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Copacabana, Bolivia

Area Code , US$1 = 5.9 Bolivian Dollars Dec. 27, 1999

The Town:-
It might share the same name with the famous Brazilian city, but Copacabana Bolivia couldn't be more different. It has none of the glitz and glamour of Rio, but instead offers small town charm in a place where the locals are both welcoming and fiercely proud of their Indian heritage. A heritage said to be founded on the shores of Lake Titicaca, where Copacabana lies. Making it landlocked Bolivia's main beach resort.

A very nice place for budget travellers is the Hotel Ambassador situated on General Gonzalo Jauregui. Prices start at $4US for a simple single room without bath, $5US with bath and $7US with bath for a double. The staff are very friendly and welcome you to participate in their daily 5.00 o'clock football match, played on the hotel's homemade football pitch.
They are often look puzzled as all the "gringos" drop like flies because of the altitude (3820 metres).
For those who want to be right in the middle of everything (meaning 6 de Agosto) the Residencial Aransaya is close to everything. It has pretty standard rooms for $5US single with bath and $8US for a double with bath.
The staff offer you good advice for what's on around Copacabana.

For those on an extremely tight budget try the Alojamiento Aromo just pastthe Hotel Ambassador. It has very simple rooms (no windows just bed) for $1.50 US a single, and $2 US for a double.

Eating Out:-
Sometimes the best places to eat are the cheapest. After 6 pm the Copacabana market comes alive with food vendors. Tasty hamburgers and fries will cost you only 25 US cents. Excellent Shnitzel with potatoes, rice and salad will set you back only 90 US cents. Trout (which Lake Titicaca is famous for) is just $1 US, 75% cheaper than the restaurants. The market also has some great fruit juice stalls where the signora will blend the fruit in front of you, 15 US cents a glass.

Because the food stalls only open at night time, the Restaurant Vicunita is a good place for lunch. It has a good courtyard in the sun where many gringos sip beer all day. Their trout is especially good. Try the Trucha Tomatado (trout with tomato soup and potatoes) it is great. Prices hover around the $4 US mark for most dishes.

A great place if you are in a group is the la Puncha on 6 de Agosto (next to Plaza Sucre). The staff say that they have the best pizzas in Bolivia and I happen to agree. Although the pizzas are not cheap at $6 US they are big enough for 2-3 people. The atmosphere is very bohemian with long dark wooden tables lit only by small candles. It also has a good book exchange and the owner is a huge fan of U2, so expect to hear it. On some nights it stays open past midnight, to keep the gringos drinking.

Night time:-
The recently opened Tatu Correta on the corner of 6 de Agosto and Oruro is the best place to relax and chat in town. This Argentinean bar, with only four tables would you believe, has the latest closing time in Copacabana of 1.30-3.00am. Every night when the very small number of diners have eaten, Daniela and Camillo (the two twenty-something owners) move the tables away and take down the musical instruments on the wall and welcome anyone to play. By that time the place is full. It is open from 6.00pm every night of the week. It might be best to get there early and keep a table. The spaghetti bolognese is the best dish for $2.75 US which will feed two people easily. Try the Tatu Correta milkshake which has milk, eggs, chocolate and cognac in it. It is deadly. The Tatu Correta has all the elements to become the "trendy place to be" in the future. If the neighbors don't complain about the noise that is.

Another newly opened but very welcoming place is the Sol y Luna on Av 16 d Julio, adjoining the fancy Copacabana Hotel. It has musical instruments that anyone can play, great expresso coffees for those travellers craving a good coffee. It has a good range of guide books that can be read free of cost and probably the town's largest book exchange. It also has a great music menu which lists C.D.'s you can put on for free.

The main reason travellers come to Copacabana is that it lies on the edge of Lake Titicaca. There are many boats for hire including rowing and paddle boats ($1US / hour), sailboats ($2 US / hour) and motorboats ($7 US/ hour). Sometimes tradition weddings are held on the waterfront, as the locals believe the water is blessed, thus blessing the marriage.
For $3 US a trip to the nearby Isla del Son (Island of Sun) can be made. This incredibly scenic island has one of the greatest views in the world. To the east are the snow capped mountains of Bolivia and to the west the rolling green hills of Peru. The locals are very friendly and this island should not be missed if in Copacabana.

The huge cathedral which dominates the town is certainly the highlight of Copacabana. Built around the 17th century it is considered one of the finest in all of Bolivia. Many vendors outside sell medallions of the Virgin Mary, as the chapel holds the famous statue of Virgen de Copacabana.

There is also many clothing stores on 6 de Agosto, which sells locally made hats, bags, blankets, carpets, etc. The prices are reasonable but can be bargained down even further.

Where is it?
Copacabana lies on the Western border of Bolivia, two hours away from Peru. Many travellers stop here on there Cuzco-La Paz journey.

From La Paz many buses come to Copacabana for US $2.50 (4 hours)From Puno (Peru) buses cost $2 US.

There are many bus companies around Plaza Sucre which can take you in either direction.

WARNING:- Watch you bags carefully if you are leaving from La Paz. The bus station is cramped and crowded, making it easy for thieves. When choosing you seat on the bus, make sure you are on the window of the bag compartment side so you can see your bag enter and exit the bus.

Useful information:-
There is only one bank in Copacabana (Banco del Estado). That is situated on 6 de Agosto. It cashes travellers checks for a reasonable 2% commission.
There is no Automatic Teller Machine but the bank does give cash advances for Visa and Mastercard. The Plaza Azul changes money quickly and is more convenient than the busy bank. It is directly opposite the bank.

The Hotel Copacabana has the only internet facility in town (just one terminal). However at time of research it was not working for the week I was here. Yet they are good enough to let me use their computer for letters, etc for free!

The Police station is next to the post office on General Gonzalo Jaurgui. The Entel office is behind the cathedral on Murillo.

Weather-(Dec 99)
The weather in Copacabana is extremely erratic. The first day I arrived it snowed. The second day it was nearly 30 degrees with the altitude making the sun seem very hot. At night time it can get very cold. So with all these factors I suggest you bring a lot of warm clothes, a raincoat and lots of sunscreen.