Michelle Sole, a former safari guide for Marataba Safari Lodge, is spending a year traveling the world and sharing her experiences with us. Today we’re headed to Copacabana, Lake Titicaca, and Isla del Sol. To read more of her travels, click here.
Lake Titicaca sits at an altitude of over 12,000 feet between Bolivia and Peru. It has the largest surface area of any lake in South America and is well known for its deep blue color. Lake Titicaca has 48 sacred islands, the largest and most notable of which is Isla del Sol, as it is believed to be the birthplace of the Inca’s sun god and of the first two Incas. The infamous Inca’s ancient ties to the lake and islands are what draw people from all over the world. It is a mysterious and fascinating place and thanks to Ker & Downey I had an amazing time without having to organize any of the logistics.
We were collected from our hotel in La Paz in a private vehicle with our guide. The drive from La Paz to Copacabana takes roughly four and a half hours. Along the way we drove through El Alto (4093m), busy with its markets and locals going about their daily lives. Once away from the hustle and bustle, the drive offered views of farmland, snow-capped mountains, and Lake Titicaca. We stopped regularly at viewpoints to enjoy the scenery. The highlight of the drive was the wooden ‘ferry’ that sails across Lake Titicaca from Tiquina. The government proposed to build a bridge here, but the locals depend on shipping passengers and vehicles across the lake, so for now, this charming experience remains.
We arrived at Hotel Rosario del Lago in time for lunch. Our luxurious room had fantastic views of Copacabana’s harbor. After a tasty lunch, we had a tour of the city with our guide. We strolled the local markets and made the steep ascent on foot to El Calvario. The altitude makes this climb a slow one but the panoramic view is worth the climb. This hill is famous with pilgrims, especially at Easter when many people make the journey on foot from La Paz. Bolivian culture in an interesting one; it embraces both Catholicism and the Inca beliefs of the Pachamama (a goddess of fertility akin to Mother Earth). At the top, there are Christian crosses and shrines where locals worship the Pachamama.
We later visited the Church of the Virgin of Copacabana. This beautiful building is shaped like a cross. The walls that surround the altar exhibit intricate work in gold. Pilgrims visit the ‘Camarin de la Virgen’ (Virgin’s Dressing Room). Across the road is the Chapel of Candles, where Catholics light candles for the Virgin.
Back at our hotel, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the comfort of our private balcony, before trying some of the local cuisine in town.
The following morning we boarded a boat to Isla del Sol. The crossing passes small rocky islands and takes an hour and a half. We docked at Yumani, on the South of Isla del Sol. This small village boasts a few small hostels and hotels. The land here is very fertile. Archaeologists suggest there have been inhabitants on the island since the third millennium BC. Through the years the island’s inhabitants have created terraces on the mountainside where sheep and donkeys graze and a wide variety of vegetables are grown. There are no cars here and apart from a few hotels for tourists and the odd electricity pole, you get the impression that life here has not changed drastically over the past century. The Aymara ladies are known as Cholitas. They wear traditional skirts called polliras and English bowler hats and can be seen leading their donkeys along the trails.
At the top of the ancient stairs is the Inca fountain, also referred to as the Fountain of Youth. The three streams of water are said to represent three important Inca rules; “Don’t be lazy, don’t be a liar, don’t be a thief”. We hiked to ruins of The Sun Temple, built in the 15th century AD by the Incas. Unlike many historical sites worldwide, you are able to go inside the different chambers of this temple and touch the ancient stones that were each carved by hand hundreds of years ago.
We stopped for lunch in a small family owned restaurant at the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Titicaca and Chelleca Island. Lunch consisted of a variety of homegrown vegetables, a locally reared chicken and fresh trout from the lake. The romantic setting and the local ingredients made this one of my favorite meals in over a month in South America!
After lunch, we walked back to Yumani and onwards to Eco lodge la Estacia. The Eco lodge is made up of 15 small en-suite cottages with solar powered hot water and a solar wall called a trombe, which heats each cottage. Rainwater is recycled and the lodge plays an active role in educating the local community on environmental awareness. The manicured gardens with the views over Lake Titicaca are a great place to relax and take in nature and some ancient mythology!
Life moves slowly on Isla del Sol and it really is a special place where you not only get a glimpse into the past but also marvel at the simplicity of how life is for the Aymara people who live here. As with any Ker and Downey adventure our trip was tailored to our interests. With everything organized for us, we were free to enjoy ourselves and relax in this magical place.
Contact your Luxury Travel Consultant to start planning your own journey to Isla del Sol.