When organising our transportation between La Paz, Bolivia - Cusco, Peru, we had heard a few horror stories from other travellers about crossing the border between the two as it is only open from 7.30am - 7.30pm. We were told of individuals who had been left at the border by local bus companies, not able to cross until the following morning & left with little shelter and facilities for the night. We started to do some research online, and came across a company called Bolivia Hop / Peru Hop. They are a reputable bus organisation that are famous for being a safe and stress free way of crossing the border, and much to our delight, they also included a stop off at the beautiful Lake Titicaca.
Their website was extremely user-friendly and provided us with a suggested itinerary and stop’s between Bolivia - Peru. After spending around one week in the fast-paced and crazy city of La Paz, we were certainly in need of some relaxation and sunshine. The flexibility of Bolivia/Peru Hop is that you can hop on/off whenever you choose (within a 12 month period of purchasing your ticket), meaning that we didn’t have to pre-plan our future travels in advance, which we hate to do as we often decide once arriving to our destination how long we would wish to spend there.
We booked our tickets online at www.peruhop.com & were given login details enabling us to change any of our future bus dates/bookings at our leisure. We were then picked up by the bus right from the door-step of our hostel on the morning of our journey to Copacabana and greeted by a very friendly guide. The buses were extremely comfortable and we even were supplied with doona’s and bottles of water - a first for our travels anywhere throughout South America!
The route from La Paz to Copacabana was the bumpiest that we had experienced throughout our travels due to the unsealed road - so to have the luxury of being in a cozy and secure bus certainly made quite the difference. After a quick break at the ferry for snacks and to stretch our legs, and another stop-off along the way for passengers to take photographs of the beautiful views of Lake Titicaca (again, both firsts for public transport in SA), we had arrived at Copacabana! The sun was shining, the lake was sparkling, and we couldn’t have been more happy to have been out of the city smog and enjoying the fresh air by the water.
Our accomodation at Copacabana was called Hostal Florencia - a lovely three-story hostel only three blocks from the main street, run by an extremely friendly Bolivian woman and her equally as friendly dog! For around 60 boliviano’s / $12 AUD per night, we had a clean and spacious room all to ourselves, and for the first time travelling in South America, the complimentary breakfast included EGGS! We decided almost instantly that we wanted to spend at least a few days here, and booked a few extra nights immediately :)
There honestly isn’t too much to do at Copacabana but that’s exactly what were looking for. Our three days here included finding the cheapest “menu del dia” options for lunch, making the most of happy hour pisco sours on the rooftop bars along the water, and eating at the local fish markets for dinner who all serve fresh trout cooked however your tummy desires accompanied with rice, salad & chips.
After feeling guilty for not doing much physical activity for the first few days, we decided to hike up Cerro El Calvario, a hill famous for it’s views from the top and cemetery shine that can be found once reaching the end. This hike only took around 30 minutes by foot from the main street to get to the highest point, but extremely steep and all the more challenging when at an altitude of 3,850 metres! We arrived at the top completely breathless, both because of the hundreds of stairs on the way up and the beautiful view of Lake Titicaca that we were rewarded with. This little adventure is definitely a must-do if visiting here!
The popular 1-2 day-trip that many make from Copacabana is to Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) - a two hour boat ride that leaves either at 8.30am or 1.30pm each day and costs around 25 boliviano’s / $5 AUD each way. You can choose to arrive/depart from either the north, or the south side of Isla del Sol, depending on what you want to do and see there. The south side of the island is where the majority of the accommodation and restaurants are located. Where as the north side of the island is famous for it’s ruins and beaches for beautiful sunsets. As we didn’t have a tight schedule, we decided to get a boat to the south side of the island, and walk to the north via a well maintained trail that took us around 4 hours in total including lots of photograph stops. We brought with us our tent and sleeping bag and made the most of the free camping opportunity on the north side of the island. The walk between the islands was quite enjoyable and scenic, however be aware that you will need to purchase tickets for entrance to both the south and north side of the island (south side - 15 boliviano’s / $3 AUD each, and north side 10 boliviano’s / $2 AUD each).
Unfortunately we came across around 7 stations situated between the south and north ends where there were locals positioned, trying to convince you to purchase additional tickets every kilometre - ensure that you don’t do so, as you really only require 2 tickets in total and that is your fee paid. Tricky tricky!
Although the journey from one side of the island to the other is only 10km’s, there are lots of hills along the way, so pack lightly, lots of water and snacks (as everything is very overpriced on Isla del Sol), and prepare yourself for plenty of uphill and downhill.
From Copacabana we jumped back on Bolivia/Peru Hop to begin our 11 hour journey to Cusco - within 30 minutes of leaving we crossed the border with ease, jumped onto the extremely spacious and comfortable red Peru Hop bus, and slept the night away before arriving in Cusco the following morning. We even broke up the trip with a stop in Puno for a delicious and reasonable priced meal at an Italian restaurant! All around an awesome experience with this company, and we wouldn’t recommend travelling via Bolivia/Peru any other way :)