You finally made it to Bolivia. The landlocked South American country only receives a fraction of the visitors of its more popular neighbors, including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. After slowly adjusting to the altitude, you started to explore La Paz. You found raw natural beauty and traditional customs. Spanish Colonial architecture is mixed with new hotels and restaurants. While Illimani’s three snow-capped peaks stand guard over the city. You quickly fell in love with the highest capital city in the world. So why are you thinking about leaving?
Unless you’re simply checking the country off your list, La Paz isn’t the only reason to visit Bolivia. Many would argue that you haven’t really seen the country until you leave the city; others claim it’s the least interesting place there. Take Lake Titicaca, for example. It’s the highest—are you noticing a pattern?—lake in the world, as well as the largest on the entire continent. Plus it’s just a few hours northwest of La Paz.
You’ve actually been to Lake Titicaca before. You spent a few days on the Peru side exploring the traditional villages, the unspoiled islands, and the high-altitude hiking trails. So you already know that it’s a sacred and mystical place. Copacabana might be even more so.
Copacabana was the site of Inca fertility temples long before the Spanish arrived and started building churches in the mid-16th century. Both the ruins and the religious sites are still important to the people who live there today. The waterfront city sits in between Mount Calvario and Mount Niño Calvario. Its colorful buildings have red-tiled roofs. The Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana, which takes up an entire block, honors the patron saint of Bolivia. Small boats are anchored in the calm water that looks like it belongs in the Caribbean. While street vendors sell mate de coca, salteñas, and empanadas.
You head up the hill from the water to settle into your hotel. Hotel Rosario Lago Titicaca, just a few blocks from Plaza 2 de Febrero (the central square), is in a colonial building that’s full of Andean handicrafts. It has stone fireplaces, bright accent walls, and a quiet garden, as well. You barely notice any of them. Instead, you can’t take your eyes off the view of the lake from the terrace. You have the same view from the jacuzzi in your suite.
So your afternoon plans can wait. You had intended to do the Stations of the Cross hike, more for the gorgeous views than your religious devotion, the first day you arrived. A boat ride to sacred Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) and more hiking was supposed to follow tomorrow. But now, you just want to sit on the terrace, try a glass of Bolivian Cabernet Sauvignon—produced at some of the highest vineyards in the world—and enjoy the breathtaking view. It’s a good thing you didn’t stop with La Paz.