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Bolivia – Copacabana and Isla del Sol

Published: 12.9.2016
Copacabana is usually the first city in Bolivia a traveller visits when travelling by land from Peru. If not, he should certainly consider the visit. Shall we excuse the city for the mandatory and quite unnecessary fee of 2 BOB (1 BOB = around 3,5 Czech Koruna), Copacabana is a nice and quite place to rest. The vista over Lake Titicaca makes it even better and adds to the atmosphere. The city is small making this resort on the lake a picturesque and magical place. You can easily walk here for how long you want and still enjoy it.

The first place we visited is Plaza 2 de Feberero. There is an amazing white cathedral crowned with the Moor-style domes. It resembles rather a chateau. The interior is impressive as well. Perhaps bit too over-decorated.

the cathedral in Copacabana (Catedral de la Virgin de Candelaria)

A while before the evening we set off for Cerro Calvario, a hill nearby popular among locals and tourists. The way of the cross crosses it. You can spend a while enjoying the view from over 160 meters above the largest mountain lake (8 400 km2) at 3808 meters above sea level. Omnipresent trash, however, spoiled the experience a bit. It seems it is the working of the locals. However, Santa Barbara, the neighboring hill, provides another splendid vista and there is less trash. Moreover, we were alone there. We finished the day by a walk along the promenade at the lake. Paddle boats had been already parked there. We bought a ship ticket instead for we had intended to visit the island on the following day.

the view over  Copacabana from Cerro Calvario

sanctuary of Cerro Calvario the main route across Isla del Sol

It is early in the morning and we are heading to the wharf and from there to Isla del Sol. It is quite cold. We sit in the cabin rather. The two-hour ride to Challapampa passes quickly as we are observing the environment. Were we up on the upper dack, we would probably get frozen there. We are planning to cross the island from the north to the southern port. There we would sleep over at the hotel. There are several Inca landmarks on the 70 km2 (the Chincana ruins are among the most prominent. However, we had enough of Inca culture in Peru and don't wish to see any more of it for now. Therefore, we pass by a checkpoint situated behind a quiet bay. We say that we want to walk around the entire island. We pass the northern projection of the island up on the ridge. Then we walk on wavy landscape at 4000 meters to the central part of the island.

a bay by Challapampa

We enjoy the vistas of large amount of dark blue bays, meandering land, and small islands scattered across the lake. Sometimes it is just a leaned flat rock – such as Isla Jochiuata – rising above the water surface and creating fantastic scenery of Lake Titicaca. There is another checkpoint in the middle of the dust road. They say to us that we have to pay 15 BOBs for walking down the road. Well, I have never payed for using a road, well sidewalk actually, therefore I am enjoying handing over the bills to the man. There is another man trying to get some money out of us four kilometers further in Yumani village which is above the southern port. This is how locals make some extra money here. And I look like a Santa Claus throwing money all around.

Isla Jochihuata

The across-the-island trek is about 12 kilometers long and took us about 4 hours. However, the island is situated at 4000 meters above sea level. Therefore, one can easily wear one out. We went down the Inca stairway (Escalera del Inca) on our way to the village. The stairway goes down to the port. Fuente del Inca was a garden we passed. Our intention to stay over night on the island changed once we found out the cost. We rather returned to Copacabana. It costs 20 BOBs to get from Copacabana to island's southern end. However, the return ticket's costs jumps to 25 BOBs. Local ticket vendors laughed at us. You can read in their eyes: "WELL, DON'T PAY. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE HOW YOU CAN GET OUT OF HERE." The way out of the island is even faster. Aboard the ship, people were tired and so were we. The island is without trees. We walk entire day with sun above our heads. The high altitude makes sun shine even harsher on skin.

Japapi port

Yumani village and stone wharf Huayran Khala peninsula, Isla del Sol

Apart from constant fees and burned ear skin Isla del Sol was a great experience. A stay in Copacabana was nice as well. It brings the apropriate atmosphere before your visit to the Island of Sun (Isla del Sol). On our way to La Paz, we enjoyed the last vista over the lake. The main road to the city goes along the lake. You even need to corss it by ferry at one place.

GPS: (Copacabana) 16°10'05.9"S 69°05'18.0"W

Text and photos: Tomáš Novák

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