“I’m going to retire there” said a new found travel friend when speaking about Isla Del Sol. She had spent 4 nights on the island with a local family, enjoying long walks during the day followed by great food and star-gazing in the evening. I was headed to Isla Del Sol the following day and, despite the fact I only had time to spend 1 day on the island, this conversation couldn’t help but encourage my excitement.
Isla Del Sol is the biggest island within Lake Titicaca (South America’s largest lake and the worlds highest navigable lake at altitude of 4000m). With that many superlatives in one sentence, it’s no wonder that the island has become a “must-see” for any South American traveller.
Lake Titicaca spans across both Bolivia and Peru and Isla Del Sol is located on the Bolivian side. Due to it’s location, it’s a great place to stop off during your border crossing adventures (like I did)!
Aside from the incredible offering that the island has for modern day travellers (including great hiking trails and beautiful views in every direction), the island is also steeped in history.
The Incans believed that the island was the birthplace of the Sun God – and you’ll understand why after spending some time on the island! At 4,000m altitude, the sun’s rays are intense and this is only amplified by the reflection of the rays off the incredible blue lake. Be sure to bring your sun cream!
After “roughing it” for 3 days on the Uyuni Salt Flats and then spending 3 days in the hustle and bustle of La Paz (where I rode a bike for the first time in 15+ years down the “world’s most dangerous road” and someone in my group fell off the cliff while cycling…), it’s safe to say that I was ready for some “easy travel”.
Bolivia Hop offered exactly that – an organised bus service from La Paz to Copacabana (the Bolivian town, not the Brazilian beach), onto Puno and finally reaching Cusco. The buses complete the circuit at the same time each day and you can choose how long to spend in each destination before re-joining the service. Flexibility yet also structure and efficiency – my favourite things combined!
Of course, you are probably able to book each leg of the journey yourself and save money. But I was drawn in my the traveller-geared package making life easier and also ensuring that you will meet plenty of like-minded travellers.
One of the best parts of Bolivia Hop is that they pick-up/drop off at your hostel/hotel at some stops. As a solo female traveller, it’s a huge reassurance known that I don’t have to walk to an obscure bus stop with all of my belongings at an unsociable hour!
So alas, after a 7am pick-up from the Adventure Brew Hostel, I was off! After around 2 hours 45 minutes, we arrived at a beautiful look-out spot. The bus then took a 15 minute ferry crossing to reach Copacabana at around 11:30am.
If you opt to take the trip to Isla Del Sol, you have 1 hour 30 minutes to become acquainted with Copacabana before the boat to Isla Del Sol leaves at 1pm/1:30pm (be sure to check departure time during your visit).
Instead of exploring Copacabana, I went for lunch with some girls that I’d met on the bus and enjoyed chatting about our travels and enjoying good food.
One of the best parts about travelling through South America is that the ‘backpacker’ path is so well-trodden that you’ll always end up bumping into people time and time again. This happened for me in Copacabana, I bumped into an old friend and suddenly had a hiking buddy for the trip to Isla Del Sol (the girls were staying put in Copacabana for the afternoon).
At the time of my visit (2018), the North and South of the island were divided due to a dispute regarding tourism revenue. This led to boats not being able to access the North of the Island and tourists not being allowed to wander past restrictive barriers. It appears that this issue has now been resolved and tourists are now allowed to visit the entirety of the island.
Due to the long-term restrictions on the North of the island, tourist infrastructure is still lacking in this area, so please check up-to-date guidance before making plans. Bolivia Hop have extremely helpful sales advisors in their La Paz office who will be able to assist you with any queries.
Given the restrictions that were in place at the time of my visit, I decided that one day to explore would probably be sufficient. Looking back, even with the restrictions in place, I would have loved to spend two days on the island to take it all in and relax – unfortunately time wasn’t on my side!
You can book a private boat return transfer with Bolivia Hop for an extra $10. The trip takes circa 4 hours (if you don’t opt to stay on the island and take the return boat the next day) including the time on the boat and exploring time on the island .
If you opt to take the public boats, be warned that the journey is SLOW! Boats depart twice a day, so be sure to check the boat times carefully.
If you are only spending one day on the island, the best way to spend your time is by completing a quick hike before jumping on the return boat. Boliva Hop will let you know the best route to take to make sure you are back in time for your next bus.
There are TONNES of hiking routes to choose from on the island. Even though the majority of the island was closed for tourism at the time of my visit, just the small Southern tip of the island had over 10km of hiking routes!
Due to the time constraints of only taking a day trip to the island, we opted for the shortest hike which took just over an hour and was BEAUTIFUL! No matter how much time you have on the island, you will be greeted with incredible scenery, friendly locals and a high chance of bumping into a cute alpaca.
We visited on a day with absolutely glorious weather which certainly helped with the view; at times it was hard to see where the sky and sea met given they were both so bright blue. While this provided idyllic scenery, it did also create quite a sweaty atmosphere! Given that La Paz had been so cold and rainy during my visit, I arrived on Isla Del sol wearing jeans… let me tell you that was not a good idea.
Given my bad clothing choices, a quick hour long hike was more than enough for me and we treated ourselves to a well-needed ice cream and relax in the sun before boarding the boat back to Copacabana before continuing our journey to Peru.
While my little day trip to Isla Del Sol was lovely, I couldn’t help but think that I hadn’t even scratched the surface. The more travellers I met throughout South America who raved about this little island confirmed my suspicions. If I ever find myself in this wonderful part of the world again, here’s what I would get up to!
While hiking may be the one thing I have already done on the island, I’d love to get back and explore more of the incredible trails and routes across the island. Next time, I’ll wear more suitable clothing, of course.
Isla Del Sol is the home of many Incan Ruins, the most famous/accessible being Pilko Kaina. With no roads on the island, you have to walk/hike to the ruins, so make sure that you pick a hiking path that covers the ruins/sights that interest you the most.
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Okay, so this might be the opposite of hiking. But given that motorised vehicles are not allowed on the island, Isla Del Sol is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy nature.
While I absolutely loved La Paz, the city is busy, gritty and overwhelming on your senses. Isla Del Sol felt a million miles away from that hustle and bustle of La Paz.
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The girls that I had met who declared that they wanted to retire on Isla Del Sol had recommended Las Velas restaurant to us and their review was SO good that I’ve had a note on my phone simply saying “Las Velas” ever since.
The restaurant has no electricity, so be prepared for longer waiting times than usual. The girls said that they ate the freshest, tastiest fish by candlelight – by all accounts, it sounds pretty incredible.
With limited light pollution on the island, star gazing is supposed to be incredible!
However, if you are staying on the island overnight, make sure to bring some warmer layers. At high altitude, once the sun sets, it can get very chilly!
You will want to leave your main luggage in Copacabana (if you stay one night in a hotel, they should agree to hold your luggage during your time on Island Del Sol) so that you don’t have to drag your luggage up the many many steps on the island! Don’t do the opposite of me and be fooled by the weather and only bring warm weather clothes.
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Have you been to Isla Del Sol? What was your favourite part?
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