Situated within Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, Isla del Sol or the Island of the Sun is the holy site for the ancient Inca civilization. Legend tells of the story of the universe creator Viracocha, emerging from the waters of the lake and creating the sun on this island. Today, the island is known for its cleanliness, tranquility and laidback atmosphere. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the island. The two major towns on Isla del Sol are Challapampa and Yumani, located on the northern and southern ends of the island respectively.
The only way of getting to Isla del Sol is by boat, and the usual access point is the nearby city of Copacabana. There are always regular half-day or full-day boat tours leaving from Copacabana to Isla del Sol. You can make early reservations with a tour company, or go to the waterfront directly to catch a boat to Challapampa. Travel experts say that half a day tour is too short to see the attractions and really enjoy the island. Instead, overnight stays are highly recommended. You can also arrange a tour company to pick you up the next day.
The town of Challapampa is where boats usually let off passengers. While here, don’t forget to drop by the Gold Museum or Museo de Oro, where you can experience an exhibit of Inca treasures found off the island’s shores. The other interesting sites are located on the northern tip of the island. The best way to get there is to hike 45 minutes to one hour. The hike itself is not hard but some of the challenges include altitude sickness, and strong sun. Bring plenty of sunscreen and liquids, and wear hats and clothing that can protect you from the strong rays.
It is best to hire a guide to help you to understand the history behind the archaeological ruins you will visit. One prominent Inca sacred site on the northern tip is The Rock of the Puma or the Sacred Rock. This huge rock formation at first glance does not really resemble a puma. Nearby, you will discover the Inca Table; a low stone platform believed to have been used for human sacrifices to the gods. Also close by is the Chincana Labyrinth, a maze of Inca building ruins, suspected to be the former homes of people caring for the temples.
Aside from boat tours that will bring you straight to Yumani, a number of tourists usually reach the town by walking from Challapampa. The hike between the two towns is about three hours. Other possible land transportation between the two towns is by way of pack donkeys and llamas, which may or may not make the hike your route of choice.
In this southern region of Isla del Sol, one popular visitor attraction is the Inca Steps, which climb all the way down to the port area. Just below the steps is a channel of water, once referred to as the Fountain of Youth. If you go further south, you will come across the Temple of Pilcocaina. Yumani has better choices when it comes to restaurants, basic lodging (alojamientos) and other tourist facilities. If you want to stay overnight and save on accommodation, you can stay at one of the hospedajes, a small family-owned place for as cheap as USD $2.00 per night.