When we visited Copacabana in Bolivia, not far from Isla del Sol, we were pleasantly surprised.
With its sweeping bay overlooking Lake Titicaca and the mountains surrounding the town (which you can hike to the top of for stunning vistas) it was easy to see why the town is popular with Bolivians for holidays.
Bolivians joke that they got the ‘Titi’ part of the lake while Peru was left with the ‘Caca’ section. I can’t vouch for Puno (Peru’s side) being ‘caca’ but Bolivia’s Copacabana, like a pert woman’s cleavage, was certainly eye catching!
The highlight for us during our Copacabana stay was our little jaunt over to the Isla del Sol.
This island has no cars – only donkeys – and is about as rural as Bolivia gets. Set in the stunning surroundings of eucalyptus trees and views of the gigantic yet serene Lake Titicaca, Isla del Sol is a somewhat hidden paradise island.
One of the best things about spending time on the island is a hike you can do that covers the whole island’s landscape; passing through Inca ruins, villages, fields and picturesque bays.
According to Inca lore, the sun was born on Isla del Sol and as we trekked across the island on the 16km hike it was easy to see how they came to this conclusion.
The sun beamed down, making it a warm day even though we were about 3,800m high (Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world), and the blue clear water of the lake sparkled like crushed diamonds in the light.
At one point during the hike, we heard drums beating and pan pipes whistling as a traditional procession made its way down a hill, through a valley and to a boat. A number of men boarded the boat as a crowd waved them off.
Further down the road we met an English couple Ben and Alice who were being followed by a young local boy. They fed him biscuits and he kept following, kilometre after kilometre, chatting away in Spanish until he walked off down a hill leading down to his small village home.
We spent two nights on Isla del Sol and each morning woke up to donkeys hee-hawing and the view of the sun rising over snow-capped mountains across the lake.
Being on the island was like stepping into the past. Wi-fi and electricity only came to the larger villages on the island around 10 years ago. All the women wear traditional clothing with their hair in long black braids down their backs, and you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re chased by little children asking for money.
Make sure you visit with an open mind – the accommodations on Isla del Sol are basic, hot showers are practically non-existent and you have to pay to enter the island and again to hike across it.
But whatever the demands, as you can see from the photos of our hike, the beauty of the island is totally worth it.
What you need to know for Isla del Sol:
Cost: The boat tickets from Copacabana to Isla del Sol cost around US$2 – US$4 each way. You have to pay 5 bolivianos (US72 cents) to get on to the island and then 15 bolivianos (US$2.17) to hike the trail. Make sure you bring your entrance ticket with you on the hike because we had to pay again as we didn’t have it on us.
How to get there: You can easily catch a boat from Copacabana which takes about an hour and a half each way. If the weather is nice, sit on the roof of the boat as it’s a lot less smelly than the engine smoke-filled room below deck. To get the boat, simply turn up on Copacabana’s foreshore half an hour before departure to buy your tickets. The boats leave twice a day from Copacabana – in the morning (8:15am) and afternoon (1:30pm).
When to go: We went in February which is meant to be the wet season but it was perfectly sunny. I’m guessing the sun shines a lot on Isla del Sol, hence its name.
What else: Don’t bring much luggage. As you disembark the boat in Yumani you have to climb 240 Inca steps which run adjacent to a stream the Incas believed was the fountain of youth. It’s a steep climb so leave your large backpacks at your hostel in Copacabana.