While planning my itinerary for a trek around Bolivia, I became enamoured with the idea of a visit to Isla del Sol, a beautiful island in the middle of massive Lake Titicaca. Sadly it was not meant to be due to timing (a traveller’s curse!), but I did end up in Copacabana—the next best thing. Or so I thought.
Copacabana is the gateway to Isla del Sol, serving as a launching off point for the boats that shuttle tourists back and forth. When I began looking into Copa, I had visions of that famous Barry Manilow song in my head (yes, I know he wasn’t singing about Bolivia, but bear with me!) and thought it sounded like a fun beach town.
Well, there is a beach. But that’s about it.
I ended up in Copacabana for one night en route to the reed islands in Puno, as many travellers do. The three hour bus trip from La Paz only cost about $4, and the travel agent also hooked us up with a decent looking hotel for about $30 a night—what a bargain! Well, it’s true that you get what you pay for.
The day started off well, as the drive towards the town is scenic, featuring windy roads that look down on the shimmering lake. Donkeys, sheep and llamas graze on the bright green grass on the side of the highway, while traditionally dressed villagers work in the fields. As you descend over the last hill and catch a first glimpse of the town, you’ll see houses tucked into the hillside, as dusty roads lead towards the blue water.
We hopped off the bus in the middle of one such dusty road, grabbed our bags then walked a couple of minutes to our hotel, which faced the water. Prime spot right? Well, if you like a good view then yes, but if you are hoping for anything above a one-star hotel experience, move along! Our room was on the fourth floor, which meant hauling our baggage ourselves up eight flights of stairs. The room reeked of cleaning supplies, the pillowcase didn’t even cover the pillow (eww!) and it’s safe to assume the water coming out of the taps was straight out of the lake. That’s the way it smelled, anyway. From what I saw of other hotels along the strip, they are all very similar, so be prepared for a similar experience if you’re brave enough to stay!
Hoping a walk around the town would make up for the dismal accommodations, we set out for a nice walk along the beach. It only took us about three minutes, as there was absolutely nothing to see. Hmmm. OK, we thought, guess we’ll go for an early dinner? So in true tourist fashion we picked the place that had the most fellow foreigners sitting out front, and ordered a couple of drinks. We had to wait quite a while, actually, as the waiter was super busy kicking around a soccer ball in front of us with some other guys. Frankly I don’t blame him, as playing soccer is far more fun than working. Anyway, we managed to kill an hour with dinner, which included watching the sun set over the lake.
Let’s just say that when morning rolled around we were psyched to be getting out of there, and the piece of hard bread and runny eggs we were offered at breakfast didn’t do much to change our mind about the place. I’m sure that Copacabana is absolutely lovely if you just hang out for an hour before catching your boat to Isla del Sol, but if you value your vacation time, find another place to spend the night.
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