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Isla del Sol

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Bolivia : Altiplano : Lake Titicaca : Isla del Sol
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Isla del Sol ("Island of the Sun") is the largest island on Lake Titicaca, and part of Bolivian territory. An ancient holy site of the Inca, it's easily reachable from Copacabana.

Isla del Sol with peaks of the Cordillera Real in the background
Crystal clear water on the island
Inca Table

Cities

Understand

Inca legend says that Viracocha, the bearded god who created the universe, emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca and created the sun at this location.

The life in the island is tranquil, there is no noise, no motorized traffic and no rubbish on the streets (which is rare for Bolivia).

Get in

The only conventional way to get to Isla del Sol is by boat. Numerous tour companies operate full and half-day excursions from Copacabana. You can make reservations at the agencies, or just go down to the waterfront around 8:00 or 1:00. It's also possible to catch boats from Yampupata at the northern tip of the peninsula.

If you don't like to book a tour with a company, you can find a one-way boat to Challapampa (25 Bs, ~2 hours) at the waterfront. You may spend a night in Challapampa, walk to Yumani the next morning and return from there to Copacabana by another boat. One way boat to Yumani costs 20Bs. If you go on a tour where they drop you off in Challapampa and pick you in Yumani (few hours later) the cost is 35Bs. It is recommended to walk from Challapampa to Yumani (3h).

Recommend leaving your large backpack with a hostel in Copacabana as getting up the inca steps in Yumani is hard work at altitude.

Get around

There are no motor vehicles on Isla del Sol. It might be possible to rent a donkey.

See

Unless you're spending the night on the island, your itinerary will be basically determined by the boat tour you arrived on. Frankly, the half-day tour is barely worthwhile as it consists only of a brief stop at the southern end and most of your time will be spent on the boat.

A full-day tour will take two hours to get from Copacabana to Cha'llapampa, two and a half hours to see the museum and make a round trip hike to the Rock of the Puma, three hours to take the boat to Isla de la Luna and back to the Inca Steps at the town of Yumani, and two hours for the ride back to Copacabana. You can also choose to hike from the Rock of the Puma back to Yumani (three hours) and catch the boat from there. (Decide on this when buying tickets, as the boat fare to Isla de la Luna adds just a bit to the cost.)

  • Cha'llapampa, the town on the northern end of the island, is where the boat lets you off. The Gold Museum (Museo de Oro) displays Inca treasures which were discovered underwater off the island in the last decade. The Bs10 admission also lets you see the Rock of the Puma. Other than that, the town has a small beach and some dirt roads.
  • The sights on the northern tip are ancient Inca sacred sites. The Rock of the Puma, or Titi Kharka, after which the lake is named, is a large formation that will probably look nothing like a puma until the guide points it out. Your reaction will likely either be "Ah, there it is!" or "That's it?!" A short distance from the rock is the Inca Table, a low platform fashioned of stone. You may just be imagining a red tint on it, but it was supposedly used for human sacrifices. The Footsteps of the Sun nearby are a set of natural (or supernatural?) impressions in rock.
  • From Yumani on the southern part of the island, the Inca Steps descend down to the water. At the bottom is the Fountain of Youth. (Oh, those gullible conquistadors!) The channel of water flowing down the hill should convince you that drinking from it is much more likely to shorten your life than extend it.
  • The Temple of Pilcocaina is a little further south, and is an optional stop for the boat tour. Bs5 admission.

Do

  • Take a swim in the lake (best done from one of the beaches at the northern side, near Challapampa). The water is not so cold - it's fine for a short swim. You'll have unforgettable memories.
  • Walk the island north (Challapampa) to south (Yumani). You'll get nice views, see some llamas, donkeys, maybe the production of adobe bricks. There are two paths starting in Challapampa. One is go north through archaeological site and then south from the Sacred Rock. The other is go directly south, skipping the archaeological site. Be aware that Challapampa community will charge you 10 Bs for entering the archaeological site (actually the area with the best beaches). Challa community will charge you 15 Bs for taking any of paths south (they have their check-point on the way).
  • Watch the sunset and sunrise in their full beauty.
  • Watch the stars in the night, because the sky is super-clear. The South Cross and Arco Iris clearly visible.

Eat

Again, Yumani has the best offerings. Challapampa has some restaurants where you can get soup+trout for about a small 20 Bs. Challapampa could be good for lunch if you are coming with the morning boat and staying overnight on the island. Many places in Copacabana will sell you a lunch box, convinient for daytrippers. The few shops around have limited stocks, -fruits are mostly bananas and apples.

Sleep

Yumani is growing fast and already has a lot of tourist facilities. There are some basic alojamientos in Challapampa and Challa. The cheapest hospedajes start at about $2usd per night. At those prices expect basic conditions, everything is pretty clean and decent though. Camping should be possible many places.

Get out

Isla de la Luna is easiest visited from Yumani, by renting a boat.

Danger

Be aware of attacking dogs who wanna bite. In case use your backpack for protection and throw stones.



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