Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

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Isla del Sol panorama

Isla del Sol panorama. Seen from the Puerta del Sol, Yumani, towards the southern end of the island. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Arrived in Copacabana, Bolivia, on the shore of Lake Titicaca on Monday, I think? We accidentally got ourselves booked into a really fancy hotel, which was nice because (like everywhere we’ve visited in Bolivia) Copacabana is freezing cold and we had the luxury of an electric heater AND hot shower in our room. You can’t even imagine what a welcome treat that was.
Copacabana is a little tourist town on the shore of Lake Titicaca, with lots of tourist boats in the harbor and beautiful views along the lake and the green hilly shores.


brightly colored boats. At the beach in Copacabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.

I’m about to start working(!), the semester will begin on Monday Feb. 1st, so I took half a day to start preparing my online curriculum, and the other half of the day to relax a bit and wander around town. Bought more warm clothes at some of the many touristy shops.
The next day, we had considered doing a 17-km hike along the lakeshore, but upon further research, the “hiking trail” is actually just walking along an auto road, so we decided to skip it and head straight out to Isla del Sol instead. We took an hour-and-a-half ferry ride on a big motorboat, arriving at the town of Yumani, on the southern end of the island. From the ferry docks we had to climb up the astoundingly huge “Inca Staircase” to get up to the town.

huge staircase huge staircase

had to climb up a zillion stairs to get from the ferry dock up to the town. At 3800 meters elevation, it was pretty hard to breathe, let alone climb up this many stairs!
Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Isla del Sol is a beautiful, green, rocky island in Lake Titicaca, covered with Incan ruins. Supposedly the Incan sun god was born here. There are no cars or roads, the population is about 800 families spread amongst several towns. The land all around the towns is covered in beautifully terraced farmland, and the streets and front yards of the towns are filled with donkeys, pigs, sheep, and llamas.

Yumani, Isla del Sol, Bolivia

busy streets on Isla del Sol

We identified lots of quinoa and potato plants, and many fields planted with some other crop that I couldn’t identify. I expected the island to be more touristy; the towns were certainly busy with backpackers, but the island itself is so beautiful that it wasn’t overwhelming, and it seems like the people in the towns also do lots of farming and fishing, in addition to hosting travellers from around the world.

town and terraced farmland

town and terraced farmland. Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

We stayed the night in an icky hospedaje (our room was unfortunately flooded and moldy and of course freezing cold!) with a beautiful front terrace overlooking the town of Yumani and the lake below. Took an afternoon hike down to the southernmost tip of the island where we visited some Incan ruins, El Templo del Sol.
Hiked back in time for a heartbreakingly beautiful sunset, with the orange light reflecting off the sides of Mt. Illimani in the distance. Ate roasted lake trout for dinner! Mike read somewhere that trout and kingfish were introduced to Lake Titicaca in the 1930’s, to bring more protein into the local diet.

alpine light

alpine light on Mt. Illimani, with the Isla de la Luna in middle ground. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

In the morning we were very excited to get out of our icky room bright and early, even though it was pouring rain. We loaded up our backpack and pulled on plastic ponchos over our warmest clothing. Hiked out of town on the trail that leads to the northern end of the island.

hiking trail hiking trail

hiking trail, Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Despite the rain it was a really fantastically beautiful hike, along the tops of all the highest peaks on the island. From such a height, we could see the island spread out below us to either side, the lake and through occasional breaks in the clouds, the surrounding mountains in the distance.

rainy view

rainy view along the coastline of the Isla del Sol. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.

By the time we made it to the northern end of the Island, the rain let up a little bit. We wanted to catch the last boat back to Copacabana, so we didn’t have time to visit the island’s biggest Incan ruins, but we felt like the hike up there had been reward enough in itself.
We were exhausted and fell asleep on the ferry ride back to Copacabana.

puma-headed reed boat

puma-headed reed boat carrying tourists around Lake Titicaca. Copacabana, Bolivia

Had a fancy dinner overlooking the lake, and enjoyed a good night’s sleep in a dry hostel. In the morning we caught a bus (again, in the pouring rain!) to Cuzco, Peru.

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