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Sometimes touristy places disappoint. Let me assure you, Copacabana and Isla del Sol do not fall in that category. They are two Bolivia tourist attractions that deserve their place on the list. Walk the hills, explore Lake Titicaca, stop at the shrine, and just enjoy that time of yours. 

Because bus problems were the theme of our Bolivia trip, we literally had one hell of a time getting to Copacabana. I crossed my fingers that this would be worth it. Luckily, that it was.

Copacabana is often passed over by travelers en route to Isla del Sol, (Sun Island) but it’s worth stopping for a day.

Copacabana – a dusty town next to key Bolivia tourist attractions (Sun and Moon Islands). Should you make a pitstop? Yes.

Although disappointed we couldn’t explore Isla del Sol for 2 full days, spend the night and check out the ruins like we wanted, at least we’d get there. On the flip side, thanks to logistics, we had a whole afternoon to see what Copacabana had to offer.

Eat fresh fish and have a cold Bolivian beer right on the water

The walking had left us hungry and tired. Once we started getting into town, closer to the water, there were many little bar and restaurant places to choose from. We stopped at a place right along the beach for grilled, fresh caught trout and and ice-cold beer. That definitely re-started our experience off on a positive note.

There were other places offering paddle boat rides at cheap prices, but, after filling our completely empty stomachs, we wanted to take a shower. Next time, paddle boaters!! We easily found a hostel, freshened up, and then briefly napped – that unexpectedly long morning wiped us out mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Walk up to Cerro Calvario for the best lookout of Copacabana

Since all our walking that morning wasn’t enough (haha!), we met back up with Patricio to climb the big hill in Copacabana. Catholicism is very prominent in Bolivia, and Copacabana’s Virgin Mary statue and 12 “Stations of the Cross” plaques are the reason why so many devout Bolivians and Peruvians make a pilgrimage here every Easter Week. It’s over 150km from La Paz and many even walk this distance as part of their meditations.

Copacabana is famous during Holy Week. Thousands of Peruvians and Bolivians make a pilgrimage for the Stations of the Cross.

Side not, we learned that pilgrimage was the reason for the strike we just faced. With so many tourists making their way to Copacabana for Holy Week, it was the perfect opportunity to strike and raise awareness.

Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake. That means altitude can get to you and your heart might just put right out of your chest for the 20-30 minutes your climbing.

However the view at the top makes it all worth it! It was so calming. The city dotted the shoreline, boats sat still in the water, and nothing else but lake and clouds stretched as far as we could see. We climbed in time for the sunset so, after taking hoards of photos, we found a place to sit and waited for the show.

The way the sunset lit up the two bodies of water out front, plus the town below, it was incredible.

It was definitely one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed. We were blessed with the perfect amount of clouds to create interesting dynamics on the lake. The whole sky lit up in the deepest shades of orange and red imaginable. It was breath-taking to watch the lake, the sky, the clouds, and the city transform with the changing light. It got better with every minute.

Afterwards, we climbed down and ventured around the village a bit. Patricio saw a girl he had traveled with in Uyuni a week or so back, and we all agreed to meet up for dinner. We found a cute little place with an open table near the wood stove – woo hoo, score!! Sharing a beer, conversation, and tasty food, it was a nice end to our stressful day.

Ps. If you’re around in February, stop by!

We were there for another holiday, but learned about the big festival in February called the Virgin of Candelaria. It would be a fantastic opportunity to see traditional dance, clothes, Amarya traditions, enjoy typical street parties, and more. 

A panoramic of the view on top of Copacabana, Bolivia.

Isla del Sol: One of the top Bolivia tourist attractions for a reason

We woke up early to find out if the strike was over. Sadly, it wasn’t. We packed our bags so we could book out of Copacabana as soon as we got off the boat that afternoon. We had a flight out of La Paz the next day so we had to get to La Paz that night and didn’t have time to waste.

The boat ride from Copacabana to Isla del Sol is around 2 1/2 hours, so we wanted to get breakfast before leavign. Teresa, Patricio, and I went to a cafe for a traditional, and downright scrumptious, breakfast – fresh bread, homemade jam, tea/coffee, and fresh blended juice (just choose from whatever fruits are in season).

Busses leave every day from Copacabana at 8:30am and 1:30pm. They cost 30 Bolivianos one way, or round trip for 45-50. We didn’t book our boat ahead of time and there was plenty of space because many boat companies are out there making a living. If you’re in high season, it woudn’t hurt to walk by and ask the day before, just to make sure you’re fine.

The boats for Isla del Sol leave from Copacabana at 8:30am and 1:30pm.

There are two stops, the North or South of the Island. You would hit the south part first, but especially if you’re going for the day, it’s best to get off last and then walk to the South end, Yumani, for your return trip. 

Various travel options for Isla del Sol

You can come for just a day trip, starting and ending in Copacabana. Due to bad timing and travel problems this was our only option, and we really loved our time.

However, our original scenario would have been preferred. You can spend a couple lazy days on Isla del Sol, exploring the ruins, staying at a local house, and getting in touch with Pachamama.

If you come for the day, take the boat to the north end and then trek down to the south end. It follows the water and the panoramics are eye candy.

Panoramic Views of water and mountains & greens and blues

If you come for just the day, it is super important to get on the first boat at 8:30am. Upon arival, we immediately took off on some of its paths, up the hills, following the coast, around the curves. There were so many great panoramics. The mountains in the background, towering over the pristine lake, and the green island under our feet. The homes are modest but cute, and most people make a living off tourism, farming, or raising livestock.

You can come to Isla del Sol for a day trip or spend 2-3 days.

One great way to see the island is the Willa Thaki hike, which runs from one ond to the other right along the coast, and takes about 3 hours. There area also archeological ruins, depending on your interests! Note that it’s good to have some local money on you, as sometimes you pass a “toll” of a little stand. It’s just best to pay.

We got to one of the beach spots and there were pigs and goats randomly walking everywhere. Near the beach, some people were camped out, others were playing the guitar, and little kiosks were selling food and refreshments. It was quite the peaceful environment.

Little pigs, donkeys, goats, sheep, horses… they wander the Isla del Sol like they own it!

When the boat came to take us back, around 4pm, we climbed on the top, laid down, and rested our bodies in the sun. It was the perfect cap to the peaceful part of the trip, kind of like the calm before the impending storm (aka, our adventure back to La Paz).

Put together an epic list of other Bolivia Tourist Attractions. Travel off the beaten path.

Bolivia is a geographically diverse country with so much to explore. Check out the rest of the articles and set your “what not to miss in Bolivia” list!