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. Easily accessed from the intriguing town of Copacabana in Bolivia this island provides enough to satisfy any patient suffering from 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. You might even be tempted to stay longer and enjoy the glut of eco hotel Isla del Sol accomodation that have cropped up in recent years!
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 civilisation 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!
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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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 in Copacabana Bolivia for the best set menus in town!!
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.
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!