The city of Copacabana is Bolivia's base camp for excursions on and around the famous Lake Titicaca, namesake for the world-famous beach in Rio and the country's most important pilgrimage site.
Copacabana is not only the most famous beach in Rio de Janeiro, but also a city on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. The "place that was first called that" is one of our top 10 sights of Bolivia.
The origin of the name goes back to several theories. "Copacabana" probably either originated from the Aymara expression "quta qawana", "view of the lake", comes from the Andean mythology of "Kotakawana", a fertility deity in Lake Titicaca, or goes back to the Virgin of Copacabana, who is venerated in the city's cathedral.
In any case, the city gave its name to Rio 's famous Copacabana - and not vice versa. Who would have thought that the origin of the name of Brazil's most famous beach lies in the middle of the Andes? The crescent-shaped sandy beach and the bright blue sky are also reminiscent of its famous namesake in Rio de Janeiro - although the temperatures at this altitude hardly arouse any desire to bathe (it rarely exceeds 20°C here).
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Journey to Copacabana
Copacabana is surrounded by the Cerro Calvario and the Cerro Sancollani opposite, just under 150 kilometres from the seat of government La Paz, and can be reached via the Ruta 2 highway. From Peru, a bus line runs from Puno to Lake Titicaca.
Base Camp at Lake Titicaca
On the Bolivian side, Copacabana is the ideal starting point for excursions on and around Lake Titicaca. The most popular sights on Lake Titicaca include the sun and moon islands Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna, as well as the Islas de los Uros and Isla Taquile. The latter are already on the Peruvian side of the lake.
The tranquil Copacabana is situated at an altitude of 3,810 metres on the peninsula of the same name, which juts into the highest navigable lake in the world. The pretty little town is quite different from many a settlement in Bolivia. Well-kept houses and gardens form a stark contrast to the otherwise barren Andean highlands.
Nevertheless, it is very cheap to stay and eat in Copacabana, which European backpackers in particular like to take advantage of. If you feel homesick for Germany, you should visit the "Chirimosky" bar. It is owned by a German who serves spaetzle and goulash with sauerkraut.
The most important sight in Copacabana is the snow-white cathedral from 1820, the destination of many pilgrims in Bolivia's most important place of pilgrimage. The basilica in Moorish style is dedicated to the "Virgen de Copacabana", also called "Virgen Moreno" ("Dark Virgin"). Her statue, carved from dark wood by an Indio, is crowned with pure gold and can be visited in the basilica.
The patron saint of Lago Titicaca is celebrated every year at the beginning of February at the Fiesta de la Virgen de Copacabana with processions, music and dance.
On the square in front of the cathedral, a column of taxis and other vehicles can often be seen - they come from all over Bolivia and even Peru and are waiting to be blessed. Holy water under the open bonnets is supposed to ensure that there are no accidents in the traffic chaos of La Paz and other large cities.
From Cerro Calvario, the 3966m high local mountain of Copacabana, there is a fantastic panoramic view over Lake Titicaca. Those who climb its summit will find themselves in the company of pilgrims, for the stations of Jesus' suffering are lined up along the path as the Way of the Cross.
Avenida 6 de Agosto
This is Copacabana's shopping street, where you can buy ponchos, jewellery from open-air workshops and other souvenirs. It's also a great place to dine for a few euros. By the way, the delicious lake trout from Lake Titicaca is also available in the restaurants at the harbour - also at a ridiculous price.