A flurry of local women will accost you once you get off your boat to ensure you pay the 5BOB fee to get on the island. Prepare yourself for a steep climb from the get go – there’s an ancient Incan staircase you just can’t avoid! We just went with a hostel we thought looked nice (am, not so much. Wicked greedy owner too. She gave us a triple room for 80BOB and tried to kick us out the following morning so she could get one extra person in. I won’t say where John told her to go…) and we stayed for 2 nights so we could see take a walk around the whole island (it’s about 70 sq km in size and there are no roads, just walking paths).
Isla del Sol is probably the most important site in Incan culture as this is where the empire was founded. They also believe that this is where the sun originated and the smaller island opposite, Isla de la Luna, is where the moon was created. There are numerous ruins dotted around the island, the most significant of which are the Chincana Ruins. In general, the people on Isla del Sol were really friendly. All ‘Ola’ every time you pass. There’s definitely a nice community spirit here. First impressions of the island were probably that it’s like a mix of old Ireland (stoney paths, donkeys everywhere, lots of farmland) and Greece (sunshine and crystal clear water). It’s stunning actually. The Cordillera Real mountain range sits opposite Isla del Sol so there’s a fabulous view of the snow covered peaks from the village of Yumani. The star-gazing is pretty spectacular from here too.
On our first evening we wandered through a eucalyptus forest (true story) for dinner at an organic café, Las Velas. John had lovely smoked local trout. I had a vegetarian dish and it was just awful! They actually cooked the vegetables for over an hour. No chance of hypervitaminosis here!! The view from this place was spectacular though so we watched a beautiful sunset.
On Day 2 we decided to take the 7 hour walk around the island. We started out about 10am after breakfast (Bolivian breakfasts aren’t great so your best bet is a fruit salad if you can find it). We walked for a while until we got to a ticket stand or boletaria to get into the north side of the island. You have to pay 15BOB per person and your ticket will be checked a couple of times. We saw a few ruins during the day, the most impressive of which were the Chincana Ruins. We took a little walk down to the pebble beach here to have lunch with some local sheep. The town of Cha’llapampa is at the northernmost tip of the island. I honestly expected a lot more from here, it was full of people camping in the beach, dust and rubbish. I definitely wouldn’t recommend staying here. We just kept walking to get away as quickly as possible! In the early 2000s there were some underwater excavations close to the north of the island (because of an earlier treasure find) which resulted in the finding of an underwater temple; some believe it’s evidence of Atlantis…
Note: You’ll need to bring your own toilet paper to Lake Titicaca or pay 3 BOB for a roll. In fact, it hasn’t been supplied anywhere in Bolivia – even in restaurants sometimes!
Getting off Isla del Sol
The normal boat back to Copacabana is at 10.30am but as we were anxious to get moving and on to La Paz we got down to the port (read: wooden planks) at 8am. We managed to get on a pre-booked boat for 30 BOB per person at 8.20am for the trip back to Copacabana.
Next stop: La Paz, Bolivia