and deep-fried for a couple of minutes until super crispy. A generous portion of Ispi will set you back just 10 BOB (90p)!

isla del sol lake titicaca copacabana bolivia

During our two night stay in Copacabana we went on a day trip to the stunning Isla Del Sol and endured an incredibly slow three hour boat ride to get there whilst inhaling an unhealthy amount of petrol fumes. As we pulled out of the port we were sure our boat was going to speed up but it never did, we were even overtaken by swimming ducks. Okay maybe that didn't happen but it could have! 

isla del sol lake titicaca copacabana bolivia

We disembarked at the eastern coast of the island with strict instructions to be at the south of the island by 3.30pm in about four hours time, we were really up for some exercise and had a long hike around the island ahead of us in the heat. It was also a perfect opportunity to warm up for our Machu Picchu trek in six days time. As Steve’s iPhone thought we were in Peru we’d missed our alarm and breakfast so were very happy to see some street hawkers selling our favourite cheese, tomato and avocado sandwiches. Simple but very tasty!

isla del sol lake titicaca copacabana bolivia
"Let sleeping pigs..."

On our walk around Isla Del Sol we enjoyed some incredibly beautiful views, wherever we stood we could see the many edges of the island which were either gorgeous golden sandy bays or rugged green headlands each contrasting against the surrounding vivid blue and turquoise waters. 

isla del sol lake titicaca copacabana bolivia

There were a few Inca ruins at the north of the island and then the long path from north to south was an actual Inca Trail. 

isla del sol lake titicaca copacabana bolivia
"Our first steps on an Inca Trail!"

We didn’t have that much time to stop and rest as we had quite a lot of ground to cover in just a few hours, it was also hot and sunny despite it being cold season. It was easy to understand how this island earned its name and by the end of our trek Vicky had the sunburn to prove it, even worse than Steve which was a first!

isla del sol lake titicaca copacabana bolivia
"That'll be 10 BOB please."

We passed a few ticket points on the route where we had to pay a small toll fee but as our money gave the locals another source of income in addition to farming or fishing we were happy to oblige. 

isla del sol lake titicaca copacabana bolivia

On the south of the island sits the village of Yumani which is where the hostels are for guests who wish to stay overnight, there are also lots of restaurants serving up fresh trucha (trout) from the lake. The best tables get taken up very quickly which is another incentive to quicken your hiking pace. 

isla del sol lake titicaca bolivia
"Mid-hike #selfie"

We enjoyed a tasty plate of Bolivian fish and chips with beer before rushing onto our boat for the ride home which we’re glad to report only took two hours.

trucha lake titicaca bolivia
"Bolivian Fish n' Chips"

It was definitely a very quick visit to Isla Del Sol and if we’d had the time we would have stayed overnight to get more of a feel for this tiny island which has no paved roads, motor vehicles and is inhabited by just 800 families.  

copacabana lake titicaca bolivia
"Low season lakeside in Copacabana, imagine high..."

As it was low season during our stay Copacabana wasn’t too overrun with Bolivian and Foreign tourists like it is over summer. By day it was sunny and the streets were quiet, but by night it was chilly and the streets were full of stoned hippies who really needed to move on. Sadly it wasn’t the most charismatic town we’d visited in Bolivia and on our last day we had lots of time to kill with nothing to do before our night bus to Cusco at 6pm. 

Obviously we didn’t leave without one final plate of delicious Ispi...

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