Today’s Isla del Sol is a sleepy place without a single combustion engine to ruin the experience of being on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca with spectacular views of the Cordillera Real. The main form of transport is the donkey and the main form of noise is also the donkey – in the quiet of the island it is astounding how far the noise of a braying donkey will travel.
It takes a little imagination to visualise how the island must have looked in the sixteenth century when it was home to one of the most important religious sites in the Incan Empire, and was considered the place where the sun was born as well as being the place where the Incas were created.
The island is beautiful, with four or five small villages that are home to the islands permanent population and tremendous views wherever you look. There is a 20km walk that cuts over the spine of the island to the Chincana ruins, the islands biggest Incan ruin, and returns along the coast passing through a few villages. It takes a few hours to complete the circuit, but it is worth every breathless step.
Of course before you can set out on a tour of the island you have to get a boat across the lake and then climb one of the steepest stairways on planet earth to reach the village of Yumani. We stayed at the Estancia Ecolodge (www.ecolodge-laketiticaca.com), a group of adobe cottages ingeniously heated by traditional Incan technology set above Incan agricultural terraces facing the Cordillera Real. If there’s a better spot on the island to watch the sun set with a cold beer in hand I didn’t find it.
The Chincana ruins are a complex of buildings located above a small beach, they blend into the landscape so well that it is difficult to spot them at first. The main feature is a maze-like complex of stone walls known as the Palacio del Inca. Arrive early enough and you can have the whole complex to yourself with only the sound of the breeze for company.
The Isla del Sol’s location is ideal for sunset watching, and it didn’t disappoint during our stay with some cloud cover creating a dramatic contrast between sky and water.
Leaving behind the delights of Isla del Sol, next up is a bus trip to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu…