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10 Photos to inspire you to visit Copacabana, Bolivia

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Copacabana, Bolivia

#1

The Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana

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Wishes to Virgen de Copacabana

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Copacabana Market

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Meat market

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Cereals represent the main staple of the Bolivian food diet

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The Incas influence

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Offers to Our Lady of Copacabana

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The most friendly people I met in Bolivia

#9

A group of ladies going to English School

They were happy to tell me a lot of myths and legends from Lake Titicaca.

#10

About to board a boat to Isla del Sol

 

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BoliviaIsla del Sol

Isla del Sol: The God’s creation

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Isla del Sol is an island in the southern part of Lake Titicaca and it is a place of peace and mysticism. Before my plans to travel to South America even started I had great curiosity to visit Lake Titicaca and the ruins from the Inca Empire in Isla del Sol, that they say, was the place were humanity started.

The only way to get to the island is by boat, so from Copacabana we went on a day tour to Isla del Sol. The boat took about 2 hours and it was an easy ride, the waters in Lake Titicaca are smooth.

The legend of Isla del Sol

The most known legend from the Incas says that after the great flood the area of Lake Titicaca fell into darkness for a long time. Then Viracocha, the Inca god of creation, emerged from the waters where he created the Sun God, Inti. After that he also created the world’s first two Incas – Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo (the Adam and Eve of the Andes). It is said that Manco Cápac came out of a large rock known as Titi Qala, a famous site of the island.

Manco Cápac
Mama Ocllo

Exploring the Island

We arrived early morning to Cha’llapampa on the north side of the island were a large community lives a simple life based on fishing, farming and tourism.

Exploring the island was done by foot following the trails from one side of the island to the other. The trails are easy to follow and it was an amazing day. Maybe it was because I loved to hear about all this ancient myths, but it was also possible to see and talk with people living there which was a treat.

There are over 80 ruins on the island with most of them dating from the Inca period. The most famous ones are Titi Qala, the Chincana building, Q’asa Pata, Pillkukayna, and Chucaripupata a Tiwanaku ritual site.

We started by exploring the ruins of Chincana that are full of details in which our guide had extensive knowledge. There is a set of rooms like a labyrinth with very low roofs and doors. I felt really tall!

We stop half away to have lunch in Yumani, were we had a meal that was included with the tour. A delicious fresh trout from Lake Titicaca was served. Normally I’m not a big fan of trout but I must say it was really nice.

Yumani

We end up the trip on the southern side of the island doing the Inca Steps, a stone staircase with 206 steps leading up to the Fountain of Youth. They say that you will prolong your life if you drink from it.  There was also a little farm with a lot different medicinal plants and animals that I enjoyed to walk around.


Fountain of Youth

We came back to Copacabana that day and for me it was just perfect the amount of time that I spend there but is possible to stay overnight, there are lot of accommodations to choose around the island.

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Isla del Sol, Bolivia

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BoliviaCopacabana

The myths and mysteries of Lake Titicaca

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Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake and creates a border between Bolivia and Peru. Situated at 3,812 metres (12,507 feet) above sea level was the location of the Tiwanaku civilization that lived there as early as 1500 BC  before the Incas.

I visited the lake as part of a day tour leaving from Copacabana by boat to Isla del Sol.  Our tour guide had great passion in telling us about the myths and mysteries of Lake Titicaca and I became fascinated! Throughout the day I got to learn why the lake is seen as sacred still today by the Bolivian culture.

The Myths

The lake was considered sacred as it was believed to be the center of the cosmos and origin of the sun, moon, stars, and humankind. The myths have different approaches depending of the vision of each civilization that have lived there. Still today, many tell different stories and I can tell you that they take it seriously and with respect.

The most accepted on Bolivia side and told by our guide was the one from the Inca civilization in which Apus the god of the mountains put people in a fertile valley, where they had protection and happiness. But, there was one rule – never escalate the mountain where the sacred fire was. Off course like in many other stories, humans were greedy and were challenged by the devil to see who would be the first to get the fire.  Apus found out, killed them and then sent pumas to eat everyone in the valley.

With this tragedy, the Sun God, Inti, cried so much that inundated the valley with tears. Only one couple survived the flood in a reed boat (nowadays is still the typical boat) and the pumas were transformed in stone statues with the couple calling the lake Titicaca that in their language means “lake of the stone pumas”.

Inside of a Reed boat
Wearing a traditional Poncho

Interesting that the name of the lake combines words from the Aymara and Quechua languages, which are still spoken today by Bolivians. The Aymara word Titi means Puma and Caca is a Quechua word meaning rock.

The mysteries

Along with the stories from the origin of Lake Titicaca there were rumors and tales of ancient palaces seen by fishermen and divers.

In 1967, the Bolivian government authorized an expedition to explore the depths of the lake. Surprise came when divers found high walls and 30 paved paths all set with great precision into the ground. Then in 2000, another expedition discovered the ruins of a mysterious underwater temple almost twice the size of a football pitch. No conclusions have been made of who made the temple but is thought to be between 1500 years old, before the Incas.

Researchers think that these ruins belong to the Tiwanaku people and the temples were at sea level, predicting that and earthquake could have destroyed the population and the city lifting the lake to where is now, but there is no proof for this.

Hope you love the stories from my travels as much as me, feel free to leave me a comment.

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Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

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BoliviaLa Paz

My first time at 3,650m altitude – La Paz

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I was curious to visit La Paz because of the high altitude and culture. At 3,650m above sea level, La Paz is unofficially the highest capital city (the real capital in Bolivia is Sucre) in the world and I must say that, in the first few hours, I struggled.

As soon as I arrived to the airport I could already feel it, my breathing was getting harder by the minute and walking fast became a very hard task.

Viewpoint – ‘Mirador’
Looking at La Paz from above

Prepare yourself to enter in a country full of myths and stories from ancient civilizations!

La Paz, Bolivia

To explain how my trip to La Paz went, I need to explain you some important things about the Bolivian culture and traditions. Before the Spanish colonization in the 16th century, Bolivia was part of the Inca Empire. But, long before that, the ancient civilization of Tiwanaku was the dominant regional power in the Andes and the most important for the history nowadays.

The country is multiethnic with 37 official languages. The main spoken languages are Spanish, Aymara, Quechua and Guarani. For the first time ever in the history of the country they elected the first indigenous president, Evo Morales, which is very popular and loved amongst the Bolivians.

Some aspects in the culture that were carried on for centuries are still present nowadays.

A woman who braids her hair and wears heavy, long skirts is presumed to have low social status, same goes for man wearing knitted wool caps with earflaps. In their religious beliefs, Catholicism coexist with the supernatural  and many people still don’t accept the western medical way of treating diseases, preferring to use potions and other Andean beliefs instead.

A must visit!

La Paz was, because of many of these aspects, the most amazing and shocking city that I visited while travelling through South America. The city itself it’s chaotic, no rules for traffic, everyone just wander in the streets and the fact that Bolivia is South America’s poorest country is right there, in front of your eyes!

Entrance to La Paz via El Alto

Some people told us that the city was quite unsafe but I disagree, I went out several times at night and it was just fine. Everything is quite cheap; in fact it was the cheapest country in South America that I visited. During the day it was hot, with me wearing summer cloths but at night it was chilling winter. The altitude made me feel a bit funny, at times even euphoric ???? and no, the so famous coca leaves did not help! The hostel I stayed was quite simple but enough for a nice bed and hot shower.

I quite enjoyed wondering around the markets and the amazing food!

There a lot of markets in La Paz, in fact, most people just wander around in the streets selling you anything. But one of these markets really got my attention!

The fascinating Witches’ Market

In Bolivia the ancient Aymaran beliefs are still very well alive within the population. In this market, different ingredients to use in spells and rituals of the Aymara world are sold.

Dried frogs, herbs, folk remedies, numerous teas, potions, insects, ceramic figures to give you any kind of luck that you imagine, they are all there! The most impressive and weird at same time was the dried llama fetus ???? that is supposed to be buried under a new house as an offer to Mother Earth, the Pachamama.

Around there it’s also possible to go to a Witch doctor the yatiris that can tell you about the future and how to make a fortune. It is believed that the yatiris have the power to contact the supernatural. Shame I did not made an appointment!

Leave me a comment on your experiences in La Paz and how did you manage on the high altitude!

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BoliviaLa Paz

Coca leaf: Does it really help with altitude sickness?

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Coca leaf is prohibited in Europe because of its association with cocaine. But coca leaves have a content so low of the psychoactive alkaloids present in cocaine, that it is ridiculous to think that it would make you high just by chewing it.

Coca leaf

They have been cultivated since at least the Inca Empire and are used for a variety of medical and religious purposes in Bolivia. You can easily find a shop that sells it while strolling around La Paz.

Does it really help with altitude sickness?

Not sure!

To try the coca leaf you need to chew the leaves. Place one-by-one into the cheek, forming a small saliva ball and continue to chew until your cheek feels numb. Leave it for a few minutes and get new leaves in. I must say that the taste is disgusting so you can put something sweet inside your mouth to help with it.

In the first and only time I have tried it, apart from making my mouth numb, I did not think it help particularly with altitude sickness. What it did help was the coca leaf tea when I fell ill in Peru with food poisoning, what a miracle that was!

Coca leaf_Bolivia

Tell me your experiences on this, do you think it helps or not really?

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