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Explore Isla del Sol

Comunidad Yumani, Bolivia


Added by Christian Murillo

Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) lies on the Bolivian side of the Majestic Lake Titicaca in the high plains of the Andes. With pre-Incan history, terraced farms, and endless views, there is something on this small island of paradise for everyone.

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,507 feet, which is spread across the Bolivian and Peruvian altiplano (high plains).  On the Bolivian side of the lake lies one of the most beautiful places in the entire country, Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun).  The small island is a home to several native communities, and boasts exquisite natural beauty and fascinating history.  Anyone from hardcore backpackers to comfort-seeking travelers can find solace on this island of paradise.

Getting to the island can be a bit tricky, especially if you are not a local or Spanish speaker.  First, you will need to find a bus going to Copacabana, where you can then take a boat ride to Isla del Sol.  There are several buses that leave from the main bus terminal in La Paz to Copacabana, usually starting at 8AM.  It is recommended that you get to the terminal early to ensure that you can find space on one of the tourist buses.  Once in Copacabana, you can make your way down to the port, where there are ferries that leave to the island at 8:30am and 1:30pm.  Buying round-trip tickets is the least expensive option.  In order to take the sting out of navigating to Isla del Sol, you can also join a tour, which will likely include the bus ride from La Paz, as well as the ferry.  Tours and travel agencies can be found quite easily near Plaza San Francisco and Plaza Murillo.

Arriving at the main community of Yumami on the south side of Isla del Sol, you will quickly notice the simplicity of life on this island without any motorized vehicles. Llamas guide your way up to the many restaurants, hotels, and hostels in Yumami.  If you plan to stay the night (which you should), you can make arrangements the day of.  There is also free camping primarily on the west side of the southern portion of the island, which makes this a popular destination for backpackers.  If you choose to indulge in the local cuisine, I highly recommend any dish with ‘Trucha’, which is the trout from the lake that is guaranteed to be fresh.  Its light pink color very closely resembles salmon, but it has a much more mild flavor.

As of today, tourists are only allowed to visit the south side of the island, as there is an ongoing dispute between two communities in the north side of the island.  This is rather unfortunate, as many of the pre-Incan ruins are on the north side of the island.  However, a border now separates the two sides and anyone (even locals) that crosses the border is severely risking their safety.  Although this story is rather sad, there is plenty of beauty to be seen and adventure to be had on the south side of the island. 

One of the main attractions in Yumami is the Fountain of Youth, a spring that flows several hundred feet above the lake, carrying water from the glaciers of the Andes, under Lake Titicaca, and finally up to this fountain.  It is thought that this spring has existed for thousands of years since pre-Incan times, well before any mechanical pumps could be used to pump the water up to such a high altitude.  Along with the theories surrounding this spring, you will notice that there is a certain level of mysticism that surrounds much of the history of the island.  With an open mind and some curiosity, I am sure that you will find the stories of the Aymara and Incan civilizations to be quite fascinating. 

There are also several trails on the south side of the island, some of which lead to panoramic vistas over Lake Titicaca.  Most of these trails are not formal hiking trails, but rather walking trails used by the locals to get around the small island.  For this reason, there are no signs or trail blazes.  Simply wandering around this side of the island will surely reveal some incredible views.  If you plan on walking around the island without a guide, just ask the locals where the border between the north and the south sides of the island are and simply stay away.  The highest point on the south side of the island is on the northern edge of the south side, so you can use this as a good indicator as to how far you can go.

Leaving the island, the first boat leaves around 10am and the last boat leaves between 3:30-4pm.  All in all, between the pre-Incan ruins, charming gardens, and Mediterranean-esque views, a visit to this island is a must for those seeking a relaxing getaway from La Paz. 

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