After our time in Puno we caught a bus to Copacabana in Bolivia to see another side of Lake Titicaca. Instantly we liked it more here. The town was a lot smaller, and while it still wasn’t the prettiest architecturally, aside from the beautiful cathedral, it was surrounded by green hills and a wonderful view of the lake.
After finding somewhere to stay we headed straight out to walk up Cerro Calvario – a large hill with incredible views over the town and lake. It was a fairly strenuous walk up, mostly because of the altitude – we were still 4000m above sea level. The hill is home to 14 stations of the cross and is obviously a popular spot for vigils and the like judging by the number of candles up there.
We decided to head down an alternative route, which after scrambling down rocks and struggling to get our footing we realised probably wasn’t a route at all. Eventually though we did come across a worn path of sorts and got down just in time to enjoy a lemonade watching the sunset at a bar by the lake.
The next morning we were up early to visit the main attraction in the area – Isla Del Sol. Said to be one of the jewels of Lake Titicaca, this tranquil island offers great walks and beautiful views.
Every man and his dog will sell you tickets to the island in Copacabana but we headed for The Eagle & The Condor Cafe both for breakfast and also for tickets as we had read they were helpful. Sure enough, the friendly Irish owner pointed us to a ticket seller outside and we had a delicious breakfast of homemade beans on toast. We needed it, there was to be a lot of walking.
The boats to Isla Del Sol leave at 8.30am so we got down there in plenty of time. We needn’t have bothered. None of the boats left on time and ours was one of the last, it was nearly 9am by the time we got going.
But we did get going and after an hour and a half or so, we were dropped off at the small town of Challapampa at the north end of the island. Our plan was to walk the entire length of the island and get to the south side in time to be picked up in the afternoon.
We first purchased tickets to the north of the island (10 bolivianos), which included admission into a tiny museum, and then walked further north to see the Chinkana ruins which were reputably the best on the island – I have to agree, they were very impressive. These cost us an additional 10Bs to see.
It was then time for the bulk of the walk. I think the distance was around 8km and it was supposed to take 3 hours. The paths were good and clear, and the hiking not too arduous, had we not been thousands of metres above sea level, so it was impossible to rush.
We walked, walked and walked some more. It was amazing. It was long, it was tiring, and we had to rest lots, but the fantastic views of the lake every time we came over the crest of a hill, with farmland and stone paths stretching as far as the eye could see, made it completely worth it.
We made it to the southern town of Yumani, in plenty of time for lunch before the boat left at 3.30pm. We were starving and really looking forward to trying a restaurant that had been highly recommended in the ‘travellers book’ in the cafe back in Copacabana. We hiked another 10 minutes from the town…only to find it completely locked up and deserted.
It was only when trying to find an alternative we discovered that almost no restaurants were open – it was only 2pm and we’d assumed loads of people would be arriving after their walk but it soon dawned on us we were part of just a handful of people who had done the hike that day.
Eventually we found somewhere to get a sandwich, it wasn’t quite the amazing end we had hoped for but it had been an amazing day, easily one of the best hikes we did on our entire trip. We were exhausted but proud of what we had achieved.
Before we visited I couldn’t see why people stayed overnight here, but now I do. The island is delightfully secluded and is a great place to while away some time and get back to nature.
We stayed in Copacabana in a small family run place called Hostal Casa Del Sol. Looking online before we arrived, accomodation in Copa did not look all that great and indeed when we arrived the main street has some fairly souless hotels alongside the constant pizza restauarants. We had read about Casa Del Sol so walked up the hill and past the cathedral to find this place and it was worth it. The family was super friendly and the room was absurdly cheap at 70Bs (£6.64). It was a basic but clean and tidy place to stay, with a nice little garden.
The boat tickets from the man near the cafe were 35Bs each (£3.32) which looking back seems incredibly cheap for a return trip but that’s what my notes say! As mentioned there were several charges to get across the island but I’m fairly sure they didn’t come to more than 40Bs each.
There is (or was) only one ATM in Copacabana, and it wasn’t always working though I did manage to make 2 withdrawals. Luckily it was a Bancofie one which is the only bank I could get money out of in all of Bolivia.