Jan 21 2018

Lake Titicaca

Bolivia: Days 11-14

Categories: Bolivia, Cities, Road Trips

From La Paz we drove to Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Getting out of La Paz went about as well as we could have hoped. It was a sunny day with a lot of fresh snow on the high Andes (the Cordillera Real), and we felt like we were going to finally have a great day of driving, that is, until we hit a major political protest that had shut down the highway. I thought maybe we could just drive through it, carefully avoiding all the large stones set out in the road to stop traffic. Ben has dealt with a lot of protests in Panama and considered that a bad idea. So, we turned around, and spent half an hour navigating another rough dirt road to bypass the protest. Sure enough, when at one point we considered taking a little shortcut back to the paved road, I saw some guys with slings and rocks who looked prepared to throw things at us. Even a nearby police checkpoint had been abandoned.


One of our first views of the lake.

The ferries. The town with the ferries is laid back enough you might wait a while for them to get around to taking you somewhere. But, of course, you can pay more to leave sooner.

They loaded our car behind a pasta advertisement.

The other side of the passage. Only a few more miles to Peru. These boats are the only way back to mainland Bolivia.

The town of Copacabana!

Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and is sometimes referred to as the highest “navigable” lake in the world. What they mean is navigable by large ships. The lake is 118 miles (190 km) long and 50 miles (80 km) wide and is divided in half by the Bolivian/Peru international border. As such, there are “Navy” ships patrolling the water. One of the interesting things about Copacabana is that it’s sort of on the Peru side of the lake, and can only be reached from Bolivia by ferry.

By the time we made it to the ferry we were already impressed with the beautiful change in scenery. After spending a week in the harsh deserts of the Altiplano and a grungy day in La Paz fresh blue water was an uplifting sight. The lake is the scale of a large sea, or one of the Great Lakes of North America. The water is a deep blue and the shoreline is dotted with beaches and eucalyptus trees at the bottom of grassy hills. At the resort town of Copacabana we stayed at a whimsical lodge called Hostal Las Olas. That first brilliant sunny day the town and our hotel looked amazing, and due to our schedule we were to spend several days in the area. I was looking forward to it.

The walk to Hostal Las Olas.

This is actually not the hotel we stayed at but it’s right next to it and seemed to be built by the same people.

Llamas in the flowerbeds.

The property was made of lush terraces and each room was unique.

Inside our shell room.

The stairs going to the upper bedroom.

We had a great view from Hostel Las Olas.

Kids play on the docks at the beach.

Copacabana as an important town in Incan culture and scattered along the shore were numerous shrines to their fertility god. One one side of the town is a steep hill that was sacred to the Inca, referred to as the Temple of the Sun. The town also offered access to the Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna.

We took a hike up the Temple of the Sun, with steps in some places carved directly into the hillside.

This is part of the “ruins” or what’s left of them. The Spanish destroyed most of it.

Ribbed rocks near the top of the hill.

Really strange rocks on the very top and an unlikely flat area beneath them. I wonder what the Incas did here and how much they altered it.

Nice looking farmland behind the temple.

Even hundreds of feet high we could not see the opposite shore.

As we hiked back down fragrant smoke drifted up the hillside in the wind. Someone was burning eucalyptus. The light kept changing and a high school band attempted to play The White Stripes. It was a really nice scene.

The low street entrance to our hotel.

This lama was pretty funny, jumping around acting weird sometimes while others, like here, it was acting intimidating and didn’t want me climbing the stairs.

This is our little house in the evening light.

Copacabana Day Two


Our first day had been really exciting running around checking out the town. During the night I discovered that our quaint hotel had some serious problems. One was that it had no heat. Another was that the space heater they provided was half broken and had such a short cord there were very few places you could set it and none of those places were near my bed. Thirdly, the cool looking windows didn’t properly seal, allowing cold air to pour into the room especially after bad weather blew into the area. The shell shaped room we were in had 3 levels but only the top level, where Ben was sleeping, had a fireplace. I was so cold I started using the heating plate in the kitchen as a space heater in front of my bed.

Our second day in Copacabana we investigated how to get out to Isla Del Sol. It wasn’t hard to find a boat tour operator and get that taken care of.  With our extra time we toured around the attractive countryside we had driven through the previous day, and continued all the way to the Peruvian border. There are some really interesting Inca ruins and sites on the Peru side, but because it can take hours to do a border crossing, we decided to save those for another trip.

In the afternoon we decided to go hiking up on a big hill we had passed on the way into town. It had a lot of cool looking rock formations sticking out the sides, and the view on top was really nice.

Walking up through ancient crop fields.

This hill was covered in crazy rock monoliths, what I would call “Tors” up in Alaska but area also called Castle Koppies.

On the top is this insane circular crown of pinnacles behind an open rock area that looks like it was splattered onto the mountain as a molten liquid.

Inside the alcove these are not your typical every day rock towers.

Making things even more interesting were these strange lichens and several very fragrant herbs growing among the grasses.

It totally looked like a mythical magic ring right out of a movie. Put in an altar and you’d be ready to ask the Gods for supernatural powers or appease them through sacrifice. There even seemed to be a step up to the altar area. Again i wondered if the open rock area was the eroded remains of some Incan carving.

We enjoyed the view while the sun came and went. The hike up this hill turned out to be one of the most enjoyable things we did the whole time we were in Copacabana.

We decided to try going down a steeper side.

Made it to the bottom. There were some ruins in the trees over there, but there seemed to be ruins everywhere.

We followed this Inca trail back to the road to complete our trip.

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