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BEST PLACES TO VISIT ON LAKE TITICACA IN BOLIVIA
Lake Titicaca's natural beauty, extreme altitude, and interesting native culture make it an outstanding destination for South American travelers. Here is the information you need to explore the Titicaca region
LAKE TITICACA AND THE TRAVELER
Titicaca is a lake the size of an inland sea that spans the border between Bolivia and Peru.It is surrounded by the stark, brown landscape of the altiplano, and in the distance, the snow capped peaks of the Andes provides an exciting view. At an altitude of12,506 feet, the thin air and brilliant sunlight create an intense, almost surreal, visual beauty.
Lake Titicaca has many different moods. It can go from a sparkling blue to a brooding,cloud covered gray in a few minutes. Its winds can be ferocious, and a light snow can blanket its shores at any time of year.
Lake Titicaca is easily accessible because it is on the main road from Peru to Bolivia. Its larger islands can be reached by ferry service. The best places to experience the lake in Bolivia are Copacabana and Isla del Sol.
Copacabana, just across the border from Peru, is the gateway to the Titicaca region. Traveling south from Cuzco, Peru, long distance buses go to Puno which is on Lake Titicaca and three hours by minivan from Copacabana. There is also direct bus service from Cuzco to Copacabana.
There is frequent bus and minivan service between La Paz and Copacabana. Buses in Bolivia are very crowded, but they offer the opportunity to experience the beautiful Andean culture up close.
ISLA DEL SOL
Isla del Sol is a powerful place to visit, and many travelers leave the island feeling that it is the sacred place that the Incas believed it to be. At 13,000 feet, the raw energy of the sun has an overpowering effect not felt at lower elevations. There are stunning vistas along the ridge that runs the length of the island, and the Chincana Ruins provide a fascinating insight into the Inca religion. Life on the Isla seems to move to it's own rythm, far removed from the modern world. There are no cars on the island.
Yumani village is the center of tourist services on Isla del Sol. Ferries from Copacabana arrive here after a two hour ride across Lake Titicaca. From the boat landing, visitors climb steep stone steps built by the Incas to reach Yumani, which sits just below the island's ridge. Halfway up the stairs is a natural spring that early Spanish explorers believed was the legendary Fountain of Youth.
There are several hotels in Yumani, including Hotel Isla del Sol and upscale Posada del Inca.
A popular day trip from Yumani is a hike to the Chincana ruins, an archeological zone on the northern tip of the island. The hike starts in the village of Cha'llapampa which is reached by ferry from Yumani's dock. The trail from Cha'llapampa climbs past the Inca sites of Piedra Sacrada and Templo del Sol. There are beautiful views of the lake with the Andes Mountains as a backdrop. Near the ruins is the Rock of the Puma. According to legend, this is where the sun created the first man and woman of the Inca people. After visiting the Chincana complex, walk back to Yumani on the five mile trail that runs along the island's ridge.
Copacabana is a lively place, an oasis for Pan American travelers who share the town with its indigenous residents. There is a good selection of restaurants and hotels, including upscale Hotel Gloria. Copacabana is a transportation hub for onward travel.
The 17th century Copacabana Cathedral and the open air market are the focal points of life in this Andean town. To hike around Lake Titicaca, you walk north on the main road out of town.
HIGH ALTITUDE HEALTH
The effect of high altitude on your body during a visit to Bolivia is different from the impact of a day's hike in the Rockies or Alps. Living at 12,000 feet is an extraordinary experience, but you should take a few precautions.
Acclimate slowly to Lake Titicaca's altitude by first staying at a slightly lower elevation. Protect yourself from the intense sunlight by wearing sunglasses and sunscreen.
NATIVE CULTURE IN BOLIVIA
More than half of Bolivia's people are descended from indigenous tribes. The Aymara were the original inhabitants of this area, while the Quechua came with the Inca Empire. Each has their own language and many do not speak Spanish.
The Aymara and Quechua cultures have deep roots reaching back well into the second millennium B.C. Their lifestyle is based on subsistence farming and market trading that has changed little from the time of their ancestors.
The native people of Bolivia have fought to preserve their culture for five hundred years, but their picturesque lifestyle in isolated villages is not entirely of their own choosing. Bolivia's ruling elite excludes indigenous people from economic and educational opportunities.
www.boliviabella.com is an extensive resource for all things Bolivian. It covers everything from food and culture to working, volunteering, and travel.
www.kwintessential.co.uk has a wealth of information about Bolivian society.
www.boliviahotels.com makes reservations in a wide range of hotels and hostels in Bolivia.