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La Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca

Hostel Isla Del Sol

If you’re going to call yourself “Island of the Sun”, you had better be pretty awesome. Island of the Tick and Sock Isle, you guys can go ahead and suck: we’re not expecting much from you. But an island named after the entity around which our world rotates, which provides warmth and life to everything on the planet? You had better be freaking amazing. And with some crazy Inca ruins, a central role in ancient mythology, and a gorgeous setting in the world’s highest navigable lake, the Isla del Sol definitely delivers.

Isla Del Sol

At 10am, the ferry from Copacabana dropped us off at the northern port of Cha’llapampa, and we set off on a four-hour hike across the length of the island. Four hours of the most beautiful views and fascinating glimpses into an ancient, conquered culture. On the island’s northern tip, we found an ancient Incan Ceremonial Table, and a labyrinthine temple called Chincana. The temple was in remarkably good shape, with skinny passages twisting through tiny doors into other rooms, or frequently into dead ends. Fun to explore, and it was hard to imagine what the temple might have been used for, besides wicked games of Incan Hide & Seek.

Heading south, we climbed to the island’s highest point. Every once in awhile, we would encounter a kid selling fossils or trinkets, or a pedestrian toll booth. Residents of the island’s various communities are intent on cashing in on the massive number of tourists who trample through their lands. Near the top of the biggest hill, we stopped for lunch; I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed cold spaghetti with a better view. There was a perfect breeze, and the deep blue water of Lake Titicaca sparkled, reflecting the sun.

Although the hike had been long and hilly, we arrived at the southern port of Yumani with plenty of energy, and time to spare before the ferry back to Copacabana. We had some time to relax in one of the many restaurants which dot the hill near the port. It’s a magical place, and was one of the absolute highlights of our months in Bolivia.

Isla del Sol on our Bolivia Map
-Lake Titikaka Travel Guide

Yoga Bolivia
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Inca Palace
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Pescador Isla Del Sol
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Church Isla Del Sol
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August 14, 2011 at 3:13 pm Comments (5)

Copacabana

Hotels and Hostels in Copacabana

Oh, Copacabana. We really wanted to like you. You were perhaps the city in Bolivia we were most looking forward to! It started out perfectly… the bus ride from La Paz was beautiful, and included a short ferry trip. By the time we arrived, and took in your gorgeous location along Lake Titicaca, our excitement level was through the roof. But we have to be honest, Copacabana. In the end, you were the worst town we visited in Bolivia.

Copacabana Bolivia

Of course it wasn’t all bad, but let’s just get our complaints out of the way, so we can concentrate on the good stuff. Number One Complaint: Copacabana is full of hippies. Lake Titicaca is legendary as the Incan birthplace of the Sun and, my gosh, do the hippies love its ambiance of myth and natural power. Foreign hippies have taken over a huge swath of businesses, and installed themselves as an unavoidable street entertainment option. Everywhere you look: Jugglers! Bongo Players! Some Guy Twirling Around Socks Filled with Rocks! I lost track how of how many nose-ringed girls tried to sell me hemp bracelets. Europeans, Argentinians, Americans, but none of them Bolivian.

And here’s the funny thing that hippies don’t want you to know: they’re not all that nice! Oh, they’ll pretend to be laid-back and Bob-Marley and like-whatever-man-it’s-cool, but it’s not the truth. When one dreadlocked Brazilian asked if we wanted to hear some music, I said “no”. I mean, he was holding a pan flute. In reaction, he mocked me: “No, no! I don’t want to hear free music!” Bite me, hippie! I’m not obligated to appreciate your craft.

Complaint Number Two: the ridiculous lack of services. The city’s solitary bank machine wouldn’t accept our cards. The bank opened two hours later than advertised. Locals were unbelievably rude. Restaurants were terrible. A pizza joint, called La Posta, was recommended in multiple guide books, but I can’t see how anyone who’s ever actually eaten one of their tiny, disgusting pizzas could ever suggest it to others. The number of foreigners was truly depressing. One waiter refused to give us a menu for over a half hour, while he finished a card game with friends.

At around noon on our second day in the city, we began to hate Copacabana. It bears mentioning that we had arrived a few days before the festival of August 6th, when thousands of Peruvian pilgrims arrive for a huge party, so perhaps that had people on edge. But we did manage to see a few cool things within the city, the main one being Copacabana’s magnificent church.

The gleaming white Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Copacabana was originally constructed in 1550. With its bright exterior and colorful tiles, the basilica exudes more warmth than most churches. Outside, long lines of cars were decorated with flower petals, ribbons and even taped-on plastic toy cars, waiting to be blessed by the priests who were walking around with buckets of holy water. Eye roll… Hey, here’s a good-luck idea for you Bolivian drivers that might just be even more effective than holy water. How about you don’t drive like maniacs? Like, don’t pass each other at breakneck speeds around curvy mountain roads? I don’t know, call me crazy.

A section around the side of the Cathedral is called the Chapel of Candles; another bizarre Bolivian twist on the Catholic faith. The darkened room was packed with people burning candles on tables and the floor. Each group had at least twenty candles going, and would collect the dripping wax to create figures on the walls. Cars, houses, dollar signs. Good luck, apparently, and it looked like fun. Crafts hour in a smokey dungeon.

Although we didn’t love Copacabana, it’s worth stopping in for a day. Besides the incredible basilica, there are a number of Incan ruins around the city, which we’ll be writing about soon. And the city is the requisite jumping off point for a trip to the unforgettable Isla del Sol.

Copacabana on our Bolivia Map

- Copacabana Travel Guides

Crazy Boat
Bus Ferry
Car Blessing
Michael Jackson Bolivia
Swan Boats
Floating Islands
Bolivia Blog
Boats Isla Del Sol
Titikaka
Iglesia Copacabana
Gate Bolivia
Cathedral Copacabana
Holy Spiderman
Maria Copacabana
Reiligion Blog
Candles
Vele Copacabana
Candle Touching
Good luck Candles
Wachs Detail
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Candle Art
Big Boy Candle
Holy Sprinkle

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August 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm Comments (2)

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