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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.