Lake Titicaca straddles the border of Peru and Bolivia at a (literally) breathtaking 3,810 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest lakes in the world. Take a moment to catch your breath as you enjoy the view, against the dramatic backdrop of the Cordillera Real’s snow-covered peaks. The charming, lakeside town of Copacabana, on the Bolivian side, is the gateway to Lake Titicaca. It is filled with plenty of affordable hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and attractive, whitewashed architecture. Settle here for a few days while you explore the many attractions along Lake Titicaca’s shoreline and islands.
After getting to Lake Titicaca from La Paz, have a rest at the seaside resort town of Copacabana. From here, you can set out to explore our top five things to do at Lake Titicaca:
1. Hike across Sun Island
Over forty islands are scattered across the vast Lake Titicaca, many of which are sacred to local inhabitants. Firmly believed to be the birthplace of the Inca Empire, Sun Island – known locally as the Isla del Sol – is home to three Aymara communities and plenty of Inca history. From the shores of Copacabana, you can hop on a boat and join one of the tours heading to the Isla del Sol for the day. After about an hour, you’ll reach the northern tip of the island, home to the remains of Inca ruins such as the maze-like Chinkana complex or the fascinating Palacio del Inca.
Spend the day hiking south along crest of the remote island, enjoying the outstanding panoramic views of the lake, before reaching the Escalera del Inca in Yumani. This Inca staircase sprouts from the sacred Dzfountain of youthdz, where you’ll find locals from the town of Yumani hiking the steep 206 steps for the fresh spring water flowing alongside. Chat with the local Aymara people to uncover more of Isla del Sol’s mythology and find out more about their fascinating culture.
2. Explore the mystical Moon Island
Just a few kilometers from Sun Island is the much more secluded Isla de la Luna. Legend has it that this is where the Inca god Viracocha first commanded the moon to rise. Starting your trek on the stone-studded shores, keep your eyes open for the ruins of the Inca palace of the Virgenes del Sol as you tour the island. Here, chosen women of the Inca Empire were trained to weave alpaca garments and perform ceremonies to the sun.
You can arrange a separate visit to the Isla de la Luna for just a few Bolivianos, or combine it with your tour of Sun Island. Bring cash and remember that hiking at this altitude isn’t easy. Don’t forget your water bottle and sunscreen – the sun here is fierce even when the temperature is low.
Bolivia is a landlocked country, but on arriving at this immense lake, you could be forgiven for believing you had reached the coast, as the glassy water stretches endlessly into clear blue skies.
3. Ascend Cerro Calvario for the Iconic View of Lake Titicaca
Thousands make the pilgrimage to Copacabana each year to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana, with its statute of the Virgin Mary. The Stations of the Cross were built along Cerro Calvario (Calvary Hill) to offer another opportunity for the devout to pray and give thanks before reaching the summit.
Although the hike up the steep hill can be strenuous, the view is worth the hard work. If you time it right, you’ll be fortunate enough to reach the top in time to watch the sun fall below the horizon as the last rays of light reflect off the still waters of the lake.On your descent, stop to talk with one of the many fortune tellers who line the path who will tell you what your future holds by dropping lead into a pot of boiling water.
4. Rent a Paddle boat on Copacabana Beach
Take a break from the hiking and sightseeing to unwind on the beach with a Bolivian cerveza! Copacabana beach is the perfect spot for a stroll along the lakeshore or simply relaxing with a drink and a view to remember. Located just minutes from the main plaza, this quiet little bay stretches along the edge of town.
Rent a paddleboat or a kayak on the beach and head out onto the deep blue waters to enjoy the afternoon sunshine. Make your way back to the shore to try the famous trucha, delicious, fresh trout usually caught in the lake that day. Sit back and gaze across the lake as storms roll in over the Peruvian shore.
5. Discover Archeological Sites
As well as the Inca ruins on Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna, there is no shortage of archeological sites around Copacabana. Overlooking the town is the Horca del Inca – which translates as the Inca Gallows –originally believed to be where the Incas took criminals to be killed. Upon further investigation, it was determined that Horca del Inca was built as an astronomical observatory positioned to track the sun and moon.
Just outside of town you can check out the DzBath of the Incadz, a giant stone that resembles a tub, or head northeast to the small village of Yampupata, where various archeological remains are sacred to local people.