Isla Del Sol is one of the most picturesque locations around Lake Titicaca with an aura of spiritual energy and tranquility. This isle is called the ‘Island of the Sun’ from the mythical story of the Inca’s origins.
The story was that the sun god Inti emerged from Lake Titicaca by the decree of the creator god Viracocha. The Island of the Sun was one of the first places according to the Incas that were inhabited by humans after having been the home of giants.
Isla Del Sol has the unique distinction of being both the birthplace of the sun god as well as the first two Inca divine beings according to Inca mythology.
In the beginnings of time, Lake Titicaca was a pit of darkness with no life inside or surrounding it. Viracocha emerged from the mystical waters of the lake and went to the island to create Mama Ocllo and Manto Capac. These two divine Inca beings are juxtaposed with Adam and Eve in historical texts.
While this is the story that the Incas propagated, in reality, they were probably outside invaders that wrestled control of the Isla Del Sol and other territories in the 15th Century.
Historians claim that the Inca needed to solidify their reign and power especially among the neighboring people and the locals. Many of the stories that were part of the Inca mythology may have been due to questions about identity.
The Incas were heavily influenced by a civilization that had held power in the region for hundreds of years before them (the Tiwanaku people). This is why they took religious and even architectural influences from them.
The Layout Of The Island
The entire island is under 70 square kilometers and yet filled to the brim with archeological finds and ruins. If you are on a Titicaca retreat, then visiting the Island of the Sun means you can tick quite a few Inca sacred sites off your bucket list.
Isla Del Sol can be visited by taking a short boat trip from Copacabana which is a lovely little town on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
The island houses 800 families of locals but tourists are still able to enjoy a degree of isolation and take their time exploring. The island is also free from the hustle and bustle of cars and motorbikes but that does mean that all the exploration needs to take place on foot.
Most of the sites have small rocky roads leading up to them and tourists are recommended to dress comfortably for the long walks. The island consists of several separate villages with Yumani being the largest and the most comfortable for tourists to spend the night.
Challapampa towards the north of the island is where you can visit the gold museum as well as see a few ancient sites. For beach lovers, Challa on the east coast is a wonderful example of local rural life.
It is best to spend at least a couple of days on the Isla Del Sol to fully capture its many delights but accommodation is more basic than what you’d find in the city.
Hiking On The Island
The island is a great place for a day-long hike but it is recommended to start from the north so that you end up in Yumani village. Yumani has the best accommodation options as well as a few good restaurants.
Willa Thaki is a revered path which is used by many hikers and it is also called the ‘Sacred route of the Eternal Sun.’ This path connects the two extremes of the island and also connects to the Chincana ruins which are a must-see.
Hiking is both a pleasure and a necessity for those visiting the island but it opens up new vistas of opportunity. There are small villages, grazing animals, beautiful tranquil beaches and crop terraces to see on your way. The island is also in a very central location for a bird’s eye view of Lake Titicaca.
Each village has snack bars and souvenir shops so that hikers can refresh themselves as they go along and also experience the local culture.
Visiting the Museo Del Oro
In Challapampa is a beautiful little museum that is for artifacts solely discovered on the island as well as some from underwater in Lake Titicaca.
In the museum, you will find pottery, stone figures, gold ornaments, and everyday tools that were used by the Tiwanaku people and many belonging to the Incas as well.
The entrance fee is a meager $1.5 and there are restroom facilities for hikers in the area.
Huellas Del Sol
This site is the name given to footprints that lead away from Challapampa and the locals attribute them to the steps of the sun god Inti upon creation.
Here you will find a rock shaped like a puma which was an immensely vital spiritual animal of the Incas. The Incas believed this was the original spot where the sun was worshipped.
The rock itself was then deemed sacred and rituals were carried out in its vicinity with the Incas often offering silver, gold and even small children as a tribute to the gods.
This rock is where the name Titicaca comes from and hence this is an important origin point in the Inca belief system.
These ruins are larger and more comprehensive in their expanse and are a must-see for anyone visiting Isla Del Sol. The entire site resembles a labyrinth-like structure with its main attraction Palacio Del Inco being a structure comprising of multiple stone walls and adjacent mazes.
There is some architectural indication that the ruins even had second storeys and that there was a small well in the middle. The well was also a sacred drinking point promising health and vitality for the inhabitants.
Lastly, Chincana is a lovely place to get a glimpse of Isla Chuyu and Tikani Ridge.
This ruin is essentially a large stone table which was used for rituals and offerings. There is a hypothesis to suggest that the table was used mostly for human sacrifices. At the present point in time, it is used for displaying handicrafts and souvenirs.
A beautifully constructed ancient two storey temple lies in the hollow of a cliff overlooking twenty meters above Lake Titicaca.
The Inca Fountain
This Inca fountain has three heads named Ama Llulla, Ama Kella, and Ama Sua. The fountain is mythically related to the preservation of eternal youth with the heads being a lesson against laziness, lying, and theft.
Eating At Las Velas
After a long day of visiting all the notable sites on the island, you can sit down and have a lovely meal at the famous restaurant Las Velas.
They have everything from modern Italian favorites like pasta and pizza to more native foods such as grilled trout and llama.
The tables directly overlook Lake Titicaca with its calming magnificence and there is nothing like enjoying a glass of wine with an approaching sunset.
The restaurant is located through a forest and the general area is not very well-lit so bring a small torch to avoid falling over or getting lost.