Isla del Sol

  • Andes, From the Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user soylentgreen23
  • Terraces, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user Bjaglin
  • Sacrificial altar, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user ydnammmm
  • Beach, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user Bjaglin
  • Llama, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user Ivan Mlinaric
  • Distant Andes, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user -Jonas-
  • Temple of the Sun, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user PhillieCasablanca
  • Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user ydnammmm
  • Des Res, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user ronancrowley
  • Local Beach Life - Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user ronancrowley
  • Locals on dock, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user ydnammmm
  • Path on the Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user ydnammmm
  • Public Transport, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user Ivan Mlinaric
  • Quechin woman, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user Bjaglin
  • Bay, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user Ivan Mlinaric
  • Temple, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user ronancrowley
  • Temple, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user sancho_panza
  • Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user Ivan Mlinaric
  • The Path, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user Bjaglin
  • Tourist Dragon Boat, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user ydnammmm

Key information: Isla del Sol

  •  Isolated Andean island community, 3812m above sea level on lake Titicaca.
  •  An abundance over 180 in all of Inca ruins: it was sacred to them, the remains of a city now sunk beneath the lake.
  •  A way of life unchanged in generations, other than some depressing tourist fleecing. There are no cars or paved roads on the island, so walking is the only way to get around.
  •  Fabulous scenery, huge views of the Andes across the lake.
  •  Potentially magical place marred by rip-offery and grumpy, open-palmed bureaucracy.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating85
  • Beauty32
  • Natural interest12
  • Human interest14
  • Charisma32
  • Negative points5
  • Total rating85
  • Note: Neg: Altitude, and the local grabbiness

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 8km
  • 3hrs
  • Maximum Altitude: a bit over 3,800m
  • Level of Difficulty: Moderate
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Bay, Isla del Sol - © By Flickr user Ivan Mlinaric

WALK SUMMARY

La Isla del Sol, near the southern end of Bolivian Lake Titicaca, is, according to Inca legend, the birthplace of their first king, Manco Capac: offspring of the sun and the moon. Evidence though, of human habitation here, goes back to 22,000BC. In the modern world this rocky, steep and scrubby terrain is home to some 800 families whose traditional Andean subsistence-farming lifestyle bar the influx of sketchy tourist income in recent years has remained relatively intact for generations.

There are no cars here, or paved roads, and electricity only reached the tiny towns within the last decade. Instead, excellent rock-and-earth paths, clearly marked by the knee-high walls which protect them from the elements, lead across the hills between the settlements in north and south. After a visit to the Gold museum (a treasure-house of Inca relics) in the northern town of Cha'llapampa where the boat from Copacabana docks, detour up to Cerro Tikani a couple of hundred metres above lake level (but remember the initial altitude). Take in the Puma Rock (birthplace of Manco Capac, or, in alternate myth, the place where the Sun hid during the great flood) and a sacrificial table in the ruins of the Temple of the Sun en route, to find a stunning view over the lake. Then take the undulating path, more than likely being overtaken by equally ancient herdswomen more used to the altitude, to Yumani in the south.

The entire walk offers ever-changing, spectacular views over this unique and challenging landscape; the wave-like striations of ancient agricultural terraces which follow the shape of the hills like sculpture; the freezing depths of Titicaca and the snow-capped peaks of the unforgiving Andes in the distance. At Yumani, are more Inca remains: 240 steps (that were 1000 until the water level rose) leading down to the lake, beside a stream that the Conquistadors believed, until mortality proved it otherwise, to be the fountain of youth and, a little further south, the Temple of Pilcocaina; the only surviving remains of the huge, pre-Incan city of Tiahuanco, now buried beneath the waters of Titicaca.

The walk is roughly 8km, but allowing for altitude and ups-and-downs, allow 3 hours plus, whatever the locals tell you; overnight in Yaima and retrace your steps the next day, or take the much shorter private boat trip back to Copacabana (which you might have to negotiate on site).

Beware of the altitude, plan/prepare properly.

NOTE: there is a lot of extremely negative comment to be found on the Isla del Sol experience: rip-off boat tours, monolingual guides, hellish bureaucratic demands at every turn (repeated permit demands and denial that permits are valid, requiring new purchases, as you pass along the trail), extremely uncomfortable accommodation, closed restaurants, aggressive child beggars, lack of directions/maps etc. Life in the Andes is harsh, which is clearly reflected in the local manners, and reliance on tourist dollars has made this worse. People have also expressed disappointment in the quality of the archaeology. We would suggest that this is a trip to take if youre in the area, rather than one to make specifically.

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Sacrificial altar, Isla del Sol - ©By Flickr user ydnammmm

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Beach, Isla del Sol - ©By Flickr user Bjaglin...
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