Copacabana is one of the most visited sites in Bolivia during Holy Week, as many Bolivians travel by foot to visit its Sanctuary of the Virgin of Copacabana, Bolivia’s patron saint. 35,000 penitents are expected to walk to the Copacabana Sanctuary this year. All of them, driven by faith, depart by Ash Wednesday, in order to arrive by Holy Friday. Several thousand others will travel by car. Upon their arrival after the 2 day trip, there will be 3 days of processions, religious rites, and sermons, ending on Easter Sunday.
Located on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, Copacabana is the departure point for visits to the Isla del Sol and the Isla de la Luna. The town’s famed statue of the Virgin was originally sculpted by Francisco Tito Yupanqui out of maguey wood and then laminated in gold and dressed like an Inca princess. It gained a reputation for being miraculous shortly after its creation.
Many of the pilgrims cover 86mi of the main road, from San Roque through Vilaque, Batallas and other small villages until reaching Copacabana. They will provide direction and security to the walkers, as well as to the vehicles heading towards the Virgen.
Others take a different route, through Pucarani, Aygachi, Cohana and Quehaya, in order to shorten the walk by 55mi. Those going from Pucarani to Copacabana do so along a thousand-year-old route from the time of Tiwanaku (the Aymara Kingdom predating the . Inca, who also used the route), known as Wiñay Marca. The mayor of Pucarani has announced that the community will depart on April 16th at 7am. The route along which the pilgrims will walk boasts picturesque natural, religious, and cultural scenery. They and the other pilgrims can expect a warm welcome in each community they pass through.
The Bolivian Red Cross and the El Alto police have set up 9 tents to provide assistance and attention to walkers en route to Copacabana sanctuary. 4 of these will be police tents: at Batallas, the Escoma Crossing, the Tiquina Crossing, and in Manco Kápac province, three kilometers from the entry to Copacabana. The remaining tents will be medical- located at Peñas, Tiquina, Copacabana, Huarina and Batallas- and are expected to treat 1,800 to 2,000 pilgrims.
In order to take full advantage of the sudden influx of visitors, local authorities are promoting four different sites along the Tiquina Stretch in Lake Titicaca this Holy Week. Among the promoted activities are scenic hikes at Lupalaya, pre-Hispanic cemetery tours on Camacachi Island, recreational fishing at La Rinconada, and scuba diving demonstration at Peñón Blanco this. Those who don’t wish to do the full (Bs 25) bus circuit can opt for another activity: biking along the bicicross lane, with free bike use. Those who do choose to do the full circuit need to bring tents, or sleeping bags if you prefer to spend the nights in the schools and depart on Friday at 7am from . Evening events include beach bonfires and open-air movies.