Much of what we saw during our time in Bolivia was harsh, wild, and rugged. The exception to trekking the Amazon rainforest or scaling the heights of the Andes mountains was our trip to Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Copacabana is a resort destination for tourists and locals alike. Having seen the relatively poor living conditions for most of the citizens of Bolivia, seeing the upscale, boutique hotels on the shore with the boats in the water was quite a juxtaposition to the rest of our experience in Bolivia.
To be fair, most of the boats are tour boats to take tourists out to Sun Island and Moon Island and not necessarily pleasure boats. There were paddle boats shaped like swans to rent and tour around the harbor. The main street of Copacabana is lined with tourist stores and small, family-owned restaurants. We watched as ferries arrived from Peru dropping tourists off to start their journey into the heart of Bolivia. One look at that unpaved main street and there was no mistaking that we were still in Bolivia, despite the relative luxury of the hotel where we were staying.
Besides people coming to enjoy the sun and beach, the other main reason for people from Bolivia to travel to Copacabana is to have their new car blessed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana. Vehicles are dressed up with rings of flowers and party hats on the roofs. Vendors line the street outside of the Basilica to sell a variety of trinkets as it has a cobblestone road and is where all of the buses line up to pick up the tourists arriving on the ferries.
Staying in our hotel was like stepping out of Bolivia into a Mediterranean resort. The lawns are manicured, the restaurant was first class, and the room was spacious and comfortable. The hotel was part of the tour package that we had booked to visit the Incan ruins on Lake Titicaca and we were definitely pleasantly surprised. We ate lunch at a restaurant on the beach before heading back to La Paz that had an outdoor patio and definitely catered to English tourists. We usually choose less touristy type places, but the food was authentic and delicious.
All-in-all, the time in Copacabana was almost surreal compared to the rest of our time in Bolivia. If you are going to visit Lake Titicaca, taking the time to spend a night in Copacabana is well worth the extra time. Compared to how hectic most of our nineteen days in Bolivia was, sitting on our balcony and watching the sun set over Lake Titicaca was completely relaxing and refreshing. Copacabana was certainly one of the highlights of our time in Bolivia.