Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca – Backpacking Bolivia
The Isla del Sol, the largest island in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia is the mythical Incan creation site and still home to several thousand Aymara living in small communities throughout the island. From Copacabana, Bolivia, we boarded a small rickety boat and embarked on the 1.5 hour trip to the south end of the island. The island is not that far away but they pack so many people onto the boats that they chug along at an excruciatingly slow pace. There are several companies that run boats back and forth to the island. Some of the boats go to the north end of the island, and some to the south. The cost is 20 Bolivianos ($3) for a round trip ticket in the same day, or 10Bs one-way out to the island and 20Bs for the one way back. They get you on those one-way tickets. Boats leave from Copacabana at 8:30am and 1:30pm. If you are only going out for the day, the 8:30 is your best bet.
Once on the island we paid the 5Bs tax to enter the south end of the island and made our way up the “Thousand Steps” which were more like 500 steps but still a long way at high altitude. We passed many people selling crafts, snacks, and drinks, along with an assortment of local pigs, donkeys, sheep, and so on. The path was very nice and the island calm and quiet. The islands without cars really start to grow on you. We found our hostel near the top of the “Thousand Steps” and the kind lady at the front desk showed us to our room; very simple with one light bulb, a bathroom, and no electrical outlets. We had a great view of the lake and when the clouds cleared we could see the snow-covered peaks of some Bolivian mountains towering to almost 6,500 meters (almost 22,000 feet).
After getting settled we found a nearby house with a “Restaurante” sign and the woman inside made us some egg sandwiches and french fries. All of the women on the Isla del Sol dress traditionally with colorful dresses, hats (you will never see anyone without their hat on), and hair separated into two long braids that usually are about two feet long and decorated with yarn pom-poms tied to the ends. They always carry a bunch of stuff on their backs wrapped up in a woven cloth that they tie around their shoulders. We watched the sunset then went to bed early, the island so quiet except for the donkeys that complain every once in a while.
We woke early and headed out to hike the island. The boats from the mainland don’t arrive until after 10am, so we were out by 8:30 with the trail all to ourselves. We had to buy another pass, this time 15Bs to enter the north side of the Isla del Sol.
The hike took about three hours to the town at the north end of the Isla del Sol. We stopped along the way to play around in some nice ruins. The beautiful Lake Titicaca surrounding us, a peaceful blue bliss.
It was fun because there was no one around to tell us “no touching!” The northern town was located right on the edge of the water and there were lots of Argentinian and Chilean hippies staying there in tents at the edge of the water. We stopped to eat a cheap sandwich then continued on our way. The trail was fun and made its way over rocks and back down to the beach then up again through some small villages.
After around five hours of total hiking we found ourselves back where we started, exhausted. Even though we had applied about four layers of sunscreen, we were still pretty burnt. Remember that the Isla del Sol is at a high altitude. iWe were just so close to the sun! I guess that’s why the island is named what it is. We slept well then caught the excruciatingly slow 10:30am boat back to Copacabana, Bolivia.
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