On the border with Peru, Lake Titicaca is astonishingly beautiful and is said to be the birthplace of the Inca empire.
Straddling the border with Peru, Lake Titicaca is often astonishingly beautiful, impossibly tranquil and always ready to charm. The main portal to the lake on the Bolivian side is the quaint town of Copacabana, a million miles away from the glamour of its namesake in Rio. From here you head out by boat into the great sparkling expanse of the highest navigable lake in the world and towards the traditional Isla de la Luna and the Isla del Sol, the largest of all the islands on Lake Titicaca.
The Sun Island is a remote island with no vehicles and basic farming on rocky agricultural terraces. There are some 800 families living on the island and two small villages. Subsistence farming and fishing are the main activities, supplemented by a bit of tourism. The island also has over 80 pre-inca ruins, with people living on the islands since the 15th century. It is from here that the Inca god Viracocha was said to have emerged to create the sun and at 3,812 metres above sea level, it is harder to get much closer to it - Lake Titicaca will leave you breathless in more ways than one.
With no cars and little in the way of commercialisation, Isla del Sol is the perfect place to experience the tranquillity of the lake and view the distant Andes mountains of the Cordillera Real. A visit here will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of local life, from those who have lived on the Island for generations. Some beautiful hikes can be made, stopping at ancient landmarks and ruins dotted around the island, such as the Inca sacrifice table, Fountain of Youth and the Titi Kharka (Rock of the Puma) - from which the lake was said to have been named.
Copacabana might be slightly more tourist crossroads than sleepy fishing village these days, but it retains more of its original charm and atmosphere than its equivalent on the Peruvian side. The town is dominated by the grand 16th century Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana, a shrine to the image of the Patron Saint of Bolivia. The Fiesta de la Virgin de la Candelaria in February brings Copacabana alive with colourful displays of traditional dancing, feasting and a Spanish style running of the bulls, as people descend on the town from far and wide to make what remains an important pilgrimage.
The climb up Cerro Calvario leads you away from the centre to a tranquil (and spiritual) lookout point, affording splendid views back down to the town and the shores of Lake Titicaca.
The ruins of Tiahuanaco remain one of the continent's great mysteries. It is widely accepted that they were created by a civilisation that dramatically pre-dates the Incas, perhaps as far back as 1500 BC, and are believed to be amongst the oldest ruins in the world. The unusual layout of the site, thought to be closely linked to astrology, and the markings and drawings etched into the stones, have led experts the world over to offer their own opinion. But the truth is that nobody knows when this settlement came to be, how the giant stones were transported here or quite what everything signifies. A number of walls, temples, gateways and other ruins have been successfully excavated, giving visitors plenty to admire and ponder.
Tiahuanaco is 12 miles off the southern tip of Lake Titicaca and 240 metres higher in altitude, yet it is commonly believed that the settlement was actually a busy port on the shores of Lake Titicaca, a startling demonstration of how much the lake itself has shrunk over time. Indeed, the receding waters might have played an important role in the fall of the civilisation, with latest research pointing to drought as a leading contributing factor.
Despite losing its coastline to Chile in the late 19th century and subsequently becoming landlocked, Bolivia has maintained and funded any army ever since, which is now based at Lake Titicaca. The navy use the Bolivian half of the water for their exercises, in the hope they one day they will recover the access to the sea that they see as rightfully theirs.
Lake Titicaca Insights - Mythical bithplace
Isla del Sol is the perfect place to experience the tranquillity of the lake, and view the distant Andes mountains of the Cordillera Real as well as gaining an impression of local life from those who have lived on the Island for generations. Some beautiful hikes can be made, stopping at ancient ruins dotted around the island - mythical birthplace of the first Incas, Manco Kapac and Mama Ocllo.