Backpacking across the Andes Bolivia Titicaca Lake

Backpacking across the Andes – #13: Lake Titicaca (Bolivia)

We left La Paz early one morning to embark on a new amazing adventure: spending one night on the legendary Lake Titicaca! Going to the Lake Titicaca was another dream come true.

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So the plan was to go and spend one night on an island called “Isla del Sol” (“Island of the Sun”) to discover this lake we had heard so many stories about. We could not wait to start this new adventure!

 A FEW IMPRESSIVE FIGURES ABOUT LAKE TITICACA

There is something mysterious about this lake, which is so huge, so high, so deep and so intricatly associated with the Inca civilization! It is believed that the sun god was born there, thus the name of the island!

3 800 meters above sea level: it is one of the highest navigable lake in the world!

8 400 km²: it shares borders with two countries (Bolivia and Peru)!

300 meters at the deepest: When Captain Cousteau explored these mysterious waters, he would have said that the world was not ready for what he had seen… Who knows what he saw!

FROM LA PAZ TO COPACABANA BY BUS

During the 4-hour bus ride from La Paz to Copacabana we could not get our eyes off the bus window: we were fascinated by the landscapes passing by our eyes.

Going out of La Paz, everything looks dry and arid and you feel like you are in a desert. But very quickly, the landscape changed and the road was going past the lake!

From the first moment we saw it, we thought that it definitely looked more like a sea than a lake. It was immense and beautiful!

We arrived in Copacabana at noon, just in time to grab something to eat before taking the boat that departed at 1:30pm.

La Paz Copacabana  Isla del Sol

First go to the city of Copacabana, located on the bolivian shore of the lake. We travelled with the Bolivian company called “Titicaca”. The bus was very comfortable and we felt safe.

Planning ahead is important for this trip as there are only two boat departures: 8:00 am and 1:30pm. We left La Paz early enough to make it on time for the last boat. Alternative: arriving the night before in Copacabana to take the first boat and have more time to hike the island.

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FROM COPACABANA TO THE ISLAND OF THE SUN

We embarked on a small boat and left Copacabana to start a very nice ride to the island. We could not believe that we were in the middle of the Lake Titicaca. The majestic Andes mountain range was right there in the background, with its beautiful snowy peaks.

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As we were almost reaching the island, we came across this beautiful traditional Inca boat. We felt that we were going back in times…

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ARRIVING ON THE SUN ISLAND

After a peaceful two-and-half hour ride on the lake, we reached the beautiful Island of the Sun. We stayed on the northern part of the island, which is less touristy and more virgin than the southern part. Most tourists spend the night on the Southern part in hotels or hostels that are probably more comfortable than the one we stayed at…

The below picture was our first image of the Island of the Sun. We saw all sorts of animals on that beach: donkeys, pigs, sheeps, lamas, etc. Yes the northern part was definitely more rural. The inhabitants mostly live on farming and tourism. There are no motor vehicles, no roads. You can easily feel cut out from the world.

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LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO SPEND THE NIGHT

It was about 4pm and we had not booked any hotel so we started looking… With our 10-kilo backpacks on our backs, it was not very fun. We discovered a hilly island, which made our search more difficult. The 3 800 meters of altitude did not help either.

But as we were looking for a place to sleep, we were amazed by this beautiful view. The Island of the Sun was just gorgeous. After visiting a few horrible hostels, we finally found one, on the hill, which was not too bad and offered an amazing view on the lake.

 North or South?

If you are looking for comfort, stay in the South. If you are looking for a close-to-nature experience, the Northern part will be perfect for you. Whatever you decide, you can walk from one part of the island to the other.

Try to start looking for hostels in advance in order not to go up and down the hills in the search for a decent room.

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HIKING ON THE ISLAND OF THE SUN

The next day, after regaining some energy, we started hiking the trail that goes all around the island. We were said it takes about three hours to reach the other side of the island (so that would be three more hours to come back), but we did not find out as we only hiked part of the trail. The view was breathtaking. We followed this little trail which was sometimes paved and sometimes just a beaten path. We had a gorgeous view on the agricultural terraces covering some hills and on the lake, which definitely did not look like a lake but more like a sea!

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THE RIDE BACK TO COPACABANA OR THE DAY WE THOUGHT WE WERE GOING TO DIE

It was then time to go back to Copacabana. Unfortunately the lake was “angry” that day. The wind was strong and the waves were violent. We only found out once we were on the lake…

The boat was overcrowded with passengers who all came with their heavy backpacks. If we felt unsafe on shore, it was definitely worse once we departed. The waves were so strong that the boat was rocking from side to side. We tried to focus on a point on the shore but we were constantly losing it. We were scared. To cheer us up, we tried to think positive: “It does not matter if the boat turns over… we know how to swim… we can reach the shore.” What we did not want to say out loud was that the water was freezing and that there were so many backpacks that it would be very hard to get out.

We had also heard an anecdote that if you fall into the water, the locals will not help you get back in as they interpret this as the lake calling you…

At one point, even the captain seemed to have gotten scared as he offered to drop us at the closest village on the coast. We were so relieved to hear this that we immediately screamed “yes!” We could not believe our ears when a lady started complaining because she had paid her ticket to Copacabana and wanted to be dropped there no matter what! The captain finally decided to drop us at the closest village and then continued with a few crazy people on the boat. We were so happy to be on land! We then took a bus and reached Copacabana safe and sound!

FROM COPACABANA TO PUNO IN PEROU

From Copacabana, we took a bus that took us to Puno, in Peru! We arrived in Puno pretty late that night and went straight to the first hostel we found. What a day! We were tired but we were ready to discover a new country!

 

Continue reading

  • Next stop: Titicaca Lake. Click here to read the article.
  • All articles about this country: click here to see all articles about Bolivia.
  • All articles about this trip: click here to read see all articles about this backpacking trip across the Andes (Chile – Bolivia – Peru).
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