Copacabana and Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
We arrived in La Paz on the overnight bus from Uyuni at 5:30 am. We had received an email from our tour company telling us that our tour to Lake Titicaca was being moved up to 6:00 am because of a scheduled bus strike for later in the day. Therefore, we had about thirty minutes to get from one bus to the next. Fortunately, both busses were at the same bus station.
We unloaded from the Uyuni bus and made our way to the bus to Lake Titicaca. We settled in for the four hour ride not knowing exactly what to expect. We had our bus voucher but we didn’t have an itinerary.
We knew that we were going to Lake Titicaca but we didn’t know what we were going to do when we exited the bus. We did not know where to go or where we were staying, but we knew that we wanted to visit this famed lake.
Lake Titicaca straddles the border between Bolivia and Peru. Located high in the Andes mountains, Lake Titicaca is South America’s largest lake. It is also the highest navigable body of water in the world. The water in the lake is very clear and Inca ruins lining the lake provide for dramatic and memorable scenery.
After a few hours the bus came to a stop at a small town. A young man entered the bus and called our names. Rudy would be our tour guide for the next two days. He told us to exit the bus and we would catch a ferry across the lake. We were not at our destination, we were at a crossing in the lake where a ferry would take the bus to the other side.
The bus passengers would have to disembark and catch a small boat to the other side. Rudy explained that the community refused to build a bridge across the lake because the biggest industry in the town was ferrying passengers from one side of the lake to the other.
We crossed the lake and waited for the bus to make its separate journey across the lake. When it arrived we again boarded the bus for the final one hour journey to the town of Copacabana. When we arrived in Copacabana, Rudy began telling us the history of the town. He then led us to the town’s Cathedral which is centrally located and serves as the cultural center. The church was busy with town people coming and going even though it was midweek.
After our brief tour, Rudy took us to a small restaurant for lunch and an opportunity to charge our electronics. Jen ordered the Lake Titicaca trout and I ordered a pizza. We finished our meals and headed to the dock for our boat to Isla Del Sol, in the middle of Lake Titicaca.
According to Inca legend, Isla Del Sol is the birthplace of the sun god. The island is located in the southern part of Lake Titicaca and is home to numerous Inca ruins. The island and the shores of Lake Titicaca are lined with thousands of Inca terraces which allow villagers to farm the rocky and hilly terrain.
Farming is still the primary economic activity on the island, supplemented by fishing and tourism. There are no roads or motor vehicles on the island and the local people can be seen with mules hauling goods and supplies.
We took the ninety minute boat ride from Copacabana to Isla Del Sol, enjoying the clear water and the incredible views of Lake Titicaca. The Inca terraces that line the lake are overwhelming and it is difficult to imagine the amount of manpower and work it took to transform these steep hills and cliffs into farm land.
We disembarked and Rudy gave us a brief history of the island. He pointed to the steep Inca steps leading up to a high point on the island and informed us that our hotel was located at the top. He said that the walk up would not be fun, but that the views from our hotel would be worth it.
Rudy was right, the altitude and the steep steps made the hike to the top quite quite a workout.
After about forty-five minutes of climbing we reached our hotel. Rudy showed us to our room which was comfortable and clean. The hotel had an amazing balcony overlooking Lake Titicaca and the setting sun.
I immediately grabbed a deck chair and settled in to watch the activities at the harbor far below. Rudy told us that he would lead us on a three hour hike in the morning for a full tour of the island.
Rudy pointed out a short path leading from the hotel to a high point on the island. He told us that the twenty minute hike would give us a very good overview of the island. We wanted to get settled and showered before exploring the island. We had been on a bus for more than half a day and had not had a good shower in days.
Our last warm water was in the thermal springs, stargazing in the high plains of Uyuni. Jen went into the bathroom first and turned on the water. It was cold, not a good sign. Then the water flow stopped completely.
We decided to make the short hike and give the hotel time to work out the kinks in the hot water. Compared to the trek up the Inca steps, the hike to the island mirador was pleasant. The view form the top was definitely worth the trip.
We hiked back down and decided to stop for a quick dinner at a restaurant with a view of the setting sun. The restaurant was located next to our hotel and after our meal we headed back to the room.
The water still wasn’t working so we asked for a room change. The only available room was the matrimonial suite and we gladly moved our things. Finally, a warm shower!
The next morning we awoke to rain and clouds. Rudy met us for breakfast and offered to lead us on the hike exploring the island. It would be wet and the stairs would be steep, but he was willing to do it. We declined. As much as we would like to explore the island, it would not be worth being cold and wet for the remainder of the day on the bus ride back to La Paz. We decided to enjoy the views from the hotel and pass the time waiting for our boat back to Copacabana and the bus to La Paz.