Lake Titicaca lies between Bolivia and Peru and is the world’s highest navigable body of water. I guess that means it is the highest altitude in the world that you can jump on a boat. We did the Bolivian side and were blown away by the beauty of the lake – but not by the fairly ugly city of Copacabana that the lake is accessed from.
To get there it was possible to get an overnight bus from Sucre to La Paz then onwards to Copacabana but we decided to shorten the trip and take a one hour flight from Sucre to La Paz then get the local bus from El Alto (the city where La Paz’s airport is located). We’d spent a lot of time researching this connection with little clarity but it was super easy. A quick taxi from the airport to the Nuevo terminal de buses en El Alto and within a few moments we found someone selling tickets for Copacabana (there are people shouting out for each destination – I think it’s luck of the draw which company you get, we went on a comfortable, though oldish, full sized bus). The trip takes four hours including a section where you get off the bus and board a small ferry while the bus goes on its own ferry. On our return leg it was a lot more windy and the bus was rocking around a lot – we were glad to be on the smaller passenger boat.
We stayed in the area for three nights, two in Copacabana and the middle night on Isla del Sol.
Our immediate thought of Copacabana was that it is a dirty town with limited appeal other than the views of the lake and the hundreds of tour companies offering trips to the islands. I always think it tells you something about a place when the biggest attraction to be sold is a way to leave the place! The city was littered with rubbish and really is just a jumping off point.
We did walk up to one of the miradors in the city – Cerro Calvario. The very steep walk up was a little tough at high altitude and sadly was one of the filthiest walks we’ve done. This was probably made worse because there was a significant cultural event on and thousands of people were making a pilgrimage to the top to worship, however, it looked like most of the rubbish had been there a long time. Once at the top the views of the lake made it worthwhile but we didn’t stick around long. I’d say skip this if you’ve already had decent views of the lake.
The highlights of the area are the nearby Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna. We got a normal boat transfer across which although only a short distance was super slow – a couple of hours from Copacabana to Isla del Sol while we watched fast boats cruising past us!
We had a brief one hour stop on Isla de la Luna to walk around and explore before heading to Isla del Sol for the night. Isla de la Luna is small, has no accommodation or food and although the views are fantastic an hour is sufficient.
We arrived on Isla del Sol early afternoon so had the whole day to explore. Fortunately we took only small backpacks with us – as all the accommodation options are a good 30 minutes climb up hill. We cruised past backpackers with full rucksacks so we could have more choice for a room for the night!
Once we dropped of our bags we walked and walked and walked stopping only for countless photos. The northern half of the island was closed due to an internal dispute between villages but this had no impact on us – despite my pedometer showing we walked about 24km we only covered off the bottom third of the island.
Aside from the great landscape the walks also enabled us to see the locals going about their lives, usually with the help of animals. The mix of colourful traditional clothes and the beautiful simplicity of the lifestyle was refreshing to see.
We really enjoyed Isla del Sol and were very happy with our decision to spend a night there as day troopers only had a couple of hours to explore which wouldn’t have been enough for us!
In Copacabana we stayed at Hostal Piedra Andina. The hostal (hotel really) is a tough walk up hill from town, especially at high altitude and with heavy rucksack! The walk is worth it though – the owners are super friendly, the breakfast decent and thr rooms comfortable. But most importantly – the views of the lake are awesome! Our room seemed to be the only one with a large balcony area overlooking the lake. For $25 a night this place was a winner.
In Copacabana the restaurants are famous for their fresh and delicious trout (trucha). We ate both our dinners in Copacabana at the awesome La Orilla in the centre of town. Although expensive for Bolivia the food was great – especially the stuffed trout! We also really enjoyed lunch at La Cúpula which is meant to be a very good central hostal (but a bit pricier).
On Isla del Sol we searched for a while for accommodation and found several places that were either empty with no one answering or that were full. In the end we went for the simple and clean Hotel Imperio del Sol that had a friendly owner and cost about $13 for a double room with shared bathroom. It was comfortable and a good roof ver our heads for the night on the island.
Food on Isla del Sol was fairly simple. We had a reasonable dinner (considering remote location) but prefer to draw attention to the good breakfast on offer at Restaurant La Kantuta which coincidently was five meters from our guesthouse. The set menu for breaky was enough for two of us to share and had great views before we got back on the boat to Copacobana.
Next up: We brave La Paz. The worlds highest capital city (though as you know Sucre is technically the capital of Bolivia even though the government is in La Paz)…