Isla Del Sol or the Island of the Sun, according to Inca mythology, is where the sun was born. It certainly lives up to its name as this place is hot! Wear a hat and loads of sunscreen when out and about exploring the ruins and hiking around the island.
Boats leave twice daily from Copacabana (25bs) but it’s best to get the 8.30am one arriving on the north of the Island Challapampa at 10.30am. Most tourists come just for a day or a half day South Island tour, but we would definitely recommend coming and staying on the island for at least a night or two.
The ferry drops you to the village of Challapampa. We stayed in a hostel to the left along the bay, which is a bit nicer and quieter then the options on the beach further around to the west, where there is free camping on the beach and therefore loads of gringos.
As you walk towards this beach there is a small museum next to the main square. Here you buy your ticket for the Chincana ruins (10bs) which is about a 30 mins walk further west. Here you will find the Titicaca Rock where the sun was born as well as a well preserved sacrifice table. Further along is the ruins and they overlook a gorgeous beach where you can also free camp.
The next day we hiked up and along the backbone of the Island on an Inca Trail – Willa Thaki (15bs). It was a strenuous hour uphill before flattening out. It was quite hard going as it is so sunny and hot and being at an altitude of 4000 metres, we had to stop a lot to catch our breath. We also chewed some coca, which is cultivated all over the island and seems to help with the altitude as well as giving you a bit of a boost – like a cup of coffee.
After about 3-4 hours of trekking we arrived at the village of Yumani. The best place to stay is at one of the hostels along the ridge. Our hostel (Templo del Sol) looked like a dump from the outside (a coat of paint would really liven the place up a bit) but it had spacious and clean rooms on the second floor with private bathroom for 50bs per person. The draw card however is the views! From the top level veranda you can see the water across both sides of the island. The restaurant opposite the hostel (Restaurant Pachamama) has great food and views and is perfect for a sundowner and a early dinner to catch the sunset.
The next day we hiked further along the ridge towards the ruins of Pilko Kaina. Take the road that goes to the right once you pass the mini market. There is a trail for a while towards a rock cairn with a twig cross. You then just bush bash along and down, following the crosses until you come down to the stairs heading towards the ruins. These are incredibly scenic, perched on the side of the cliffs looking out towards the heavily forested Isla Chelleca.
From here we hiked back along the lower trail to the village of Yumani and down to the Fuente del Inca (Inca Springs) and down the picturesque Escalera del Inca (Inca Stairway) to where the ferry can take you back to Copacabana at 10.30 and 4pm daily.
There is also another ferry option – Yumani Tours – which leaves at 10am from the bay seen below the Restaurant Pachamama. This ferry has less people on it and gets back to Copacabana at around 11am. Ask at your hostel for more information if you are staying up on the ridge.
We ended up staying three nights in total as this place is so relaxed and scenic. Staying on the island also helps to support the local economy.