Copacabana, Bolivia a family friendly town on the Peruvian backpacker trail
Copacabana, yes, but not the golden sand beach with girls in string bikinis and bronzed soccer players you think of. That’sBrazil, last stop on our round the world trip.
Copacabana is the main Bolivian town on the shore of Lake Titicaca. It is known for its famous Basilica, home of the Virgin of Copacabana, its trout, and its quaint atmosphere. This is also the place where boats leave for Isla del Sol, the sacred Inca island and a a destination for many back packers on the Machu Picchu trail from Peru.
This town at the Bolivian shores of Lake Titicaca also has a beach, the only one in Bolivia, lined with tourist bars and restaurants serving (‘trucha’ (trout), the local speciality we loved so much.
Its by far the most touristy town on our travels through Bolivia so far but it is still relatively quiet in tourist terms compared to most other places we have visited on our travels so far. Unfortunately, to the kids disappointment the water was much too cold to swim in.
Altitude sickness in Copacabana, Bolivia
After a long and eventful day of travel from La Paz, I spent a freezing cold night under 4 llama blankets with altitude sickness so bad I spent most of it in the bathroom vomiting. Woke up with a banging headache so decided to spend the morning in bed. Luckily later that morning we got moved from our 3 bed room to a 4 bed room in our Hostal Casa de Sol and that made a big difference straight away.
We had not had a hot shower for 4 days so by now I was really looking forward to having one hoping it would make me feel better…but no such luck. The freezing temperatures overnight had frozen the pipes and wiped our the electricity…no hot shower today either, in fact no shower at all. Never mind:-)
Paul kept the kids busy doing some mapped compass reading for school work while I tried to recover. Paracetamol, Neurophen and a nap for me then finally my headache & sickness was going and I was feeling e bit better, ready to go exploring.
Exploring Lake Titicaca & Copacabana with kids – Bolivia Family travel
Copacabana town is small enough to walk everywhere with the church and market located in the centre. To our surprise, for the first time in Bolivia we found a “tourist strip” with souvenir shops and touristy eateries full of backpackers heading to of from Machu Picchu. Although food on this street is cheap relative to most other places in the world we knew by now not to pay more the BS10 to eat with the locals.
We went off the tourist strip for a typical Bolivian lunch in a little restaurant by the market. Lunch menu of the day for BS10 £1.50 was Quinoa soup followed by pork cutlet with chips and rice.
This is the kind of cheap and cheerful meal we always try to find when travelling and have usually found them in proximity to the local markets. It may not look very inviting to the average tourist but as long as the locals eat there, you know ifs a good place to try.
At the end of this street you get to the lake Titicaca itself, where a huge fleet of day tripping boats were mored…but to our surprise, no fishing boats in sight. I guess tourists bring more money these days than the fish does.
After a good walk around town we headed up to La Cupola for dinner after a recommendation by someone at our hostel. Quite pricy and a bit too formal for our liking but since we had walked up a steep hill to get there we decided to stay and try it out.
To our great surprise they had fondue on the menu!! How crazy is that to serve a Swiss cheese fondue in the mountains of rural Bolivia. Of course this is what we had to eat and we loved it too.
Kid friendly hikes with stunning views of Lake Titicaca all the way to Peru
Another freezing night under 4 blankets, but this time we had a bed each which helped us all sleep a lot better despite the freezing temperatures. After talking to people and reading up on the reviews on the internet we decided not to do the typical boat trip out to Isla Sun. I had initially wanted to go out but after my bout of altitude sickness and with Paul’s tendency to get seasick we decided against it. Instead we spent the day doing what we love the most, walking and climbing hills surrounding Copacabana.
Just behind Copacabana, away from the lake shore is a fantastic little path up huge exposed rocks, the old Inca trail, Horca del Inca. 1 hour walking and scrambling takes you up to the top of Horca offering stunning views over the town and the lake. The Horca del Inca was built by the pre-Inca Chiripa culture in the 14th century BC as an astronomical observatory. Rituals on the winter solstice June 21 are also held here by the trilithic, three-rock structure.
We had brought a little snack, and enjoyed it at the very top overlooking the majestic landscape with views all the way to Peru.
The kids loved climbing up and down the rocky trail. Once at the bottom we went for a well deserved lunch in the middle of town before heading back to the hostel. Time for a rest and to pack up in preparation for leaving for La Paz 4.30 the next morning.
Around 4.30 we headed out again this time to climb Cerro Calvario to see the sunsetting over Lake Titicaca. You can walk the paved road up to the view point or scramble on a indistinct path along the sea front on craggy rocks to the same spot.
We chose the latter of course, as this is the kind of walking we enjoy the most. With plenty of time, a few little bribes to keep the kids going and views of the glittering sun slowly setting over the lake we made our way up the steep climb.
Finally on our 2nd hike of the day we reached the top with 30 min to spare for the most spectacular sunset on our travels so far…
Finally a fire to keep us warm in Copacabana
The cold & sub-zero temperatures set in as soon as the sun set so we hurried down on the paved road to find somewhere to eat and hopefully get warm.
By pure luck we walked past a little restaurant with a warm glow coming from the inside…It’s a fire! I shouted to Paul, quickly let’s go in here, they have a fire! We scrambled inside, firmly plonked ourselves at the table right next to the big fire-place and enjoyed a lovely pizza dinner in front of the warming glow.
Back at the hostel in the cold rooms an hour later we climbed in under the llama blankets for a final freezing night in Copacabana. Next stop, La Paz…. and onwards to the animal sanctuary of Senda Verde if the roads would only let us get there.