Isla del Sol, the tiny island in Bolivia that the Incas believed to be the birthplace of the sun. Situated just off the coast of Copacabana on the Bolivian side of enormous Lake Titicaca, it is a magical place that despite the many gringos who visit every day manages to retain a peaceful, pristine and idyllic quality.

We were advised by many not to linger on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca but to focus our time on the Bolivian side of this 8,372 sq km lake that takes the title of the highest navigable lake in the world. Just a few hours away from La Paz you feel like you’re on another planet. Most visitors spend a day on the island and hike its length, visiting the Inca ruins scattered around. On the advice of some traveller friends we decided to stay for a couple of days and relish in the quiet.

 

Inca village perched on the north end of the island

Inca village perched on the north end of the island

Looking down on the Inca village and sacred site - the birthplace of the sun

Looking down on the Inca village and sacred site – the birthplace of the sun

We took a ferry from Copacabana to the north end of the island and spent the morning hiking amongst the most famous ruins. In the Inca belief system this is the actual site where the sun was created. There is a stone village clinging precariously to the side of the cliffs with steep paths leading down to a tiny cove. There’s a large sacred plaza with an original sacrificial table still lying there in perfect condition. It’s very easy to see why they believed that all creation began in this beautiful spot. Surrounded by sapphire blue water on every side with the staggering and ominous Cordillera Real mountain range staring down at you.

 

The impossible blue waters of Lake Titicaca

The impossibly blue waters of Lake Titicaca

We spent the afternoon walking the Ruta Sagrada de la Eternidad del Sol, 8km over a ridge that occupies the highest point of the island at 4090 metres above sea level, excellent altitude training! You pay a number of small fees along the walk, 35 Bolivianos (£3.30) in total, and as we walked we discussed how we wished every beautiful place in Bolivia would do the same. It might save them from the destruction by humans that we’ve seen elsewhere in the country. Isla Del Sol doesn’t have a drop of litter anywhere and the camino is very well tended to. The air is clean and the people extremely friendly, I had a feeling that I wouldn’t want to leave.

 

Our humble abode as the sun goes down

Our humble abode as the sun goes down

We decided to spend a couple of nights at the island’s only Eco Lodge and most importantly the only place in the southern most village with guaranteed hot water showers! Situated on a high bluff, 10 minutes walk from the village and facing due west into the setting sun, the views from the Palla Khasa were jaw dropping. At 6:30pm were were treated to the sky turning a wonderful combination of pinks, reds and burnt orange and this somehow made the lake’s already rich blue colour deepen even further. Huddled around a wood burning stove enjoying dinner with a French couple also staying at the lodge we were packed off to bed with hot water bottles to ward off the cold. We fell into a deep sleep under a mountain of blankets.

 

Inca terraces still in use today

Inca terraces still in use today

Day 2 we got to experience the island as the locals do. The boats from the mainland don’t arrive on the island until around 10:30am so it was impossibly even more peaceful. We headed to check out the Inca steps down to the port in the south. There are supposed to be 1000 of these steps but think I the actual total is considerably less, it is no less imposing though. This impressive construction sits in the middle of enormous plantation terraces and water is fed through from a lovely fountain at the top. It’s functional and beautiful at the same time. After a leisurely lunch of Lake Titicaca trout we hung out in the garden of our little casa and watched the world go by.

 

The famous Inca steps and irrigation

The famous Inca steps and irrigation

It was absolute bliss to spend two days completely disconnected. We felt like we’d stepped back in time, walking back from lunch on our second day we spotted a group of kids that had just finished school and were hanging around with their friends. They were playing with spinning tops! A sight I don’t think has been seen in the UK since the 1950s. If you visit Bolivia make sure to escape to Isla del Sol for a few days, you won’t regret it.

 

The view from our room at Palla Khasa

The view from our room at Palla Khasa

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21 Responses

  1. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    Looks absolutely stunning! If you hadn’t told me where this was (or pointed out the Incan ruins…) I would have guessed somewhere in South East Asia, maybe even Indonesia!

    And Bolivia steadily climbs up the list of top places I want to visit in South America…
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Singapore: First ImpressionsMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      It was incredibly beautiful, it’s so weird to hear it compared to Asia as it’s bloomin freezing here at the moment 😉

      Reply
      • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

        While I’ve no doubt SA is way colder than here, we’ve actually spent a lot of time in Indonesia being quite chilled! There were places in Flores that we visited where we had to splash out and get hot water showers because it was way too frigid to bathe with just cold water!
        Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Singapore: First ImpressionsMy Profile

  2. Sam

    We really enjoyed our time around Lake Titicaca and Isla del Sol was definitely a highlight. We would’ve loved to stay overnight on the island; it sounds idyllic without all the hoards of tourists; in fact, I didn’t recognise the famous stairs at first, because in your picture there’s no one around!
    Sam recently posted..The Nazca Lines: A Mystery in the DesertMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      We were pretty lucky that there weren’t too many other folks there during the day, we hung back to start the hike a while after the boats had come in. However, it was amazing the next morning as the village was like a ghost town, so peaceful.

      Reply
      • Sylvain

        Hi,
        I bet there was 2 annoying french guys !!

        Enjoy the rest of your trip. As for us we are already back to work. Hard.

        I hope to see you in the Alps.

        Sylvain & Sophie

      • Maddie

        Hi guys!! So lovely to hear from you. Glad you’ve made it home safe, we head back ourselves in less than a month which is pretty scary. When we head to the Alps we will definitely be getting in touch, it was great to meet you both on lovely Isla del Sol 🙂

  3. Ron Deaton

    To us your South American adventures seem to top most of what has gone before! This place looks absolutely incredible. We eagerly await you going somewhere where the sun isn’t shining on stunning scenery.

    Reply
    • Maddie

      They really are, there is so much to do on this wonderful continent. The weather is the best kind of winter, crisp and sunny but no horrid rain!

      Reply
  4. Kellie

    Such beautiful blue water.

    I’m absolutely loving these posts Maddie. It makes me so excited to know that its not that long until we’ll be doing this ourselves. We really appreciate all the hard ground work you’re putting in for us 😉
    Kellie recently posted..Midweek Eat! Mama’s PizzaMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      You’re going to have an amazing time, South America just has so much on offer it’s incredible. I kind of wish we’d come here sooner!

      Reply
  5. Philip Deaton

    So, after your South American experience so far, do you think that it will end up being your favourite continent?

    Imagine all the things you can also go back and see and do – Patagonia, Galapagos, Roraima, Ciudad Perdida, Brazil (you really should have gone to the Pantanal!) etc etc!

    Can’t wait to take Julia to these places one day, and re-visit them myself!

    Reply
    • Maddie

      We still love North America the most but it is definitely up there! There is just so much to do and we love the culture and vibrancy of all the countries we’ve visited. Still so many places on the list…

      Reply
  6. Carmel

    I can see why they thought the sun was born there….although it obviously wasn’t warming you much. This sounds like the ideal place to start wrapping up your travels. Seems impossible the end is so near, huh?
    Carmel recently posted..GRATITUDEMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      The time over the last few weeks seems to be flying by, we’ve been lucky that some of the big ticket items have been towards the end of the trip so we’ve had lots to look forward to but it’s still very strange.

      Reply

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