Copacabana & Isla Del Sol, Bolivia.
We arrived in Copacabana after a pretty quick and easy 4 hour bus journey and border crossing from Puno, in Peru.
We weren’t sure of what to expect from Copacabana as it was our first stop in Bolivia but upon arrival we were happy as it was very sunny and the place had a holiday resort vibe about it. It felt a little bit like what a Bolivian version of Blackpool would be like (but minus the fairground), slightly tacky with cheap food stalls and kiosks, and lots of different pedalo boats and water sports on offer around the lakeside.
Sitting on the edge of Lake Titicaca on the Bolivian side, Copacabana is still at a high altitude of 3841m but every day we spent there was bright and still hot enough in the sun.
As soon as we got to Bolivia we noticed straight away how much cheaper it was, than both Peru and Colombia, in terms of accommodation – this, of course, made us really happy! I’d booked us one night at Las Olas hostel in town for £13 a night for a private double but the place turned out to be a bit of a depressing dive and the room felt a bit like a crack den with no windows! Fortunately, we found a much nicer room at Hostal Colonial down the road and nearer to the lakeside for even cheaper (£12 a night) with really nice, big and clean rooms, hot showers and big windows.
We spent two nights there and we spent our days chilling on the little beach by the lakeside in the sun drinking beers.
The next day we left Copacabana to visit Isla Del Sol (island of Sun) which is a popular island on Lake Titicaca, usually accessed from Bolivia due to its closer proximity.
Rather than booking a tour excursion through an agency in town that handled everything for you we decided to go it alone and do everything ourselves which turned out to be a far better experience!
We caught a boat that morning from the dock heading to the island which was 20 bolivianos each (about £2.20). The journey took approx 2 hours and we got dropped off at the northern end of the island in the little village of Challapampa. There are no cars or any other motorised forms of transport on the island and the only way to get around, if you don’t have a donkey, is to hike. Our plan was to spend the night on Isla Del Sol and hike from the north to the south of the island, finding accommodation in the village of Yumani at the Southern end before catching the boat back to Copacabana the next day.
However, I realised that we stupidly hadn’t brought much money with us for the trip! We had about 300 bolivianos which is only £26 and we needed to eat for two days, find accommodation and be able to buy our return boat ticket back to the mainland. We knew we had to do it all really, really cheaply!
Upon arrival in Challapampa in the north you have to pay a fee to visit that part of the island (it actually turned out you had to pay 3 fees in total to walk through the north, the middle and the south of the Island!). That meant a good chunk of our money was gone straight away just on walking!
However the 7km hike across the island was beautiful.
The north where we started was really stunning with amazing white sand beaches, the clearest sky and glistening water from the lake plus a few wild pigs and donkeys.
On the hike, you visited various look out points and some Inca sites along the way which included a magical labyrinth that went part of the way down the mountainside towards the water. Of course, there was lots of sun and it was still a bit of a hard walk because of the heat and the high altitude combined!
We decided to do the walk in one go and get to Yumani as quickly as we could so we could find accommodation and have lunch there before exploring the village and chilling for the afternoon.
Yumani is a really nice, picturesque little village with cobblestone streets that wind steeply up and down depending on what side of the mountain you’re on.
We got lucky with accommodation upon arrival as we ended up staying in this lovely little cottage that one of the local men had built in his garden. The room and the bathroom were both brand new and we had views of the lake from our window but best of all it cost us only 80 bolivianos for the night (still to date our cheapest and one of the nicest rooms we stayed anywhere in Bolivia!).
We also got lucky with lunch too, after earlier noting that in the village a lot of places offered more expensive set lunches than on the mainland.
However, after wandering along a forest track south of the village we found a lovely restaurant perched on the edge of the mountain with incredible views.
The menu was also more than we could afford but the lovely lady who worked there cooked us an amazing baked trout dish with fresh vegetables and quinoa for 30 bolivianos each instead of 50.
We ate lunch outside taking in the amazing views of the endless lake and mountain range.
The next day before catching the boat back in the afternoon, I had wanted to trek half way back up the island to visit Challa, a village located in the middle which had an amazing beach nearby however it turned out to be a disaster. We walked all the way back to the middle checkpoint on the island for a mean little man who checked the tickets to tell us we couldn’t go any further despite the fact we’d paid 30 bolivianos the day before and not visited it.
We ended up walking all the way back to Yumani and went exploring, finding out own little private beach cove to chill in before we had to catch the boat back.
Andy even went for a dip in the lake even though the water was only about 8 degrees!