Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Copacabana and Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Just three hours away from La Paz on the border of Peru lies the small town of Copacabana, the gateway to Lake Titicaca, the highest (inhabited) lake in the world, and the islands that populate this water mass, namely the Isla del Sol; Sun Island.

The journey from La Paz is beautiful with the bus driving through the El Alto area at around 3600m before coming to a river where you then have to get off the bus and take a boat to the other side, the bus meanwhile is loaded onto a two vehicle barge and slowly makes it's way over. Once on the other side the bus heads to Copacabana on a winding route with Lake Titicaca always on the right hand side. Eventually the town itself comes into view and the famous two prong hill in the centre of town dominates the landscape with the lake in the background and the mountains to the north east.

The town is small and besides the calm and tranquil beachfront with it's sunset view cafes and rows of stalls selling fresh trout from the lake (delicious), there isn't too much on offer in town, just the usual hotels, hostels, restaurants and shops selling endless alpaca.

Lake Titicaca is the main draw here and the Isla del Sol in particular. There are several options for investigating the island and the surrounding floating islands nearby. It's possible to stay on the island itself and give a little back to this remote community, or another option is to just do a day trip to get a feel for the island. Been a little strapped for time having spent way too long in La Paz, I went for the day trip option.

Buying tickets is easy, there are numerous touts offering return tickets and at the 'marina' there are a couple shacks which run different boats running to the island. By and large you want to start early and get a ticket to the north port of Sun Island in the morning, as this then gives you a chance to walk across the spine of the island to the south port just in time for the boats heading back to Copacabana in the afternoon.

The boat ride to the north port takes around two and half hours so make sure you bring a top for this part as it gets cold as you zip along the lake, most people on the top deck looked frozen and pretty miserable. From the port, you have to walk along the beach and then cut inland to another beach, from here there is a path which then leads to the Chicana ruins, this takes around 45 minutes and is progressively uphill. Once at the ruins, I won't lie, you don't quite realise you have reached what it was you were looking for. I was expecting some ancient Inca ruins or something a little more spectacular considering how much people bigged this place up, it basically looked like a barn and outhouse after a bad storm had taken away the roof. Lamest ruins I think I will ever see.

After this minor disappointment it was a two hour walk along a very well laid out path to the other side of the island. Again there is a steady incline for most of the way with the ascent lacking in anything beyond arid looking landscape and wonderful views out over the lake. Come the point where you start to descend, trees pop up out of nowhere, there are fields and farms been tended by locals and hostels and restaurants spring up as you reach the village of Yumani, home to the south port. A quick bite to eat and then only a one and a half hour boat ride takes you back to Copacabana just in time to enjoy sunset and some fresh grilled seafood by the lake.
Copacabana from afar

Approaching Copacabana


Of they have swan paddle boats

It doesn't get much fresher

Closing in on the north port

On the way to the ruins

Somewhat underwhelming

Clear path to follow

Random checkpoints for tickets and snacks

Yumani on the horizon

South port at Yumani
Downtown Copacabana

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