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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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