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Review: Isla del Sol

City/Town/Region/Island

Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

A delightful place to drop out

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2469 reviews

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  • Apr 2010
  • Husband

150 people found this review helpful

We visited Bolivia in April 2010 and spent 2 nights on Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca. We got the hydrofoil from Huatajata which is run by Crillon Tours.

It was a beautiful day. The lake was calm and glistening in the sunshine. There were clear views of the distant snow covered mountains.

Our first stop was URUS-IRUITOS FLOATING ISLANDS. The Urus people appeared around 8000AD around Lake Titicaca. There are still about 30 families of pure Urus descent living around the lake. They speak Pukina which is the mother language of the Aymara peoples. Crillon Tours have been working with the Urus people to help support their traditional way of life.

They traditionally lived on floating islands built up on cut totora just off the shore of lake Titicaca. The totora has to be replaced every month with loose cut reeds. There were several small shelters made of reed which the families would have lived in. The families no longer live on the island but live on the mainland and come across during the day when the tourists visit.

We were welcomed by the Chief who gave a brief explanation of their way of life in Uros, Spanish and then English. A trip was offered on a totora boat but there were no takers. A bowl of a traditional meal of fish and potatoes in stock was handed round for the brave to sample. Women were busy selling souvenirs outside each hut – small models of totora boats and llamas as well as hand knitted goods and the woven blankets they wear on their back to carry things. (Most of these were synthetic and woven in La Paz.) We were asked to buy something to help support their way of life. We felt this was now a ‘tourist experience’ rather than genuine way of life.

Our next stop was ISLA DE LA LUNA to visit TEMPLO DE LAS NUSTAS or INAK UYU (Temple of the Virgins of the Sun). The boat pulled in by a small quay with 4 adobe huts and terraced fields with beans, oats and quinoa. This is on the opposite side of the island from the main settlement. 100 people still live on the island.

The ruins were a short walk above the quay. There were 13 rooms built round 3 sides of a square. Only daughters of the nobility could enter and lived a nun-like lifestyle. They wove their own garments from alpaca wool and performed ceremonies dedicated to the sun. Each year eight maidens were selected for Inca sacrifice. This was considered a great honour.

After Isla de la Luna we headed to Isla del Sol and were dropped off at the southern end of the island to visit PILKO KAYNA ruins. We left our luggage on the hydrofoil to be unloaded at Yumani and taken up to hotel for us.

The ruins are reached by a short but steep climb from the beach. The main structure is a large, fairly well preserved 2 storey stone building with Inca trapezoidal doorways facing across the lake to Isla de la Luna. It is thought it was used by pilgrims visiting the sacred sites on Isla del Sol. There were good views across to the peninsula beyond Copacabana where pilgrims set sail from.

From the ruins there is another steep climb to the main track which then contours to the main village of Yumani. This may seem steep but I can assure you it is a lot easier than the climb up from the beach at Yumani. This is not a wheelchair friendly place. One of the locals arrived with a horse in case anyone wanted to ride up rather than walk. Half way along the track is a very welcome small shack selling drinks. There are also small stalls selling craft items as you approach the village – all very cheap.

We were booked into POSADA DEL INCA high above the pier in Yumani. We went through a gateway off the road and immediately step into a different world of gardens, flowers and places to sit. The original building had been an old hacienda and had tremendous character. There are two small courtyards and rooms are arranged around these. We had a pleasant large room. Furnishings were basic but in keeping with the overall atmosphere of the place.

We loved Isla del Sol and really enjoyed our 2 days there.

Every available space is terraced and there is a network of tracks and paths through the fields. Stone banks were covered in wild flowers – mainly white but some yellow daisies and lots marjoram which released its smell when walked on. There are no wheeled vehicles on the island and no aircraft flying over. It was so quiet. The only sounds were birds, insects and donkeys braying.

We spent the two days pottering around Yumani. As well as the effect of altitude (39800+m) it was too hot to want to go far. It is a delightful island and a very relaxing atmosphere. We watched the llamas being taken out to graze in the morning, people at work as they harvested the potatoes (all by hand) and loaded them onto the backs of donkeys to take home.

On the first evening we walked up through the houses along steep narrow streets with steps to the top of the ridge with views across the other side of the island. We sat on the terrace of one of the hostels (very basic toilets) with cup tea to watch sunset. It wasn’t a particularly impressive sunset. The best bit was the sight of Mount Illampu turning pink was we walked back down to our hotel. Once the sun disappeared the temperature dropped quickly. Judging by the number of people watching the sun go down this is a a popular pastime. This was the only time we saw other tourists. I don’t know what they do during the day as we didn’t see any while we were pottering around the island.

We were sad to leave Isla del Sol. We were catching the hydrofoil from the quay at Yumani. It was a very steep drop down stone pathways to Yumani. We were very thankful we hadn’t had to walk up them, and didn’t envy the porters carrying our luggage up and down.

We stopped to look at FUENTE DEL INCA (Inca Springs). There was a long wall built of beautifully cut stone with with blind ‘windows’ for lamps. At the centre, three jets of water from pipes out of the wall (the springs) flowed into a basin. The water overflowed into a channel down the side of the ESCALERA DEL INCA (Inca Steps) which form a long narrow and uneven staircase to beach. The water had been used to irrigate terraces built alongside the steps but these are no longer cultivated.

At the bottom of the steps are two large models of the Inca mother and father. Apparently they were a joint venture with Peru to promote tourism… They looked naff to us.

We caught the hydrofoil to COPACABANA.

The websites with our pictures of Isla del Sol can be found here:

http://homepage.mac.com/wasleys/sth_amer_10_mw/22Titicaca/index.html

http://homepage.mac.com/wasleys/sth_amer_10_mw/23IslaDelSol/index.html

My report of our trip to Bolivia can be read here:

http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/Reviews/index.cfm?v=City/Town/Region_Bolivia_Bolivia~p3533r379pt7pst&fuseaction=pubReviews.dspProductReview

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