Exploring Isla Del Sol – Day Tour from Copacabana, Bolivia

August, 2011

Fancy a trip to arid but gorgeous Isla del Sol home to Inca ruins, whilst in Bolivia? All you need to know about exploring the island on a day tour, from Copacabana…

Isla del Sol, Yumani, Challapampa, Copacabana, Bolivia, South AmericaGetting there

Boats depart at 8:30am or 1:30pm from Copacabana, for the one and a half-hour boat ride until you reach Yumani, on the southern end of Isla Del Sol.

If you’re doing the day tour, then you are on the 8:30am boat. Typically, people that overnight on the island take the 1:30pm boat.

You can book a half-day tour, but considering travel time spent on the boat, you won’t see much of the island.

From Yumani, it’s another half-hour to Cha’llapampa on the northern side.

Tip: Before you book a ticket, make sure you know which end of the island you want to stop, then once purchased, check again that your ticket is correct.

Stopping at Cha’llapampa means you hike to Yumani, then need to be at the port by 4pm for the return boat to Copacabana (included in the ticket’s price). Or, if not hiking from north to south, there is a boat that takes you from Cha’llapampa to Yumani at 1pm.

Gliding along Lake Titicaca

The sheer beauty of Lake Titicaca is absolutely stunning and an experience that you will always treasure.

The majestic soaring Cordillera Real – royal mountain range in the Andes – display a natural incredible backdrop, whilst you glide along shimmering icy crystal waters, at just over 3,800 metres above sea level.

A pleasurable one and a half-hour journey absorbing these memories.

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Fishing the lake

Spanning an area of around 8,372-square kilometres and with a maximum depth of 281 metres (922ft), this is truly a remarkable lake and hard to fathom its location.

Cha'llapampa, Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Nearing the island

Isla del Sol’s legend

The Inca’s believed that their Sun God and the world’s first two Incas were born on this island, hence the name ‘Island of the Sun’.

The island’s legend is that after a huge flood, Lake Titicaca descended into darkness for a long time. Viracocha, the bearded God, emerged from the lake’s depths and travelled to Isla del Sol, commanding the sun to rise once more, whilst creating the Andes’ Adam and Eve – Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo.

The rational explanation is that following the Inca’s invasion and take-over of the island, this legend was created to substantiate the new regime. And, also to align the invaders to the preceding Tiwanaku civilisation – revered for its ideological and religious identity.

Hiking

The hike from Cha’llapampa to Yumani takes around three hours, so make sure you factor times in with meeting the return boat.

Cha’llapampa, Yumani, Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America

Home to over eighty Inca ruins from around the 15th century AD, archaeological evidence suggest that the island was inhabited during the 3,000 years BC.

Bumping into these ruins along your hike is fascinating, as are the small villages dotted throughout the island in which around eight-hundred indigenous families still live.

Cha’llapampa

Although an authentic island without cars, locals drive a hard bargain and are not sympathetic to tourists – this is how they make their money. The island sees many daily travellers due to its closeness to Copacabana.

As Cha’llapampa is the first stop, walk the rickety wooden pontoon and…

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Rustic

…stroll along the dusty road whilst absorbing the parched and rocky landscape that surrounds you everywhere you tread.

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Arid roads

Take in the intriguing local faces etched by time and altitude, adorned with Bowler hats – a trait of Bolivia. I’ve noticed Peruvian hats are much taller and a different shape.

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Water sellers – old friends

This memorable hike offers spectacular vistas of the lake around the island.

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Indigenous homestead

And although you’re at a high altitude offering only very thin air, indulge in this once in a lifetime opportunity – push yourself, and do a hike, it’s definitely worth the views and experience.

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
‘Follow the yellow brick road…’

Soak in the mesmerising and breathtaking panoramas of the lake…

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Snow capped Cordillera Real follows you everywhere

…from any vantage point on the island, whilst making your way to the southern side and Yumani.

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Inca ruins

Beautiful Inca archways of stone are dotted along the hike whilst lost to time.

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Timeless

Tranquil beaches, giant cacti, eucalyptus trees, and…

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Bay calmness

…agricultural terraces are passed, as you traverse the hilly and rocky trails.

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Terrace scars

Yumani

After around a three-hour hike – depending on the number of photos taken along the way – you arrive at touristy Yumani.

Starting from the northern side of the island also means that you are spared the climb up of two-hundred-plus Inca steps in Yumani. Instead, you climb down, which I find is always easier – not sure about you?

Hopefully, you won’t be greeted with hoards of tourists at the base of the steps, which descend to the lake’s edge. This is a popular photo spot with tour guides also, which we didn’t hire today.

I don’t think there’s a need for the almost Disney-like and tacky painted statues at the base, and takes away the ambience from the actual steps.

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Famous steps

The Fountain of Youth also greets you at the bottom of the steps – aptly named by the foolish Conquistadors.

I passed up the opportunity of eternal life from the fountain for an eternally healthy stomach instead, as still have a long way to travel in South America.

Yumani caters to tourists more so than Cha’llapampa with much more accommodation, restaurants, and shops on offer. If you’re thinking of an overnight on the island, accommodation ranges from a few dollars per night for very basic but clean rooms, to the more expensive digs. I believe you can also camp on the island but haven’t met any travellers yet that have done this – would be freezing.

Is Isla Del Sol worth visiting?

If you’re not time-constricted and have a day spare whilst in Copacabana, then yes, definitely make the effort to visit this island. Putting aside the touristy aspect of the island, you can’t replace these views of Lake Titicaca, so this makes the visit worthwhile.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on Bolivia at Image Earth Travel.

Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, Bolivia, South America
Quietness

A short video by bryn1bc, to give you a taste of what to expect on the island and on the hike.

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31 thoughts on “Exploring Isla Del Sol – Day Tour from Copacabana, Bolivia

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment and provide great feedback Hayley.

      Bolivia (as with most South American countries) has so many treks. It can be overwhelming trying to decide what to go on and of course, there’s the cost involved. You simply can’t do everything, even when spending over 2 months travelling in Bolivia.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. In the colony one of the descendants of the Incas wrote a book meant to be understood by Europeans. So he, Inca Garcilazo de la Vega, modified the myth of the Incas. Originally the story was about four couples of brothers and sisters representing the different aspects (in our patriarchal/matriarchal society both male and female are aspects of a unity, so we had general women) after being begotten by their apu (sacred hill, in our system of beliefs we have not gods) and going toward Cusco. He transformed it into something similar to the bible. From the four couples he only choose a couple and the woman had not relevance except as a wife, then there is that story of the deluge and Viracocha is mysteriouly resembling a Catholic priest or missionary xD (we tend to be hairless) Perhaps is the easier story to tell to Westerners because is romantic, but is not our truth.
    In the Andes our civilizations until the arrive of Spain had periods of expansion of Empires and then they would break into kingdoms to then again repeat the cycle. The Incas didn’t invade the Collasuyo (the region where are Tiahuanaco or lake Titicaca) but they expanded and we agreed to join them in equally of conditions after the wars (the general in charge of my city was a woman highly efficient) Explain why it worked that way would be quite long because it refers to our etiquette and that is a bit complex to explain in a comment. We have the same culture after all. What we consider an invasion is the arrive of Spaniards. What they call till now “discovery.” (I don’t censure their point of view but to me seems they should clarify it is the discovery by the European civilization, not that the continent were empty hehe)
    The tacky colorful statues… well. For us color is quite important to display in importan dates and places. I think it looks tacky though because our high culture (the one that was taught and used centers of design according to complex guides of composition) was forbidden by Spain in order to integrate us easilier to their empire (I say it without hate, I think any empire try to make the same) so we are the only ones making our culture but we are uneducated, the knowledge is lost so improvised persons do things that lack proportion, balance, harmony or taste. In Puno you will notice much of that.
    The hats are a legacy left by Englishmen when they made the railroas, train statings and the trains themselves : )
    Thank you very much for your chronicle, Nilla. I always look forward other point of views and yours is not superficial but meticulous and thoughtful. Sometimes I just feel persons travel only to purchase a fiction if it looks romantic or idealized, without touching the real place (at least that happens with Peruvians)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Francis for another fantastic history lesson that I can only really learn from a local, and for taking such time to write this comment.

      This is a very different view about the Incas, but the same view world-over about the Spaniards and the way in which they ‘conquered’ – and then there’s the British, French, and so it goes on…

      I understand that colour is important but think that this statue looks tacky because of the way in which it was sculptured and how it’s painted – looks as if the paint is slapped on and not carefully painted.

      Even though I found Puno a little run down, it’s a great base to other places in Peru.

      I think you’re right about travellers not understanding the ‘real’ place. But, the flip-side of that is usually, travellers only have a day or a few days in each destination. This is just not enough to fully understand a place and its locals – plus there is the language barrier, which further hinders an understanding. The way to travel is spend months in each place, but then who has the time and money to do this?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it is and we spent over two months in Bolivia exploring. This country has so much to offer a traveller and two months just isn’t enough. Bolivia is also relatively cheap to travel in, so that’s another bonus.

      You may like to read my other posts on Bolivia for some tips.

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