Isla del Sol is a beautiful island in the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. It is actually considered a sacred place because Inca legend says the Sun was born here. If you fancy hikes in a stunning landscape, where the dark blue water of the lake meets the sky and where traditional culture has survived almost untouched for centuries – make sure to include Isla del Sol and Lake Titicaca in your plan when travelling to Bolivia.
We got to visit Isla del Sol during our stop in Copacabana, from where we took a boat early in the morning. After getting off the boat, I could at once feel calm of the island. Despite its size of 70 square kilometers with about 5,000 inhabitants, you will meet no vehicles at all. And the only way to explore the island is a network of walking trails.
A guide took us over in order to accompany us on our walk to the North of the Island. After crossing a beach where pigs were frolicking, we paid a small entry fee and then followed a walking path that led between the houses of locals and their gardens filled with sheep, cows and pigs. Somewhere in the steep slopes, we could see agricultural terraces where quinoa was grown.
The colors of the landscape were breathtaking: dark blue water of Titicaca made a deep contrast with the green and ochre agricultural land and around some beaches, the dark blue water melded into turquoise, which brought the Mediterranean to mind. The island was quite mountainous and rocky. We had to walk slowly as we were at about 4,000 m above the sea level and the altitude along with the hard work was making us breathless.
Finally we climbed up to one of the highest points in the North of the island, where we could see a table made of stone (Mesa Ceremónica), surrounded by smaller stones as chairs. This was the place where the Incas sacrificed humans and animals. Nowadays, tourists sit here peacefully eating their snacks while sheep graze the grass around.
Next to the sacrificial area there is a rock called Titi Khar’ka (Rock of the Puma) after which the Lake Titicaca was named.
We continued to the Chinkana ruins (also known as El Laberinto) which used to be a palace accessible only to the chosen ones or the ones who brought coca leafs. This means that already during the Inca times, bribery existed! There was a small spring running from the side of the palace wall and people could purify themselves with the water. The locals told us that it washes away all negatives and bad things you have done. Of course, I took my dose of the wash!
We then took a relaxing walk back to the port, taking some nice pictures and enjoying the stunning landscape. We also met some locals – women carrying load in a colorful blanket on their back and spinning wool while walking, men working in their gardens or taking care of animals. In the village, we then applied a phrase in Aymara language that we had learnt earlier from the locals, meaning “How are you?”. Once the locals heard it, they were amazed and started to chat with us, and though it was difficult to understand them – we greeted them, smiled and continued our journey.
The main economic employment in Isla del Sol is not just farming, fishing, or handicraft, but lately also tourism. So if you feel like spending more than a day here, you can sleepover in the available hotels or rooms to have enough time to discover the South of the island and some other pre-Colombian ruins. Or simply try some local foods such as quinoa soup or Titicaca trout which is bigger than the usual trout and you should have it for lunch when they are fresh. Do not forget to drink coca tea (although here it is called “soroche”) to help you fight against the altitude sickness. And I guess you may really need that last one.
Michaela is food and travel blogger of Czech origin, currently based in Brussels, Belgium. You can read more from her travel adventures and travel tips or try some of her delicious vegetarian recipes on her blog 1001 Voyages Gourmands