On the Shores of Lake Titicaca: Copacabana and the Isla del Sol

Our last destination in Bolivia was Copacabana, a town on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

I knew about this lake mainly because (when I was young and immature, obviously) I thought it had a funny name. I had a vague understanding that it was big (8,372 km2) and it was up in the mountains (3,815 m), but I never imagined that one day I would be there.

That day came.

The bus from La Paz to Copacabana is mercifully short, less than 4 hours. It includes a dubious ferry crossing, so you really get your money’s worth.

Ferry crossing to Copacabana
I find it incredible that they’ve never had a bus sink. Or maybe they have. I don’t know for sure.

We arrived in the early afternoon heat, negotiated a room at the Hotel Los Andes (90 Bolivianos including breakfast), and skipped off to the blue, blue, waters of Lake Titicaca.

Literally. Skipped.

It was the first time we’d seen such inviting water since, well – since Hawaii. It looked like the ocean, vast and rippled, except it was surrounded by sporadic snow-capped mountains.

That first afternoon we hiked to the top of Cerro Calvario. I almost gave up halfway through the brief 30-minute climb as I was once again out of breath, but I persisted.

Views of Copacabana, Bolivia
Views from the top: not to be confused with the other Copacabana, the one in Brazil.

It was worth it.

Later, we rented kayaks and paddled out onto the lake itself.

Renting kayaks is one of those things that sounds like a good idea (“Oh yeah, it’ll be really fun!”) but rarely is, unless you’re really into kayaking. And rowing in sync.

But most people aren’t, myself included. After twenty minutes of flailing my oar around while Jared tried in vain to compensate for my actions, I was done. We drifted ungracefully back to shore with five minutes to spare.

It was still good though. I mean, how often do you get to kayak on Lake Titicaca?

The next day we decided on a day trip to the Isla del Sol – that’s the Island of the Sun for you English speakers. See how amazing my Spanish has become?

The Isla is roughly 9 kilometers long, with great historical significance to the Incas, because they believed it to be the birthplace of the Sun God.

Statue of an Inca, Bolivia
Rise, Sun God. Greet your minions.

It’s dotted with sporadic ruins and visitors can hike from one side to the other.

We did this. I don’t know why; sometimes I like to punish myself. I feel like I need to earn all those days of slothfulness by doing a hike every once and a while.

So, at altitude, we once again set off across paths of rocks. We started at the north end of the island and hightailed it to the south. The boats only leave at fixed times from each port, and we had about 5 hours until the 4:00 boat back to Copacabana.

Hiking the Isla del Sol, Bolivia
Are we there yet?
Hiking the Isla del Sol, Bolivia
Oh joy. Another hill.
Angry donkey on Isla del Sol, Bolivia, Lake Titicaca
All worth it for the disgruntled donkey.

We made it in just under 3 hours, which was plenty of time, even with the fact that the boat actually left at 3:30. Had I known, I definitely would have spent more time at the sacrificial llama table.

Because how often do you get to see a real, live sacrificial llama table?

Llama sacrifice, Bolivia, Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca
It reminds me of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. Where’s Aslan?

Actually, a lot if you’re traveling through Bolivia and Peru. In the end, I must have seen about 5 of them. But the point is, this was my first sacrificial llama table and I still regret not laying on it and pretending to be a llama.

Sigh. Life goes on.

Back on the mainland, we determined that we’d definitely earned our dinner, and went to a restaurant called La Orilla. It was actually our 2nd night in a row there and the food was pretty kick-ass.  I can now personally vouch for the fajitas, falafel, chili, nachos, burgers, beer, and smoothies.

What? We’re on holidays. Sometimes we splurge.

And, just like that, after three weeks of alternately loving, being amazed, and being frustrated by the little country of Bolivia, it was over. The next day, we crossed the border (effortlessly, I might add) to Peru.

Bolivia, Lake Titicaca
Goodbye, Bolivia. I’ll miss your cheap set lunches most of all. And also your beautiful scenery.

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  1. We got the boat from the north to the south! But then we did spend literally ages climbing over the hill trying to find a museum that I suspect didn’t exist!

    1. I did see the museum, but it was totally by accident. Not well sign-posted! We didn’t even go in because we were confused about our route and thought we’d go back to it, but turned out we didn’t pass it again.

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