It is my understanding that you can not visit either Bolivia or Peru without going to Lake Titicaca, located on the border between the two. And why would you want to skip it? Especially when “Titicaca” is pronounced exactly the way it looks! Yes folks, the words ”titi” AND “caca” all in one fabulous location. Sure, it’s hard for the more immature Americans like Ben and myself to say it without cracking a smile or making some sort of crud joke, but we decided to go anyways, knowing eventually that we’d embarrass ourselves.
Traveler’s Side Note: If you’re in Bolivia the “titi” side is Bolivia and the “caca” side is Peru BUT if you’re in Peru the reverse is true.
Lake Titicaca, comedic pause, is really, really high up there. It’s almost 13,000 feet above sea level and catches the most amazing light from the sun. But besides being the highest navigable lake in the world, it’s also South America’s largest.
The mystical waters of Lake Titicaca
But fun facts about it’s physical attributes are not all this lake has going for it. As Inca myth would have it, the lake is the cradle of creation. It is where their god rose out of the water’s depths to create the world and the heavens. It is also believed that all spirits return to the Lake upon death. For the Incas, It doesn’t get more holier then Lake Titicaca, making the Lake’s islands and surrounding land home to many ancient ruins and important pilgrimage sites.
Full Moon, as seen from the Cathedral's courtyard.
Our first stop on our Titicaca tour was Copacabana, Boliva, which is located on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Copacabana is hippy central with a Bolivian twist, here vendors alternate from selling hemp jewelry and feather hair extensions to hand woven wall tapestries and reed boat figurines.
Beautiful sunset in Copacabana.
It’s also where you can snack on anything from vegan gourmet to comidas tipica (Typical Bolivian food) to fresh grilled trout caught in the lake that morning. Ben and I ran to the fish stands that lined the lake. After being in land locked Bolivia for a month and half, we were dying for some fresh seafood!
One grilled fish with rice, fries, and a beverage complete with original head: $2 US dollars.
Copacabana is home to a Moorish style Cathedral dedicated to the Dark Virgin of the Lake. And it is nothing short of breathtaking. It is a beautiful pristine white structure with unique titling surrounded by a huge courtyard and rod iron gates.
Moorish Cathedral dedicated to the Dark Virgin of the Lake
Three crosses in the church's courtyard.
The elderly and handicapped line up in front of Cathedral’s main entrance asking for hand outs. They are not shy about begging often grabbing your arm or leg if you pass them by without notice. Most Bolivians give them money, though usually poor themselves. It’s unfortunately a sight of poverty that Ben and I have grown accustom to while traveling in this country.
Main Entrance to the Cathedral
Benedicion de Movidades (blessing of automobiles) occurs daily at 10am and 2:30pm in front of the cathedral. This is where owners don their cars or buses with garlands of flowers, colored ribbons and flags that can be bought at vendors stalls outside the church’s courtyard. They even pour alcohol on their vehicles to christen their voyage home. It sounds strange to us, but Bolivia’s roads are deadly, and if I was driving my car in Bolivia I would definitely be asking the Dark Virgin for some additional help.
Even gas guzzling jeeps get blessed in Copacabana
We then took a boat to the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) which is one of the largest islands in the Lake. This island has over 80 ruins and no paved roads. In fact no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island, making you feel like you just went a couple hundred years back in time.
The tranquil serenity of Isla del Sol
And after climbing the 210 steps of the Inca Staircase to get to the first village we wondered how anything gets to the approximately 800 Aymara families that lived there without a car, but our question was soon answered when we saw donkeys loaded up with goods.
The Inca staircase
As we hiked around the island exploring, we encountered a Bolivia Day celebration.
A Cholita seating in front of a high flying Bolivian flag.
More Cholitas, those are the women wearing the stylish bolder hats.
Life on the island was so tranquil and peaceful that Ben said that it reminded him of the Greek islands. We fell instantly in love with the adobe brick houses, terraced farmlands, eucalyptus groves, cobblestone roads and farm animals. We decided to stay the night on the island. Thankfully we knew of the perfect accommodations that a couple, Matt and Kimberly, told us about.
Our cabin on Lake Titicaca complete with terrace over looking the lake.
Daises next to our $10 US Dollar a night cabin.
Our cabin's view with the magnificent Cordillera Real in the background.
2011-07-16 Isle del Sol, Bolivia
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