10 Things to Know Before Visiting Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Sunset Lake Titicaca
Sunset Lake Titicaca | © Richard/Flickr | © Richard/Flickr
Harry Stewart

Famed for its tranquil crystalline waters which shimmer beneath majestic snowcapped peaks, Lake Titicaca is among Bolivia’s most magical destinations, with ample picturesque hiking trails and endless ancient Inca sites to explore. However, it’s important to prepare to get the most out of this enchanting locale. Here are 10 things you should know before visiting.

The altitude is extreme

At 12,506 feet (3,812 meters) above sea level, the extreme altitude of Lake Titicaca can leave even the fittest of travelers gasping for air. Take it easy at first if you haven’t already acclimatized, and consider taking Diamox or coca tea to mitigate the effects.

Isla del Sol on the Titicaca lake

It’s sacred

Lake Titicaca is sacred to Bolivia, partly because the ancient Incas believed it to be the birthplace of the Sun. As a result, a plethora of fascinating archeological sites can be found scattered throughout. More recently, the continent’s most important effigy, the Virgin of Copacabana, was housed here in an elaborate church.

Sunset Lake Titicaca

The sun is relentless

A distinct lack of shade and the thin mountain air mean that sunburn is a real danger throughout the region. Always take adequate precautions to avoid burning to a crisp under the unrelenting sun.

Hiking Isla del Sol

The north section of Isla del Sol is currently off limits

A fiery dispute between two neighboring indigenous tribes has meant the entire northern section of the island has been closed to tourism since March 2017. Check locally to confirm the north is open before attempting to hike there.

Inca ruins in the north of Isla del Sol

Boats between Copacabana and Isla del Sol run twice per day

Catamarans depart Copacabana towards Yumani each day at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m, returning at 3:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Due to the aforementioned community dispute, there is currently no service to Challapampa.

Mountains over Lake Titicaca

It’s worth staying overnight on Isla del Sol

Even if half the island is inaccessible, tranquil Isla del Sol is a highlight of Bolivia that should not be missed. As the sun starts to go down, make your way to Las Velas restaurant for an unforgettable meal with a view.

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca

Some entrance fees apply

Upon arriving at Isla del Sol and when moving between certain zones, islanders will insist you pay a small fee. This is not a scam, but rather an official and essential source of income for the impoverished local inhabitants.

View from Isla del Sol

There’s a little-known hike on the mainland

Starting in Copacabana, head north along the dirt road for about five hours until you arrive at the fishing village of Yampupata. Here, locals will ferry you the short distance to Isla del Sol for a nominal fee.

Comunidad Yampupata

Copacabana is worth it

Many travelers head straight for Isla del Sol without giving Copacabana much thought. Yet this is unwise, as those who linger will discover a grandiose colonial church, a zany car-blessing ceremony, a stunning viewpoint, and countless Inca ruins.

Copacabana, Lake Titicaca

Don’t forget about Peru

Of course, Bolivia is only home to part of Lake Titicaca, with the remainder residing over the border in Peru. Be sure to check out both sides of the lake, particularly the famous Uros Islands near Puno.

Uros people on Lake Titicaca, Peru

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article