The startlingly limpid waters of Lake Titicaca straddle Bolivia and Peru only a few hours from La Paz. With the towering peaks of the Cordillera Real as a backdrop, you can wander along its shores, passing through traditional villages where Spanish is a second language and where ancient myths and beliefs still hold true.
Lake Titicaca is officially two lakes joined by the Straits of Tiquina. The larger, northern lake – Lago Mayor, or Chucuito – contains the Islas del Sol and de la Luna at its southern end. The smaller lake – Lago Menor, or Huiñamarca – has several small islands. The waters are a beautiful intense blue, reflecting the hills and the distant cordillera in the shallows of Huiñamarca, mirroring the sky in the rarified air and changing colour when it is cloudy or raining.
The attractive little town of Copacabana is nestled between two hills on the shores of Lake Titicaca, 158 km from La Paz and 8 km from the Peruvian border at Kasani. Copacabana is popular with Bolivian and foreign tourists alike and gets busy in high season, on weekends and public holidays. Fortunately, the town’s splendid location and the great natural beauty of the lake help overcome the bustle. Copacabana’s main plaza is dominated by the impressive and heavily restored Moorish-style basilica dedicated to the Virgen de la Candelaria. Every Sunday in front of this great shrine a line of vehicles, all decorated with garlands of flowers, waits to be blessed as a spiritual form of accident insurance.
Though only a short distance by boat from Copacabana, Isla del Sol feels altogether different. The land, water and sky have a quiet almost serene beauty and this is a fitting site for the Inca creation legend. A sacred rock is worshipped as the birthplace of Manco Kapac and Mama Ocllo, son and daughter of Viracocha and the first Incas.
There are many beautiful walks through villages and Inca terraces, some of which are still in use. You could easily stay to relax for a few days (there is plenty of accommodation) yet many visitors go just for one day, either briskly striding the length of the island from north to south between boats, or visiting only sites at the south end at a more leisurely pace.