The fair of Copacabana is a week long celebration for Bolivian Independence Day. It occurs during the first week of August and lasts about ten days. During this time, thousands of Peruvians come to town to visit the Virgin of Copacabana in the basilica and get their cars blessed in front of the church. The entire city fills with people and stalls selling random junk appear in every main street and both plazas. Each night, tons of fireworks were shot off and lots of love music was played through the night.
It’s generally a crazy time, considering how quiet the town generally is during the rest of the year. There was street food everywhere, as well as miniature ponies and baby alpacas for people to take photos with in the plazas. It’s almost impossible to drive anywhere at this time due to the large number of cars parked along the streets and on the beach. Many restaurants in town close for the week because of how insane the whole thing is. You can buy almost anything you want in the city during that week, including knock off coats, ceramics, kitchen supplies, Bolivian textiles, and dried llama fetuses.
The most impressive part of the fair is probably the large firework displays which are attached to giant bamboo structures. The fireworks would shoot in every direction or spin around on a wheel attached to the bamboo thing, often right next to the crowds watching. I personally kept a safe distance as the things were terrifying, but fascinating to watch. Regular giant fireworks were also shot up in the air from the same location and would explode right over our heads.
It’s a great time to visit the city, but it’s a completely different vibe than the usual quaint lakeside town. If visiting during this time, be aware that most prices in town are much higher due to the crowds, and paying in Peruvian Soles gets you terrible rates for everything. Also, avoid the street food in the main plaza, only eat at the stalls in front of the local market, as they don’t reuse oil or cook old/questionable meat.