Isla del sol and Copacabana on the way from Bolivia to Peru

Note: This post is from my travel in June, 2013

Copacabana is the main Bolivian town on the shore of Lake Titicaca. It’s a quite a touristic town, very small but filled with restaurants, small shops and backpackers. Copacabana has a cool subtropical highland climate which I was very happy about, since I came from the cold mountains in Bolivia and had freezed my ass of for weeks. It was so sweet to feel the warming sun and sit without jacket there :)

I traveled during early morning and arrived in Copacabana by bus and a small ferry boat, took about 4-5 hours. I went down to the harbour to get the tickets for the first boat to cross over to Isla del Sol which leaves at 8. I costed 25 bolivianos. Then I hunted down a nice place to where to eat breakfast. :)

 

Where I enjoyed my first meal in Copacabana

Where I enjoyed my first meal in Copacabana

Easy to get boat tickets over to Isla del Sol

Easy to get boat tickets over to Isla del Sol for 25 bolivianos

 

Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) is the largest island in Lake Titicaca. It’s an ancient holy site of the Inca, mostly known because the Incas believed that the God of the Sun was born here. Inca legend says that Viracocha, the bearded God who created the universe, emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca and created the sun at this location.

On the boat over I started talking to a girl from Spain, Maider and a man from England, Anthony, and since we were all three traveling alone, we joined forces :) We decided to walk south to north, and take back the boat from the other side the next day.

The boat over to Copacabana was easy, it took about 1,5 hours, but when we arrived.. buff! Apparently all the houses and the society is on top of the island, there’s nothing by the lake except for the bridge. And there are quite stiff inca-steps to walk up with all your backpack at altitude! It’s recommended to leave your backpack in your hostel in Copacabana, but I just went straight from La Paz, so I thought… How hard can it be? Haha. Well… hard!

The place we stayed in Yumani during that night costed like 15 bolivians or something, and it was with breakfast included. But it was freezing inside and there was not a how shower (anywhere on the island, almost).

The house were we slept, with the familys kids playing in front

The house were we slept, with the familys kids playing in front (and my backpack!:)

View over some archeological sites from our house

View over some archeological sites from our house

We went out for a walk around to see some of the archeological sites in the area. There are over 80 ruins on the island. Most of these date to the Inca period circa the 15th century AD. We saw a few that were close by and then we climbed up to the highest top of the island to see the sunset. It was absolutely fantastic! All the people from around gathered there to watch it together.

Anthony enjoying the island and the sunset!

Anthony and Maider enjoying the island and the sunset from yet another ruin!

The beautiful sunset!!

The beautiful sunset!!

And me :)

And me :)

We also encountered two llamas having some fun and enjoying themselves, for a veery long time. I took plenty of photos, I just found the situation so funny, and they made this particularly funny sounds… Yes, I have it on video also… Haha. And it was a fantaastic location! :)

Beautiful scenery...

Beautiful scenery…

Beautiful llamas...

Beautiful llamas…

They are reaally enjoying themselves...

They are reaally enjoying themselves…

We then wen’t around ”in town” to find a place where we could eat dinner.The life in the island is tranquil, there is no noise, no motorized traffic and no rubbish on the streets, only animals and nature.

After the sunset it got really dark, and there were no lights on the streets! We survived not falling thanks to our head torches. We found a great little house who served dinner to us, we were the only guests, and I was so happy about having candle lights – its so cozy and totally missing from every other restaurant in south america, haha. The dinner was about 35 bolivianos and totally worth it. Then we went back to our cold beds to catch the sunrise early.

Our view while we ate breakfast :)

Our view while we ate breakfast :) (and the other swedish traveleres we met who were stupid)

We had breakfast outside our home to a view over the Lake Titicaca. Beautiful.
Geographically the terrain is harsh, it’s rocky and not so much growth, but it’s has beautiful views from wherever you are since you are above on a hill.

There are about 800 families on the whole island, and their main economic activity is farming, fishing and some tourism. Archaeologists have discovered evidence that people lived on the island as far back as the third millennium before christ!

Wherever you go on the island, you find a new archeological site. And there is no one else but you there. It’s free to walk and sit wherever you want. I walked around imagining how it was like over a thousands years ago.

So cute with all the colorful fabrics :)

So cute with all the colorful fabrics :)

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Enjoying ourselves in our ruin house ;)

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Me and Anthony :)

Actually, at the most famous place on the island, there were a couple of ”guides” there, one was about 6 years old and the other about 10. They explained the story about the mythology and the archeology and you can give them a small tip to show our appreciation. Actually, without them, we would not have seen what it was that was ”so famous” about that.. haha.

We watched the The Rock of the Puma, or Titi Kharka, after which the lake is named, which is a large formation of a rock that looks like a Puma (sort of… but the guide showed us ;)

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The Puma….. Its there somewhere, I swear!

Then there was a Inca table that was used for human sacrifices..

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And us chilling at the Inca table :) No sacrifices here!

And the most important, the Footsteps of the Sun – there are like some ”supernatural” marks in a rock, where it is said that it was there the God of the Sun took his first steps.

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The ”magical” footsteps of the sun…

Well. Maybe that wasn’t to much to brag about, the archeological sites and the scenery around is much nicer! :)

While getting closer to the north of the island, I noticed there’s like a special harmony there, you can feel it all over your body. I felt so good there, good vibrations, I don’t know what it was…. but it was something special about this place. I could have easily spent a week or so there just doing nothing, just feeling and breathing and being happy.

 

Panoramic over the walk

Panoramic over the walk

Beautiful lake!

Beautiful lake!

Terraces and blue sky

Terraces and blue sky

Walking around the island!

Walking around the island!

Some pigs and other animals by the beach :)

Some pigs and other animals by the beach :)

There are many agricultural terraces and llamas, donkeys, and then the island is surrounded with all this water, sometimes there are rocks, sometimes there’s beach, and on the other side of the water you can catch the glimps of the  big snowy mountain. There are so many contrasts! Then here in the north of the island, we also got on lower grounds and it was getting hotter, and there was a beach and some people from the villages around :)

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Farmers working

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Woman and her son by the beach

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Fantastic views!

When we arrived at Cha’llapampa, the town from where the boat leaves in the northern end of the island, we still had some time before the boat left back to Copacabana. We went to the Museo de Oro which shows different treasures that have been discovered underwater around the island. Then we bought some snacks and food.

During our walk around the island we had to pay some small fees because we were trespassing from the south to the norht of the island or something like that, also the museum was like 10 bs. But other than that, just beautiful silence and harmony.
We laughed at one guy who had got there with his big suitcase with wheels. Really not the best place where to bring that! Not at all in Bolivia I would say…. ;)

We took the boat back (and they let me steer a while:) and once back in Copacabana we enjoyed ourselves in the last hours of sun, just sitting outside a bar/restaurant, before splitting to different places.We all had buses leaving at 18,  I was on my way to Cusco in Peru again, Anthony to Arequipa in Peru and Maider to La Paz in Bolivia. I’m so glad I found these two, had such a nice time with them.

Stearing the boat back ;)

Stearing the boat back ;)

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Enjoying food and nice company in the sun!

I went with Huancayo tours from Copacabana to Cusco, a good company with nice buses and first class. :)

On the bus I met a guy named Sebastian who soon had been traveling for a year around the world and had visited like 55 countries!!…. And I will only visit like 6 countries in a year.. haha. He must have had a crazy schedule!

Well… That was that!

Don’t miss Isla del Sol if you are going between Bolivia and Peru!! :)

 

 

My favorite hidden gems in South America

After a year traveling around Central & South America, these are the places I liked the most. Since they are not very well-known, I’d like to call them ”my hidden gems”.

These ”cities” are very down-to-earth and laid-back places where I have felt something special inside, like a bubbling feeling of happiness, calmness and fulfillness.

 

1. — Holbox – Mexico —

The beach at Holbox

The beach at Holbox

Sunset in Holbox

Sunset in Holbox

 

Shallow water, birds, and blue sky.

Shallow water, birds, and blue sky.

 

There is just something special about this small island outside of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. This island has a natural beauty – white sand, palm trees, shallow ocean, thousands of flamingos and pelicans. Most of the habitants work as fishermen and it’s considered a virgin tourist destination unspoiled by mass tourism. There is only a main square and a few streets which are made of sand and there are just a handful of ”cars” on the island. You sleep, eat, do some small excursions, go to small music events, visit small shops with handicraft and just relax. You eat and live cheaply here too.

 

2. — Isabela – The Galapagos – Ecuador —

The mainstreet in isabela... beautiful with sand!

The main street in isabela… beautiful with sand!

The tuneles

The tuneles

Bluefooted boobies

Bluefooted boobies

Beautiful surroundings!

Beautiful surroundings!


I love all the Galapagos islands,
but if I would have to choose one of them for living – it would be Isabela. although it is the biggest island it is the less populated of the habituated islands. Most tourists only come here for day tours so the ambiance feels very local. Also on this island, the streets are made of sand. It is very safe here. There are plenty of things to do and see here, you can visit lava tunnels, active volcanoes, you can snorkel with big tortoises, watch blue footed boobies, pink flamingos. It is not expensive here either.

 

3. — Jericoacoara – Brazil —

Enjoying life!!!

Enjoying life!!!

Windsurfers and a man playing capoeira-music

Windsurfers and a man playing capoeira-music

The streets are full with hantcraft stands

The streets are full with handicraft stands

Sunset in Jericoacoara

Sunset in Jericoacoara

A little street filled with restaurants

A little street filled with restaurants


This is like a bigger version of Holbox
, with more people, more shops and more activity, but still it has a lot of charm. This place is a paradise for windsurfers and kitesurfers. So yes, it is very windy but hey! – there are no mosquitoes :) If you get tired of the wind you can visit the Blue Lagoon, lovely calm lagoon famous for the hanging hammocks in the water. Jericoacoara is a mix of great people – during the day you’ll see all the active sporty people, and during the nights you’ll see all the musicians and the handicraftsmen out selling their work. There are always live music in a bar or a restaurant, always something to do. The main streets are of course – made of sand. :)

 

4. — Lagoa da Conceição – Florianopolis – Brazil —

Barra Da lagoa

Barra Da lagoa

View over Lagoa do Conceicão

View over Lagoa do Conceicão

Praia do Joaquina in Florianopolis

Praia do Joaquina in Florianopolis


This is a magical place
. It’s a laid-back neighbourhood with super nice surroundings. The area has a small town center and some of the island’s best beaches, and a lagoon that is surrounded by beautiful green hills. Surfing is a popular sport here. There is a lovely big mixture of all kind of Brazilians, but also a lot of Europeans that decided to stay or study here. The city Florianopolis has a lot of culture and bars to offer too.

 

5.  —  Isla del sol – Copacabana –  Bolivia — 

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Boats, beach, small houses and snowy mountains behind

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Clear water and hills with place for cultivation

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Local people in the south of Isla del Sol


This is an oasis in all the chaos between Bolivia and Peru
. This small island in the lake Titicaca is beautiful and super quiet. There is no noise, no cars, no rubbish on the streets. Not even lampposts (bring your head-torche). Beautiful sunsets and sunrises and the sky is super clear so you can see a lot of stars during the night. People live in harmony here with the nature and it’s surroundings. You can walk from the north to the south and see llamas and donkeys and some old inca-archaelogical sites along the way. Sweet local kids will offer you a little guided history about the history of Isla del Sol. There are a few small museums on the island too. I really enjoyed the landscapes in the south.

 

¿Have you been to any of these places? ¿What was your impression?

 

~ If I would extend the list these cities would probably make the list too, all though there are all not ”hidden gems” since some of them are capitals.

• Cusco (Peru) • Puerto Maldonado (Peru) • Quito (Ecuador) • Rio De Janeiro (Brazil) • Salvador (Brazil) • San Cristobal De Las Casas (Mexico) • Isla Mujeres (Mexico) • Tulum (Mexico) • La Paz (Bolivia) and • Buenos Aires (Argentina).

Packing tips – Items I wouldn’t travel without

While being on the road for almost a year, my backpack has changed a few times. I’ve bought a few new things, and sent home some other things.

At least I noticed that I don’t need to have everything with me the whole time. It really depends on where you are going, if you are changing between different climates and temperatures. Most things you can buy along the way if you really need it, then you don’t have to carry it around the first time and it’s probably cheaper too.

I’ve been in warm and cold big cities, hot beaches with surf and scuba dive, high and cold mountain tops… And I’m glad I had something (not everything!) for every occasion with me. While traveling in hot summer climate, I really thought it was a waste of place to bring my fleece jacket everywhere – but I really needed it on the cold cold night bus journeys.

But maybe I wouldn’t have needed to bring a sleeping bag with me, because I only used it like 3 times during 8 months. It would probably have been better (lighter and less space) to just rent one when I needed it. I also brought my rain jacket with me, but I sent it back after 2 months because I hadn’t used it even once, and it was literally just a waste of space. Instead I bought a thin plastic rain poncho for 2 USD which was even better because I could have it over my backpack too, haha. Just something to keep in mind! Anyhow!

Here are some items I’ve used a lot and would never travel without, things I’m like “omg I’m so glad I brought this with me!” haha.

Macbook Air 13” – perfect travel computer, light and good enough for editing pictures and videos, writing blog entries, watching film and tv-series ;) A little to small hard-disk for storage, but it depends on how long time you are traveling. I know I couldn’t have been without a computer at least, but a lot of people travel without!

USB-memories – for storage.  I prefer USB memories to hard disks because I feel it’s less chance to break and also I don’t like to have everything in just one place. Generally for electronics the prices are getting lower and lower, but in under-developed countries it’s still the same prices as we had maybe 5 years ago.  (for example in Sweden a 16 gb USB memory costs the same today as a 8 gb USB memory costed a couple of years ago). So depending on where you are going, it might be cheaper or the same price in your own country!

panasoniclumixA waterproof camera – Panasonic Lumix FT3 Waterproof and Shockproof Digital Camera – at first I didn’t like this camera so much because everything is pretty much automatic, but I got to LOVE it. It has great quality, great futures and great colors, you barely need to edit them. Love that it’s shockproof (2 meters) and waterproof up to 12 meters (40 feet) and has  a GPS! Then you know at what height or depth you are in. Perfect for adventure tours, hiking, climbing, snorkeling, beach, rain!

ultra-silA foldable waterproof daypackSea to summit Ultra Sil Dry Day Pack – Perfect to bring with you, doesn’t occupy much space in the backpack but so useful. Not too comfortable when it’s heave, because of the thin strips, but it’s perfect as a daypack – also it’s waterproof so it’s perfect for surfing, snorkeling and scuba dive-trips, but also for the beach or when it’s raining. I’ve used it so much!

 

Flipflops – I bought mine for like 4 USD in Mexico and it’s the most used item I have. Sometimes you just don’t want to have the supercomfy and ugly teva-sandals or trekkingshoes, just easy flip flops to wear the beach, around the city, or just in the house or to the shower

Travel towel – I prefer the normal towers, but compared to the space it would occupy – not worth it! Also I use the towel as a “protector” from insight around my bed when I’m in hostels. (hate knowing people are watching me while sleeping haha) 

LMF-spork


Spork
Light my fire – after 4 months it broke, so bring a couple of them! I used mine so much, sometimes if you bring your own meal/snacks on the bus ride, to the tour or to your room, and you really need a spoon or a fork for it. Perfect!!!

 

LeathermanA multi-tool – Leatherman. I’ve used mine so much!!  To cut up apples, open cans, open sodas, filing my nails, tighten loose screws, cut threads for the bracelets.. etc!

 

A couple of meters of thin rope
– To hang up washed clothes to dry, but also to hang my travel towel around my bed. Sometimes to tie something to my backpack. Very good to have! 

Head lamp – had a normal flash light in the beginning but bought a head torch for the Inca Trail. You usually need a flashlight and your hands free at the same time – like when packing or searching for something in the dark hostel room or hiking at night/early morning with hiking poles.

packing-cellsPacking cells – I just love them to organize my backpack. If I’m looking for something, I just have to take out the packing cells and open the one I know where my item is in. I always see other backpackers stuff laying around everywhere on their bed or on the floor, super chaotic unorganized. I like to have my stuff ready to go. I have one small for underwear and swimwear, a 2 L one for warm clothes/socks/union suit (which I never have to open in warmer countries), another 2 L one for my tops and t-shirts, and one 6L for pants, shorts, dresses, skirts and my fleece jacket.

Pad Lock – You will definitively need one or two. I have a cable lock pad – perfect for locking the backpack in plenty of spaces and also into a chair or a pole in the bus or the train. I also have a regular one for hostel lockers etc and for my daypack.


Foldable tooth brush
 – Takes less space and get’s less dirty! Works perfectly fine too!

A few clothing items I’ve used way to much and which is totally worth to have with you wherever you go –

A light cardigan/long-sleeved shirt – even in the hottest countries it sometimes get a little bit chilly. Also good to have a little protection against mosquitoes or direct sunlight. Sometimes you also need to cover your shoulders to enter a church.

Union suit – for cold nights and chilly bus rides. I used it as a pyjamas while sleeping in tents or in rooms where it was under 10*C inside at night. Not just an extra layer, but also perfect in the morning when you don’t want to put on freezing cold clothes direct on your body – just put the clothes on top of the union suit. Also on the damn cold super air-conditioned night buses between cities – would have died without it! And I even used it in the tropic jungle – it got a little chilly to sleep outside in the hammock!

Cap – When the sun is high and burning it really helps – especially to not be blinded by the sun but also to cool your head/hair a little bit. Also good to cover up your greasy and dirty hair when you haven’t been able to take a shower in a couple of days. And to have under your winter hat in sunny winter days.

For women:

Really light dress – For all occasions. Good to have to the beach above your bikini on your way there and from there, or when you are at home or at the hostel – takes 1 sec to put it on and it’s really comfy and light.  And also if you want to dress up a little bit in the city you can just add a belt or a necklace to it.

Leggings – Good to prevent mosquitoes, ticks and other insect bites at night and if it’s a little chilly and still want to have a skirt, or if it’s cold you can have them under your pants. Would never travel without leggings! 

Tampons – I actually brought a reeeally big pack with me (like 100) and I’m glad I did, because first of all, they don’t sell it every country/city, and at least in south America, where it’s not to common – it’s more expensive then in Sweden! And only boxes of 8 or something.

I hope this helps someone out there! (?)