Just off the northern tip of the Copacabana peninsula, about 12km northwest of Copacabana, ISLA DEL SOL (Island of the Sun) has been attracting visitors for hundreds of years. In the sixteenth century the island, 9km long by 6km wide at its broadest point, was one of the most important religious sites in the Andean world, revered as the place where the sun and moon were created and the Inca dynasty was born, and covered with shrines and temples that attracted thousands of pilgrims. After the Spanish conquest the island was looted, and the cut stones from its temples plundered to build churches on the mainland. But five centuries later it’s still easy to see why it was (and is) considered sacred. Surrounded by the azure Lago Titicaca, with the imperious peaks of the Cordillera Real rising above the shore on the mainland to the east, it’s a place of great natural beauty and tranquillity.
Isla del Sol is the largest of the forty or so islands in Lago Titicaca and home to several thousand Aymara campesinos. The three main settlements, Yumani, Challa and Challapampa, are all on the east coast. Scattered with enigmatic ancient ruins and populated by traditional Aymara communities, it’s an excellent place to spend some time hiking and contemplating the magnificent scenery.