Most people crossing by bus from Bolivia to Peru will travel across Lake Titicaca and the lake side towns of either Copacabana (Bolivia side) or Puno (Peru side). Two islands on the lake that are often visited are Isla del Sol on the Bolivian side and Isla Taquile on the Peruvian side.
SEE ALSO: A Quick Guide to Puno, Peru
Because of my bad planning I visited Puno and Copacabana coming from either directions inland. But because I wasn’t passing across the lake it allowed me to spend time visiting both cities and islands. Something that most people choose between.
I decided to take a day trip to the island with a friend while I was staying in Copacabana. Along the water and main street in town there are several boat companies that will ferry you over to the island by slow boat. Bring your Dramamine. And make sure you have some water and sunscreen with you before you go.
The boats left in the morning at 8:30am and it took about an hour and half to get to the island. The boat made two stops, one on the South side of the island (where you are picked up) and then one on the North side for people who want to hike the length of the island. We chose to be dropped off on the North end.
BEACHES AND STAYING OVERNIGHT
When we arrived, there was a little town where there are a few basic hostels and places to buy snacks and food. People were also staying overnight on the island. On the North either camping by the beach or in one of the hostels or in some of the hostels and hotels on the South end.
OUR FIRST VIEW OF THE DAY
Make sure you grab a map of the island before you go. There are two main paths down the island, one a little bit longer. If it’s a clear day and you look carefully at the start of your hike you can see some of the snow capped mountains of the mainland!
HIKING THROUGH THE ISLAND
We should’ve looked at our map more clearly because we got lost halfway through. Or maybe we didn’t? We’ll never know! We mostly followed the water on the Eastern side of the island but about halfway through we realized there was no path along the water and headed inland. We were going through random farmers fields by the end. A few farmers had to direct us in the right direction. We did make it to the boat pick up at the end in time but I think we probably hiked a little longer than most people.
The hike through the island was beautiful. I loved seeing all the animals (especially the pigs enjoying the beach), the farms, the schools and the communities.
While there are several ruins to see across the island when we got closer to the South side we went through an area of the island that has a separate designated ruins ticket and we had to pay a visiting ticket 15 soles for passing through that part of the island. It was just a couple guys sitting casually selling tickets. I am not sure how this works if you are coming from the other direction.
Our hike ended in the Communidad Yumani where there are a few restaurants, hostels and souvenirs for sale overlooking the water. We had just enough time for a cold soda before our boat picked us up so we didn’t get to explore much of Yumani.
There were several Incan ruins that you could visit throughout the island but because of our limited time to hike the length of the island we didn’t get a chance to explore them. However, I don’t regret my time hiking (and getting lost) on the island. The scenery was unlike any place that I visited in South America and seeing how the island lives today was much more meaningful experience for me.
It’s a little chaotic with everyone being picked up at the end of the day 3:30pm but the boats will indicate which one you should get back on when you are dropped off so you can remember for the end of the day.
UPDATE: I visited Isla del Sol in the summer of 2016 and these photos and writing reflect that experience. However I have read on a few blogs that the North and Central part of the island are no longer open because of a conflict between the communities in the North, Center and South. This post by Roaming Around the World is a great updated resource for visiting and staying on the Southern side of the island.