Panorama of the Week: Lake Titicaca, Take a Hike

Lake Titicaca, big stuff. South America’s largest lake, the world’s highest commercially navigable one. And if you take it all in from Bolivia’s Isla del Sol, something beautiful. Deep blue skies hang above inky fresh waters, clouds pop over a lonely landscape, and the whole scene is wrapped by the 20,000 foot snowcapped mountains of the Cordillera Real.

It’s one thing to admire the lake from the shores of Copacabana, Bolivia’s main outpost on the lake, but it’s another to hike the length of Isla del Sol. Breath-taking, quite literally.

360-Degree Panorama: Lake Titicaca from Isla del Sol, Bolivia

panorama directions

Because of the altitude — a lung-aching 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) — you can feel the burn. Go slow, appreciate the villages, the people, the donkeys, the llamas, the history.

Our suggestion: take a boat from Copacabana to the northern side of Isla del Sol and hike to the village of Yumani on its southern edge. The walk offers great views of the lake and a few sites of reconstructed Incan ruins.

Although Yumani has experienced a bit of a boom in guest house construction recently, you can still see pack donkeys carrying supplies through town and young girls shepherding llamas from the fields.

After an overnight stop, hire a boat in the morning to take you to the village of Yampupampa on the mainland. From there, hike the remaining ten miles back to Copacabana. Along the way, it’s a different world: villagers rely mainly on agriculture, livestock and trout fishing.

So if you find yourself in Bolivia, take in Lake Titicaca. And if you find yourself at Lake Titicaca, be sure to take a long walk.

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  1. says

    @Andi: 12,500 feet is nothing to sneeze at in terms of altitude – it’s tough. I’m sorry to hear you were sick. We were lucky because we had come from Cusco in Peru and had been at high altitude for several weeks already.

  2. Elisa says

    Yes, indeed! I hiked the length of Isla del Sol, and loved it too. I wasn’t staying overnight, though, and I had to hike pretty quickly to make sure I caught the boat in time at Yumani. It really is spectacular – when we were there, we could see the snow-capped Andes off in the far distance on the horizon.

    One cautionary note for future travelers (Audrey & Dan, I’m glad you didn’t run into this): check the weather forecast before you go to Isla del Sol! On the boat ride back, we got caught in a pretty bad storm, and it was terrifying (small boat rocking violently in the waves, 60 scared tourists, and no lifejackets) When we got back to Copacabana (thankfully in one piece!) the power was out for several hours because of the high winds.

    Anyway, it was an adventure and it sure makes for a good story! I loved Isla del Sol, though, and your hike near Copacabana sounds fascinating too – I wish I could have seen it.

  3. says

    @Elisa: The view from Yumani of the snow capped mountains is one of the most stunning we’ve ever seen. Such a beautiful setting. We were very fortunate with good weather, but I can imagine how scary the boat ride would have been in a bad storm.


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