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Lake Titicaca

The Bolivian Copacabana

semi-overcast 15 °C


From La Paz we headed for our last stop in Bolivia; Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. Our Bolivia travel group had split up in La Paz, and now there were only the two of us and Tom going in the same direction.

After a few hours on the bus heading North and even higher we arrived in Copacabana at lunch time.

Ferrying our bus across Lake Titicaca

Titicaca from the bus

The major attraction in Copacabana, at least for foreign travellers, is Lake Titicaca. Titicaca lies between Bolivia and Peru in the Andes, and Copacabana is the main Bolivian town on the shore of the lake. Life here goes by pretty slowly with most people living off the land or catering to tourists. Strangely enough there is a small military presence; The Bolivian Navy uses the lakes for exercises and remains an active navy even though the country is land-locked.

Local ladies. The modern world seems far away in Copacabana

The main drag

Lake Titicaca is often called the world's highest lake, which isn't completely true. It is considered the world's biggest navigable lake, even though the term refers to navigation by larger boats, usually meaning commercial traffic which there is not much of here. There are at least 20 bodies of water in the world at higher elevations than Titicaca, but none of them even come close in surface area or depth. This lake is huge!

Another reason why people come to Copacabana is to get their cars blessed. Everyday at 10 a.m and 2.30 p.m a Benedicion de Movilidades is performed outside the Basilica de Virgen de la Candelaria. A more elaborate ritual takes place on weekend mornings known as a cha'lla, loads of cars, trucks and buses park outside the Basilica. Car owners pimp their vehicles with flowers, ribbons and flags and ask for protection by the Virgin. At the end of the ritual an offering of alcohol is poured over the vehicle. This blessing is particularly important for pilgrims and long distance bus companies with new fleets. Together with Tom we headed over to see what it was all about.


In front of the basilica

Blessing of the cars


The rest of the day was spent wandering around the small town, getting Tom's shoes sewn back up and drinking beer, until sunset when we decided to be good tourists again.

I don't know what the deal is with the popcorn here, but it is huge and there are whole streets dedicated to selling it! I guess business was a little slow for this lady...

Again, popcorn?!

Just north of the church is Cerro Calvario, a hill which provides good views of the town and lake. We decided climb it for sunset. Its supposed to be a 30 minute walk and when you look up the hill it looks like nothing. Then you start walking and remember that you're at 3000-something meters just about the time you're out of breath. At this point local old ladies are passing you carrying fire wood and children run past you laughing. Its pretty embarrassing. However, when you do reach the top the views are pretty good :)

Tom starting the climb

Residents along the trail let you use their bathroom, for a small fee of course

You pass 14 crosses on the way up

The city seen from Cerro Calvario


Crosses at the top of the hill

Made it!

Copacabana sunset

When in Copacabana one of the most popular things to do is visit Isla del Sol. The Island of the Sun is the legendary Inca creation site and the birthplace of the sun according to Inca mythology. We decided to do a day-tour and arrived at the dock bright and early.

Ready to go

Coca and cola. A lot of the locals chew coca leaves in Copacabana due to the altitude.

En route to Isla del Sol


The island has a population of around 2500 and most of these make a living farming sometimes adding to their income by fishing and working in tourism.


In many ways Isla del Sol looks like a Greek island, except for the fact that most hills are covered in agricultural terraces

There are no paved roads or vehicles on the island and the way people live here hasn't changed much over the years.

Drying mud bricks


Beach pigs

We walked up to some of the most famous ruins on the island, before we headed back to the boat which took us to the other side of the island. Here we opted out of additional sight-seeing and had a few beer instead. The view from the little restaurant wasn't bad either :)


Jason and a local craftsman hanging out at the Sacred Rock

Beer break

After a day on the island we headed back to Copacabana. This was our last day in Bolivia, and our last day travelling with Tom, the next day we were heading for Arequipa in Peru, while Tom was going to Cuzco. All good things must come to an end, after dinner and a couple of beer we decided to make it an early night as we all had buses to catch in the morning.We'll try to have an update ready soon :)

Posted by CanWay 10:13 Archived in Bolivia

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