Copacabana - Gateway to Bolivia's Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca. Arguably South America’s most renowed lake, at a breath-taking 3810m above sea level, is a lake claimed by two countries – Peru and Bolivia.
The Bolivian gateway to the lake is Copacabana – a buzzing little town by the lakeside, albeit with a little less white sand and samba than the Brazilian beach it gave its name to!
La Paz to Copacabana
To reach Copacabana from La Paz is easy – it’s 3 -4 hour bus journey away, taking you through stunning Andean scenery and passed the impressive pre-Inca site of Tiwanaku. Some tours include a visit here.
Try and spend a night in Copacabana and you will find that this small town has a lovely atmosphere and a little stroll takes you to its beautiful early 17th century church and its statue of the Virgin of Copacabana (attracting pilgrims from afar), its little beach where you can watch locals play table foosball and hire pedal boats. Or indeed join in.
Venture further out and climb “Cerro Calvaro”, a hill displaying the 14 Stations of the Cross – it can be a demanding walk but the views over the Andes and the Lake are magnificent. If you want more hiking, climb Seroka Hill, and in about 25 minutes you will reach the “Horca del Inca”, a solar observatory from Inca times.
Any trip to Copacabana includes a boat trip to the largest Bolivian island, Isla del Sol or Sun Island. The island isn’t big but boasts some fantastic archaeological sites. Here, they say, is where the first Incas, Manco Kapac and Mama Ojllo emerged – one of the most sacred places of the Inca empire.
You will climb the “Inca Staircase” to the “Inca Fountain”, at the top of the island. The water from this ancient fountain helps to fertilise the typical agricultural terraces you can see all over the island. And to this day it replaces running water on the island – its water is carried by the islanders and used to fill their water tanks.
The views from here are marvellous.
Every visit to the island will include several sites, but you will also have the opportunity to step back in time, walk along its winding paths, past agricultural land and meet communities still preserving a traditional way of life.
Several small guesthouses and rural lodges offer accommodation and those wishing to get under the skin of this fascinating island should spend at least 2 nights here. There are no cars, no roads – but plenty of well-trodden paths where you will no doubt bump into a local and their donkey, on the way to their fields.
Take me to the Moon (Island)
Once you have left the idyll of Sun Island behind, it is time to return to Copacabana. But wait! You’re not done yet.
A final stop is made on the Island of the Moon – a smaller island no more than 2km long and sparsely populated, but not to be underestimated!
The archeological ruins of Iñac Uyu were built in the the middle of the 15th century by famous Inca Tupac Yupanqui, especially for the "Virgins of the Sun” – beautiful women who lived to serve the Inca, and were taught in arts and textiles in this special location.
The views from Moon Island out to the Lake and the majestic Andes are incredible and the atmosphere peaceful.
Back in Copacabana travellers go separate ways – some continue to Peru and cross the border at the smooth crossing at Kasani, to arrive at the Peruvian Lakeside town of Puno.
Others return by tourist bus to La Paz, arriving in the late afternoon/ early evening.
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