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Travel guide: Bolivia

Festival destacado

Zapote Festival

Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria, Copacabana
Febrero

Esta celebración tiene lugar entre el 2 y el 5 de febrero en el pueblo boliviano de Copacabana junto al lago Titicaca. La Virgen de la Candelaria, también conocida como la Virgen Morena del lago y la patrona de Bolivia, es una estatua de la Virgen María esculpida en madera oscura por un artesano inca.

Según la leyenda, en 1576, unos pescadores incas fueron sorprendidos por una terrible tormenta en el Lago Titicaca y, mientras gritaban pidiendo ayuda, la Virgen María se les apareció y les salvó del peligro. En agradecimiento, los pescadores decidieron construir un templo donde alojar la estatua de la Virgen.

También se cuenta que la Virgen de Copacabana se le apareció en sueños a Tito Yupanqui. Tito todavía no era escultor, pero le afectó tanto esta visión que decidió aprender a esculpir y talló a mano él mismo a la Virgen. Después, la transportó desde Potosí (entonces uno de los mayores centros de arte) hasta Copacabana y la colocó en una capilla de adobe.

Pronto la estatua ganó una gran reputación en Bolivia y en Perú por hacer milagros. En la actualidad, Copacabana, un pueblo rural tranquilo, se transforma completamente durante la semana de fiesta. Durante estos días, uno de los eventos más populares es la “cha’lla” (rito de bendición) en el que coches, camiones y autobuses aparcan en frente de la basílica para recibir la bendición de la Virgen. Los vehículos se decoran con guirnaldas de flores, lazos de colores y banderas. Durante las celebraciones se organizan también danzas tradicionales Aymara, música y desfiles coloridos.

La catedral que acoge en la actualidad a la Virgen de la Candelaria, posee un museo en su interior con arte local y de origen europeo. También alberga una sorprendente colección de cientos de grullas de papel donadas por una mujer japonesa devota de la Virgen.

De los alrededores de Copacabana, es visita obligada la “Isla del Sol”. Esta isla en la parte sur del lago Titicaca posee un impresionante conjunto de ruinas de la legendaria civilización inca. También, subir al monte Calvario premia a los visitantes con unas vistas espectaculares del pueblo y lago. El Museo del Poncho también se merece una visita. Este pequeño y original museo al lado del lago sorprende por el gran número de prendas de diferentes estilos típicos de la zona.

La gran devoción religiosa de Bolivia no sólo te acercará con esta celebración al corazón de su tradición y la cultura, sino también a uno de los parajes más bonitos de Latino América.

Featured festival

Virgin of Candelaria celebration, Copacabana, Bolivia
February

This celebration takes place between February 2 and 5 in the Bolivian town of Copacabana by the Lake Titicaca. The Virgin of Candelaria, also known as the Dark Virgin of the lake and the Patroness of Bolivia, is a statue of the Virgin Mary sculpted in dark wood by an Incan craftsman in 1576.

According to the legend, in 1576, some Inca fishermen were caught in a terrible storm on Lake Titicaca. As they prayed for help, the Virgin Mary appeared and saved them. In gratitude they decided to build a sanctuary containing a statue of the Virgin.

It is also told that the Virgin of Copacabana, who had appeared to the fishermen, appeared too in a dream to Tito Yupanqui. He was not a sculptor yet, but he was so affected by this vision that he learnt to sculpt and hand-carved himself the Virgin. Then he carried her all the way from Potosí (very important art center back then) to Copacabana and placed her in an adobe chapel.

Soon the statue gained a big reputation throughout Bolivia and Peru for working miracles. Today, Copacabana, normally a quiet and rural village, transforms itself during the week of the festivities. During these days, one of the most popular events is the “cha’lla” (ritual blessing) in which cars, trucks and buses from Peru and across Bolivia, park in front of the Basilica to receive the blessing from the Virgin. Vehicles are decorated with garlands of flowers, colored ribbons and flags. Traditional Aymara dances, music and parades are also organized during the celebrations.

The cathedral that houses the Virgen de la Candelaria today, also has a museum that contains European and local art, and even a collection of hundreds of paper cranes donated by a Japanese woman devoted to the Virgin.

Another must-see in the area is “Isla del Sol.” This island in the southern part of Lake Titicaca is a legendary Inca creation site and the birthplace of the sun in Incan mythology. Also, climbing Calvario Hill in Copacabana rewards its visitors with breathtaking views of the town and Lake Titicaca, or the “Museo del Poncho”, a small and original museum near Lake Titicaca, with hundreds of different clothing styles.

With this celebration, the great religious devotion of Bolivia not only will draw you closer to the heart of its tradition and culture, but also to one of the most beautiful areas of Latin America.

 

Recommended travel guides

Lonely Planet Bolivia (Travel Guide)

#1 best-selling guide to Bolivia

Lonely Planet Bolivia is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Venture through the world's largest salt flat, trek in the Cordillera Real, or take in the sunset from your ridge-top lodge at Isla del Sol; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Bolivia and begin your journey now!

 

The Rough Guide to Bolivia
by Shafik Meghji, Stephen Keeling

This new, fully-updated edition of The Rough Guide to Bolivia helps you discover both the big sights and the hidden gems, with expert reviews of the best places to stay, eat and drink for everyone from backpackers to five-star travelers.
The introduction will help you choose where to go and what to see, inspired by dozens of stunning photos. The Things Not To Miss section runs through all the must-sees, while the Itineraries guide you around the country's highlights. Navigation through the book and on the ground is aided by clear color maps with every chapter. Each map is keyed with all the accommodation, eating and drinking options, nightlife venues and shops that are reviewed in detail in the Listings chapters.

From the shimmering blue waters of Lake Titicaca to the blindingly white salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni, the snow-capped peaks of the Andes and the verdant rainforests of the Amazon, Bolivia's diverse landscapes astound. The country is incredibly rich in culture and history, boasting ancient pre-Inca ruins, fascinating witches' markets, vibrant carnivals and some of South America's finest colonial architecture. There are also plenty of activities for thrill seekers, including cycling down the world's most dangerous road, exploring legendary silver mines, swimming with pink river dolphins and retracing the footsteps of Che Guevara.

 

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