For our final stop in the country that quickly went from an underdog to a favorite, we headed to Lake Titicaca on the Bolivian / Peruvian border (yes, we too chuckled at the lake’s name, but the scenery proved nothing to laugh at). At 3,800 meters, Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, and offered us another chance to admire the stunning beauty of Bolivia during our 3-day stay in the lake-side city of Copacabana.
Copacabana was an important site for both the Incans and many prior civilizations that inhabited the land for over two millenia as it served as a stopping point for pilgrims heading to Isla del Sol, a sacred island located 1.5 hours by boat from the city. While local descendants still inhabit Copacabana and Isla del Sol, the sites have gone from holy lands to tourist hotspots. Still, both Copacabana and Isla del Sol provided us with a relaxing, quiet environment to:
- Admire the Bolivian high plains: There are no shortages of beautiful views along Lake Titicaca. We watched a picturesque sunset atop Cerro Calvario. We laid for hours at the top of Horca del Inca watching the clouds billow over both Lake Titicaca and Copacabana, with the faint sounds of the city (namely donkey heehaws and chicken cakoos) far below. And we awed at the beautiful blue lake, rolling mountains and distant snow-top peaks while hiking the 3 hour, 8 kilometer ancient trail from the north of Isla del Sol (Challapampa) to the island’s south (Yumani).
- Learn more about ancient Incan culture: On Isla del Sol, we saw the rock from which the Incan’s Adam-and-Eve (supposedly) sprang up, a beautiful set of 206 stairs leading to an ancient fountain believed to be the Fountain of Youth, an offering table upon which priests made sacrifices, and labyrinths and the temples where priests used to pray. The sites are gorgeous but admittedly, without a guide it’s easy to completely miss what you are supposed to be looking at (we did and googled later).
- Learn more about present-day Bolivian culture: In Copacabana, we enjoyed walking through the Sunday market, where we repeatedly stopped to nibble on Bolivian snacks including cheesy bread (everyone else seemed to love it, but the creamy cheese in the middle was not what we were expecting) and ample amounts of Bolivia’s version of popcorn, pasankalla. We also got another taste of the superstitious-side of Bolivianos, witnessing the weekend ritual of car blessing, during which people from all over the country come to have their cars covered in flowers, doused in holy water and champagne and blessed by a priest (for a small blessing fee, of course). Families then spend the day at the beach enjoying games and lake activities (we enjoyed a nice hour-long paddle in a duck-shaped boat).
With it’s calm ambiance and beautiful scenery, Lake Titicaca proved the perfect way to cap off our stay in Bolivia. We hope to be back to this amazing country in the near future (the $160 visa is good for 10 years).
Things To Do:
- Isla del Sol is the main attraction on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. We admired the island during a full-day tour, purchasing a round trip boat ticket from one of the many vendors in Copacabana (negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! We got the ticket for half the price of what was first offered!) and self-guiding our way through the sites and north-to-south hike.
- Copacabana also offers its fair share of sights and activities, including hikes up the very, very steep hills (we emphasize the very, as the thinner air at Bolivia’s high altitude makes these hikes killer!) of Cerro Calvario and Horca del Inca. There are other longer hikes – both of these take about 30 minutes – as well as mountain bike rentals, paddle boat and jet ski rentals and other lakeside activities to keep you busy. Make sure to visit the car blessing if possible – it’s not even a show just for tourists, tons of modern Bolivianos were getting their car blessed!
Accommodations: We would recommend staying in the southern part of Isla del Sol. There aren’t many options online but there are a bunch of recently built hostels and ecolodges.
Days Stayed / Recommended: 3 days is a good amount of time to see everything and relax – head to south Isla Del Sol your first day, take a boat to the north of the island your second day and take the hike back, and head to Copacabana on your third day.
Local Food: Great local ceviche which Alie loved (despite adding WAY too many spicy peppers – beware those orange peppers are no joke). We hesitantly/randomly got vegan hummus and lentil burger sandwiches from a hippie-man walking around the beach when we were heading to the island that turned out to be AMAZING. We looked for him the next 2 days but never found him again!