If you are somebody who loves hiking and has plans to travel around Bolivia, you will certainly love hiking on an island on Titicaca Lake.
A few years ago, when we visited Bolivia for the first time, we decided to add hiking to our itinerary. The main reason was to acclimatise before walking the Inca Trail (the famous trail to get to Machu Picchu) a few days later.
This trail crosses the island from north to south. The whole walk is about 10km and takes around 3 hours if you don’t rush. You can start walking from either end, north or south. In fact, it’s very common that people choose to start from the north. Basically, it’s because the south side has better facilities, more hotels for instance. That’s why people prefer to watch the sunset there, have a drink or hang out with other travellers.
Heads up! Another point to take into account is that even though the south side is a lovely place to stay, starting the walk from there may be challenging. This part has a few climbs that become even harder if you add altitude as a factor to be considered. Think about it, the lake surface is located almost 4000m above sea level and the highest point of the island is more or less 300m above that. Rephrasing that, walking them may be a big effort if your body is not used to high altitude.
That being said, the biggest issue you might have to face is the weight of your backpack. If you‘re going to spend a day there, carrying your things with you might not be a good idea. I’d advise you to arrive early in the morning, ask in a restaurant or somewhere if you can leave your luggage there for a few hours and then take a boat to the north and start walking from there. Remember: if altitude is not something you are familiar with, any extra weight may mean a significant physical effort.
It’s good to know: If you want to take a boat check its schedule before you plan anything. There are a few boats leaving (from) Copacabana every day, but you have to be cautious about the time.
At the time we were there, we noticed that there were groups starting the walk from the north, around 11:00am. A tour guide leads the groups for a while to show them historical ruins and then the groups can continue the trail by themselves. Of course, there are people interested only in visiting the ruins and that is totally fine. They can skip the hiking, visit the historical place and take the boat straight back to the south. We, for example, decided to skip the ruins and start hiking straight away. Our time was really tied and we had to finish hiking on time to catch the boat back to Copacabana.
The beginning of the trail is easy and the landscape is really unique. I’ve never seen anything like it before. After some time, the hills will turn up, but only two or three are really steep. The final stretch is a little bit more tiring. However, as soon as you reach the highest point, you realise it was all worth it. The view of Titicaca is breathtaking and the sunset is one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen in my life.
After having a lovely time there, watching the sunset and having a cup of tea, it’s time to go down. Believe me, when you realise how steep the last hill is you will feel thankful to have started from the other side (this one is crazy steep). We finished hiking in two and a half hours, but don’t worry so much about time. For real! Take your time and enjoy your journey.