While we enjoyed our relaxing 10 days in Sucre, we were eager to get out of town because the city’s water had been shut off for over two days. Seriously! We were lucky because our hostel had an underground tank of water, so we were able to flush the toilet and wash our hands. Unfortunately for much of the city, including our Spanish school, there wasn’t any water. Residents and tourists alike could be seen purchasing bottles of water at a rapid pace, wondering when the water would flow again. All I could think of was “major public health crisis”!
Deciding how to get to La Paz was a no-brainer: we could either take a 12-hour night bus on unpaved, bumpy gravel roads or pay $40 for a 50-minute flight. We were more than willing to give the Bolivian airlines our money. Our Polish friend Aga was on our flight which made the trip more fun for all of us.
La Paz “The City That Touches the Clouds”
We only spent two nights in La Paz, and that was enough for us. Built into the mountains at almost 12,000 feet, the landscape was massive and the air thin. Edgy and gritty, we found the city to be a bit overwhelming. The crowded sidewalks and obnoxious, exhaust-spewing buses made walking around an unpleasant chore. It was impressive to see the local men and women haul their wares on their backs up to the market stalls everyday.
One afternoon we took a cable car with some friends up and over the city to a huge market and were blown away by the number of buildings occupying every inch of possible space. The view was phenomenal. Later that night we went to see Cholita’s (indigenous women) wrestling ala WWF-style. Apparently the Cholitas are empowered by their participation in this relatively new entertainment industry. The community center was full of both locals and tourists laughing, cheering and heckling the wrestlers. Talk about a crazy experience!
Big City to Quiet Lake
We left La Paz on an old bus and set off for a bumpy four-hour ride to Copacabana, gateway to Lake Titicaca. Once we finally got out of the dirty, dusty outskirts of La Paz and El Alto (the fast-growing city that sits above La Paz) the scenery became spectacular. The snow capped Cordillera Real mountains were stunning and provided an impressive distraction from the uncomfortable bus ride.
We were excited to finally arrive at the lake and more than a little surprised to see our bus loaded onto a floating platform and motored across the Tiquina Straight. We rode on the passenger boat with everyone else.
Located high in the Andes, Lake Titicaca sits on the border between Bolivia and Peru. Said to be the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500 feet, Lake Titicaca is a special place in the history of the Incas.
Las Olas Eco Lodge
We treated ourselves to a few nights at the Las Olas Eco Lodge where we stayed in a yurt-like independent structure built into the hillside with amazing views of the lake. There were hammocks inside our unit, pet llamas roaming on the property and a huge window to soak it all in. Perfect! But not quite. There was one problem… it was freezing cold. Remember, it was winter in Bolivia and we were high up in the mountains. Although the sun shone brightly during the day our room literally never warmed up, and it got ridiculously cold at night. We ended up spending very little time inside our cute abode because were warmer walking around outside.
Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun)
The Incas believed that Isla de Sol was the birthplace of the sun. We took a relaxing three hour boat ride out to the island and hired a local guide to walk from the north end to the south end with us. While we certainly could have made the trek on our own, we enjoyed spending four hours with Juan and considered it our Spanish lesson for the day. We visited Inca ruins, huffed and puffed up the steep, rocky trail and marveled at the impressive span of blue water surrounding us on all sides.
Up Next: Lake Titicaca, Peru
When we first made plans to visit South America, Bolivia wasn’t really on our radar. After doing research and talking with other travelers we knew we had to go. The stunning landscapes and friends we made along the way made our three weeks memorable. Peru, on the other hand, had been on our minds for a long time and we couldn’t wait to cross the border!