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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.



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 son and daughter of Inti (The sun God) were sent out of one of the caves on the island with a golden staff. One of the siblings, Manco Cápac took this staff across the water and found Cusco between the mountains. He decided to start his Inca empire there. This of course is according to legend. In reality, Cápac probably lived in the region of Cusco instead.

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).

This island is very much on the beaten track of the backpacker scene, and equally popular with bolivians. Every day hundreds of people are shipped to the island; don't expect a nice and quiet non touristy experience. Doing the north-south path gives you some moments to contemplate whatever you wish to contemplate.

Get in[edit]

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.

Unstable situation in North & Central section
Currently it is not possible to visit the northern or central sections of the island due to 'disagreements' between the communities there. The southern village has blockaded the central and northern villages since March 2017 over ongoing disagreements. Boats will only go to and from the southern end of the island and a sentry is posted on the path to prevent tourists from passing into the central section. It is possible to bypass these sentries, by accident or on purpose, by following the trail on the Eastern side of the island. However, be warned, the sentries and villagers will not be happy. Apparently, members of the northern community built cabanas on a site deemed sacred by the central community, who subsequently blew them up with dynamite, causing tensions which make the region unsafe.

A standard tour of Isla del Sol begins around 8:00-8:30am when you take a boat to the north end of the island. You can get a standard tour by just going down to the waterfront - there will be many people trying to sell you a ticket - or buying the ticket at one of the street shops. It costs 25b one way and 30b return (May 2017) for the day of transportation if bought in the street; 30b at the waterfront office. The boat ride may take up to two hours, depending upon weather conditions, so if you get motion sick it's probably best to sit on the top level to get more fresh air. The boat will take you to the north end of the island, where you can choose to spend a few hours seeing the sites there and then returning to take a boat to the south end at 1:30pm, or you can see the sites at the north end and then take the 3 hour hike to the south end of the island. At the high altitude in Copacabana, which makes hiking more difficult, if you're not great at hiking you may want to stick with taking the boat to the south end. It's recommended to leave your backpack at your hotel so you don't have to carry the extra weight. The boat gets to the south end of the island at around 2:30pm, giving you about an hour to grab lunch (the fresh trout is great), walk around, and buy some souvenirs if you want. The boat leaves from the south end of the island at 3:30pm and at 4pm, and arrives back in Copacabana around 5:00/5:30pm. If you decide to walk from the north to the south, note that you have enough time for it but don't waste too much time on the way, and you might not have time to explore the south.

The people on the island clearly understood the cash opportunity of tourism and you will need to pay multiple times to visit/hike the island. It costs 15 Bolivianos to see the north end of the island, and an additional 15 Bolivianos to walk from the north to south end. It costs 10 Bolivianos to enter the south end of the island. (prices as in jan 2017)

You may spend a night in Challapampa, walk to Yumani the next morning and return from there to Copacabana by another boat.

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

One way boat ticket to the north costs 20b.

There is also a boat leaving Copacabana at 1:30pm to the north and returning in the evening.

The last boat back to Copacabana from Isla del Sol is at 1.30 pm from Challapampa and at 4 pm from Yumani. Of course you should verify this information as schedules change.

From Yampupata local boatmen can take you across to Isla del Sol for 20 bs per person in a rowboat or for 150-200 bs per group of up to 7-8 people in a motorboat. A stop at Isla de la Luna can be negotiated.

Note that the people in the highlands are known to be rude. They are well used to trying to hike prices up for tourists and get angry if you don't buy anything from there. It leaves a bit of a bitter aftertaste to the beautiful experience of hiking the island.

Get around[edit]

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

See[edit][add listing]

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

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[edit][add listing]

  • 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 15 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). (prices quoted as of jan 2017)
  • 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[edit][add listing]

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[edit][add listing]

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.

Ch'alla, the often-ignored village in the middle of the island on the eastern beachside, also has a couple of hostels to offer. They are situated right on the beach, with the most extrordinary view on cordillera real (royal mountain chain).

Stay Safe[edit]

Be aware of attacking dogs who wanna bite. In case use your backpack for protection and be assertive. Asserting your dominance will, in most cases, have the dog back down.

Get out[edit]

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

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