After Machu Picchu Michelle went back to California, and Dan and I started making our way to Bolivia. We went back to Arequipa for a couple of nights, then spent one night in Puno on Lake Titicaca before crossing the border into Bolivia. The drive from Puno to the border turned out to be a very interesting experience, as at one point the road ends right on the shore of the lake and we had to get off our bus and take a very choppy boat ride across to the other side. This in itself was pretty scary, but what was even worse was looking back once we alighted at the other side to see our bus bobbing precariously on its very own boat, making painstakingly slow progress across the extremely wavy waters of the lake. Thankfully the bus (with our bags on board) eventually got across safely, and after that it was a pretty uneventful journey to the border. The border crossing itself was one of the smoothest and fastest we have experienced – our bus driver guided us through the whole process and the queue for immigration was remarkably short. After we had crossed over it was then only a 15 minute drive to reach the sunny lakeside town of Copacabana.
Due to its location right on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable body of water, Copacabana is quite a touristy town with an abundance of hotels, hostels, restaurants, cafes and bars. Because of this Dan and I hadn’t bothered to book any accommodation before our arrival, hoping that by just turning up at a few hostels we might be able to wrangle a discount.
As it turned out, we were in luck – the first hostel we tried, Hostal Florencia, offered us a discounted rate for a private room with breakfast included. The hostel itself is in a great location, just a short walk from the main square, and all of the staff were incredibly friendly. They went out of their way to help us with any information we needed about our stay in Copacabana, they always greeted us warmly whenever they saw us, and when we left they helped us plan our onward journey.
We had some good intentions for our time in Copacabana. On day one we planned to visit the Isla Del Sol, an island you can reach from Copacabana by boat that is supposed to have some incredible hiking trails – but when our alarms went off the next morning at 7 a.m., we both felt less than enthused about the idea. This was largely due to the fact that at the time of our visit, half the island was closed to tourists, meaning that you could only hike in the south part of the island. It would also have been a very long day, as the outbound boat left at around 8 a.m. but the return boat didn’t leave until 5 p.m. The prospect of being stuck on the island all day when only half of it was open just did not sound like fun, so after a bit of deliberating we decided to give the it a miss. We felt better about our decision later that day when we met some other travelers who told us that they found the island pretty underwhelming!
Instead we spent the day wandering around the town, stopping for coffee and having an almuerzo at a great little local restaurant. The following day we were feeling a bit more energetic, so after breakfast we decided to hike from Copacabana to the smaller lakeside town of Yampupata.
The route is a lovely 18km hike that follows the main road (fortunately there are very few cars) and has some stunning views of the lake along the way. It’s a relatively flat walk so not too challenging in that respect, though at around 3,800m the altitude made even the smallest hills we came across feel like mountains! After a few hours we strolled into Yampupata and down to the lake front, where a few men offered to row us over to Isla Del Sol in their boats – this is an alternative option for those who want to visit the island but don’t want to take the standard passenger ferry from Copacabana. We declined their offers and instead went to sit down just by the shore of the lake, where a stray dog who had followed us for the last few miles of our walk – we named him Fred – came and curled up beside us.
After relaxing and admiring the view over the lake for a bit, we decided to make our way back to Copacabana. However, not wanting to hike another 18km all the way back, we had planned to flag down a taxi. This turned out to be a bit easier said than done as there appeared to be no taxis whatsoever in Yampupata itself, but fortunately after walking back along the road for about 15 minutes we spotted a taxi approaching and gratefully flagged it down.
That night we walked down to the waterfront to try a typical Copacabana dish for dinner: trout. Along the shore of the lake there are at least 10 makeshift restaurants set up in tents, and all of them serve delicious and cheap trout meals that you can’t miss if you ever visit the town. Most places have the same kind of meals on the menu and all mostly for the same price, so the recommended way to pick which restaurant you go to is to choose one that looks busy – if loads of locals are eating there you can pretty much guarantee the food will be good. The place we chose lived up to the hype, and we both enjoyed tasty and absolutely enormous plates of trout while watching the sun set over the lake.
That night it was time to pack up our bags and set off for our next destination in Bolivia: Sucre. We were particularly excited about this as we planned to spend an entire month there, and had rented a whole house for ourselves so that we could spend some quality time relaxing and unwinding from a busy few months on the road. And of course, we had Game of Thrones to catch up on too!