Isla del Sol – back on Lake Titikaka, but on another island

As I’ve repeatedly mentioned before, Lake Titikaka is one of my favorite places int he whole wide world. I could spend a lifetime there and it would still not be enough. So I was extremely happy when I had the opportunity to go back to the lake for the third time, this time from a new direction – Bolivia. We were to enjoy the lake from Isla del Sol (The Sun Island), not from Taquile as the previous two times.

We were to take the boat to the island from Copacabana – the second Copacabana we were visiting in the last 6 months. When we got there, Boca asked me “And … how many Copacabana are you intending to visit? “. “Eventually… all of them, of course” was my immediate answer. Well … why not? 🙂

Once in Copacabana the plan was to get to the island as early as possible the next morning. We found that ferries leave at 8.30 and we were told the North is more beautiful than the South, more quiet and “there are more ruins to see.” Well, if that was the case … we took the advice and bought a 15 Bolivianos ticket to the North. That was where we were planning to go anyway, as Noemi (the Pedagooogia 3000 wonderful lady) told us she was working with some people from a refugio in the North on openning a school for adults on the island. So we were excited to meet the people she worked with, and also to see the location for the school we intend to spend some time in as well in the future.

The North
We headed North then, and after two and a half hours, when our eyes met the piece of island where we were going to stay, we fell in love with it immediately. The simplicity, peace, calm, beauty. We easily found the Refugio Wiracocha, the place Noemi had told us about, and we were speechless at the price they quoted per person per night: 15 Bolivianos (2USD). Simple conditions, true that, but a really charming location and truly wonderful people. We were so happy we were going to spend the next four days there, in that superb location.

They were some awesomely peaceful days, and we did nothing but hang out on the beach, pick and choose beautifully carved stones from the lake, walk around the island, write and read. One day we visited the famous ruins, a visit we totally recommend. One of them is said to be the birthplace of Wiracocha, the Creator God in the Inca faith. That’s where humanity was born, legend says. Then you have some original paths from the times of the Incas, and it’s a tremendous pleasure to step on those neatly arranged stones and imagine how our ancestors walked on them half a millennium ago. We adored that feeling, and we spent a big part of the day in that area.

Another thing that gave us great pleasure each day was the incredibly delicious trout we had every day for lunch, the pink trout from the world’s highest navigable lake. It’s something you do not want to miss if you’re around the lake, either in Bolivia or in Peru.
Boca was super excited about every small or big animal on the island, from cows to donkeys, pigs, sheep and birds. She terrorized them while chasing them to „just pet one”.  I found the image of this blonde girl running after many a desperate sheep and baby pig thoroughly entertaining. Later I appologized to them for my friend’s behavior, and they understood. Good guys, good guys.

One thing to remember when going to the island is that the sun is extremely strong there – at 4500 meters it’s expected to be so, so make sure you have enough sunscreen with you. There are only 3 stores on the island and they’re not that well stocked with sunscreen – we found some only in one place and we paid twice as much as we would have normally paid.

The South
After several days of peace and calm in the North, we decided to go South to spend at least one day there as well, checking out some more Inca ruins. Most people who visit the island move from North to South or vice versa on foot, and it seems to be an lovely 3-4 hours walk. We didn’t choose this option beacuse we had our big backpacks with us, and the idea of walking up and down the hills at 40 degrees with 10kg on our back was not greeted with much enthusiasm. So we chose to take the boat to the South. A choice we do NOT recommend, for reasons I shall share a bit later.

When we arrived in the South we were oh, so disappointed – the place seemed to have been invented exclusively for tourists, and nothing else. A number of hostels and restaurants had been built by the lake, and up the hill (or rather behind the hill) was a small town where the locals live. It’s a half an hour climb, and if you have some luggage with you it’s not necessarily a pleasure climbing the hill with your tongue hanging out, under the bright sun. We stayed by the lake, in one of the hostels that charged 20 Bolivianos a night. The same day we went to see the ruins… and we could hardly keep back the thoughts “Whyyyyy… why did we leave the North … Whyyyyy… why did we come here??” Especially if you go without a guide and you have no knowledge about the ruins, the little trip is really not worth it. Luckily we managed to join a couple with a guide and learned a couple more things about our Inca ancestors. That yes, we recommend.

What we suggest you do
If we had known before how things go around the island, this is what we would have done (and this is what we recommend to you as well): we would have left our backpacks at the hostel in Copacabana. Taken a morning boat to the South (10 Bolivinanos), quickly visited the ruins in the company of a guide, then walked the 3-4 hours to the North. There we would have stayed at Refugio Wiracocha and spent a few peaceful days, without any stress (whihc we actually did, in fact). And from there taken a boat straight back to Copacabana (for 20 Bolivinanos, not 40 as we paid in order to stop in the South).

This way you’d save a few bucks (on the boat tickets and on the cheaper accommodation in the North) and spend time in the more non touristic and more beautiful part of the island. And you’d get to cross the island from one end to the other on foot, a pretty desirable experience, they say.

And that’s pretty much it … 

Don’t forget to enjoy each moment and have a chat with the lake from time to time. It has much to tell, the old fella’.

Boat Copacabana – Isla del Sol: 10 Bolivianos to the South, 15 to the North
Boat North of Island – South of Island: 20 Bolivianos
Boat North / South os the Island – Copacabana: 20 Bolivianos
Accommodation in the North: Refugio Wiracocha: 15 Bolivianos / night
Accommodation South – at least 20 Bolivinanos

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