Bolivia is the perfect place to visit for those wishing to travel adventurously, and the Isla del Sol and surrounding islands offer an incredible perspective across the lake to the edges of Bolivia’s imposing mountain range, La Cordillera Real.
Access to Isla del Sol is possible by daily passenger ferries from Copacabana, with various leaving each morning from the main harbour. Many tourists take a tour which drops them in the north of the island in the morning, and collects them again in the afternoon from the southern side of the island. However, be warned that this leaves little time to cross by foot, and many find that this approach does not give ample enough time to appreciate the beauty and incredible views across the island and beyond. Instead, find a hostel when you get to the island so that you have a day to explore.
Birthplace of the Sun
Believed to be the birthplace of the sun by the Incas, Lake Titicaca is the largest navigable stretch of water in the world. At 3,800m, its altitude is not easily forgotten: even going up stairs at this height can be tough.
Despite this, sunset seen across the lake or from on the sacred island, Isla del Sol, is a phenomenally spectacular scene, and a necessary part of any visit to Bolivia.
Discover the spirituality of Lake Titicaca
When you arrive, you may be tricked by the many vessels bobbing on its surface into believing that you’re along the coast, but you are far from it, in many ways. It is silence and solitude that you will find in this waveless body of water; a place that has provided tranquillity and spirituality to its visitors for millennia.
Sunset across Lake Titicaca from our hotel window in Copacabana.
In the morning, the glassy translucence of the calm, azure waters was inviting compared to the hot glare of the sunshine. You can really feel the heat of its rays, and fully understand why the Incas believed that the sun was born here: I’d never felt so close to the sky before.
Taking the boat out towards Isla del Sol, you are treated to views of the Cordillera Real – a mountain range on the Bolivian side of the lake – as they appear through the hazy brilliance of the morning.
Arriving at Isla del Sol after a short one and a half hours boat journey, you can continue to marvel at these distant, snow-dusted mountains.
Colours on Lake Titicaca are some of the bluest that you find in the palette, made even more spectacular by their contrast against the flawless whites of snow and cloud. Even the mountains seem to have absorbed a blue hue.
Life on Isla del Sol
The roughly 5,000 residents of the island are clustered in small settlements around the various bays on the Isla del Sol. Many work the fields, having adopted the technique of terrace farming from their Incan ancestors.
Lake Titicaca’s waters are calm and inviting, and time spent observing the horizon from one of the many bays is a relaxing way to pass an afternoon.
The inhabitants of the Isla del Sol survive thanks to a mixture of agriculture and tourism: every few steps in the main settlement of Yumani you will find a restaurant or guest house, attempting to cater to the needs of the thousands of tourists who visit each year. Below is what I can imagine is the highest pizzeria in the world – unfortunately we were out of season and it wasn’t open when we passed by.
One of the churches on the island bears testament to the ‘mezcla’ of Catholic and indigenous beliefs prevalent throughout Bolivia and evident here on the Isla del Sol.
Every afternoon before the sun sets, the local farmers must return to their homes with their livestock. We passed at least four herds of assorted farm animals as we headed back towards the main village, Yumani.