Hiking Isla del Sol – Birthplace of the Inca Empire

Have you been travelling in Bolivia and feel a bit landlocked? Craving nature, clean-air, panoramic vistas and blue waters? Then don’t miss hiking Isla del Sol, located in the Bolivian section of Lake Titicaca – the worlds highest navigatable lake at  3854m! This mystical island is home to ancient Inca ruins and sacrificial alter, rugged stone paths and stunning terraced hills that plunge straight into the deep blue waters of Titicaca. Enough to satisfy any patient with nature withdrawals as the islands network of paths are rather empty and at times you feel like you are all alone here, in communion with some sort of higher power.

Hiking Isla del Sol - Birthplace of the Inca Empire

Of course you would not be the first to have this experience when hiking Isla del Sol – Birthplace of the Inca Empire! According to Incan lore, there was once a great flood of Lake Titicaca that simultaneously plunged the entire region into darkness. Then after many days without light the Incan god Viracocha arose from the deeps of Titicaca, arriving at Isla del Sol and commanded the sun to rise. He also created Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, who went on to form the Inca civilization based in Cuzco, who came forth from a rocky crag still visible on the island today. Therefore today the island is known as the birthplace of the revered Incan Sun God and the worlds first two Incas!

Hiking Isla del Sol - Birthplace of the Inca EmpireHiking Isla del Sol - Birthplace of the Inca Empire

 However sadly, while this story is indeed epic, it is fair to say it is also rather fantastical and that the Incas did not actually originate here but in the Cuzco region. A more accurate version is likely to be that the Incas created this lore after conquering the island in the 15th century and wished to be associated with the prestigious Tiwanaku civilizations, which had previously inhabited the island and were a great source of religious identity.

Hiking Isla del Sol - Birthplace of the Inca Empire

Now I’ve got you hooked, here is some practical information for hiking Isla del Sol. First, the only way to reach it is from the small lakeside town of Copacabana – conveniently located only 4 hours from La Paz (less with the new road being opened soon) and a stop on the Bolivia Hop network. You can read more about Bolivia Hop and my review here.


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Hiking Isla del Sol - Birthplace of the Inca Empire

Once safely in Copacabana you have two options – day trip out or stay on the island. I normally never recommend this but in this case I would say day trip is the way to go. Isla del Sol has sparse accomodation accept in the southern town of Yumani which is experiencing somewhat of a boom after the introduction of WiFi and is heavily commercialized and built up, not to mention overpriced with varying quality. We stayed on the mainland and loved the cheaper prices, sunsets, delicious food choices and options! Just as a side note, check out the Thai Palace for the best set menus in town!!

Hiking Isla del Sol - Birthplace of the Inca Empire

From Copacabana there are ferries at 8.3o am and 1.30 pm to both the south (Yumani) and north (Challapampa) with many, many companies – all are fairly basic and uniform in quality, I recommend to only book from the three kiosks by the White Anchor at the seaside as all other sellers in town are tour agencies who will put you in these same boats at a higher cost. We paid 25 Bolivianos each way in December 2016, though Yumani should be 20 Bolivianos if you book in advance. Travel times are 1-1.5 hours to the South and 1.5-2 hours to the North.

Now as for your route: Go on the morning boat, come back in the evening, and hike the whole island! If you start at the north point you can hike to the northern Inca Ruins and then head straight down the spine of the island to reach the southern port well ahead of the 4.30pm last boat back to Copacabana. There is also a shorter route which bypasses the Inca Ruins but at a slowish pace we arrived at the wharf with 1.5 hours to share….It’s only about 10km all up for the longer trek.

Hiking Isla del Sol - Birthplace of the Inca Empire

If you’re  short on time you  can also do a North – North loop, seeing the stunning scenery and Inca Ruins while making it back for the 1.30pm boat from the north to Copacabana. The North is far more desolate and less frequented by quick half-day trips arriving in the South so this is also a great option. There are no ATMs on the island and you should bring cash – you will also need it to pay at the checkpoints located along the spine of the island. In 2016 these fees for the north, central and south sections were 40 Bolivianos total (15,15,10 respectively) and are unavoidable – completely worth it for the well maintained paths and scenery but would have preferred a single ticket!

Hiking Isla del Sol - Birthplace of the Inca Empire Hiking Isla del Sol - Birthplace of the Inca Empire


All and all we spent 5 hours hiking Isla del Sol and completely  loved it – I’m not very fit but managed it by walking slowly and taking deep breaths when needed…I’m still not sure I’m ever going to acclimatise up here. Don’t be conned into flashy tours or expensive transfers, just follow my guide to Isla del Sol and you will be receiving a healthy dose of Vitamin Nature in no time!
Comments (3)
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  3. Maya December 17, 2016 at 12:10 am

    What an incredible place. I’m putting this on my list for Bolivia in a few months. I would be interested in your review of Bolivia hop if you put a link in your article. Happy travels!

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