La Paz is a very interesting city with some great sites and a fascinating place to visit if you want to see a mixing of modern and traditional Bolivian cultures. Walking down the street, you will pass in one moment the traditional Witch Market with all the spells and herbal remedies you need and in the next moment a packed Italian restaurant with a modern, hip design. This is a city of contrasts.
Add to culture shock a dizzily high altitude, and La Paz can easily become overwhelming. It’s a place you should definitely check out for at least a few days but if you are ready to escape the city, why not hop a bus to Copacabana.
Getting the Bus in La Paz
Copacabana is a popular destination for travelers leaving La Paz. Located close to the border with Peru, it is a fairly common stop for travelers coming from Peru or heading that way. As such, it is fairly easy to catch a bus to the small town.
Head to the cemetery bus terminal in La Paz and ask around at the various bus counters for prices. Many of the companies end up putting people on the same bus so look for the lowest price. Buses leave every few hours and the price should be around $5 US or so (as of 2013).
The drive from La Paz to Copacabana is quite beautiful and only a 3-4 hour journey. The roads are in decent shape and rarely blocked so most travelers make it through without any hassle. The drive, for the majority of the trip, follows roads close to the shore of Lake Titicaca. The views of the lake and the green countryside quickly help you to forget the chaos, traffic, and noise of La Paz.
At about the halfway point in the trip, you will stop in a small town and be told to get off the bus. Copacabana is not on an island but to save time, the bus crosses here on a ferry. The ferry price is of course not included in your bus ticket price and they never remember to tell you that fact when you first buy your bus ticket in La Paz, so be sure you have some cash on hand. It’s a relatively small fee and is paid to the boat captains who take you across in a small wooden boat while the bus is taken across on a separate large barge. The bus barge will take awhile longer to get across than the boats and you will have time to grab a quick snack or a lunch to go before getting back on the bus.
You will know you are arriving in Copacabana when you first see it spread out before you in the valley. It is a small town with a beautiful lakeside location and is surrounded by green fields and mountains.
The bus will usually drop passengers off in the middle of town in Plaza 2 de Febrero. This is also where most of the travel companies are located so if you are looking to book a boat trip to the Island of the Sun, you can do so when you get off the bus. If you aren’t staying in town, this is also where you can find the bus companies to book a ticket to Puno, Peru.
Couple Travel Tips
- Avoid the small white, minibuses and by a ticket from a legitimate bus company. There have been a number of incidences of the smaller, shared van type buses being robbed.
- If you are coming from the other direction, the process is about the same and you should be able to book a ticket in Copacabana for the same price.
- When you get off the bus for the ferry, take your passport and any valuables. You will be separated from the bus for close to 30 minutes and while things rarely go missing, it’s better to be safe than sorry.