Tiwanaku and Titicaca
Tiwanaku (Spanish: Tiahuanaco or Tiahuanacu) is a Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Bolivia, South America.
The site was first recorded in written history by Spanish conquistador Pedro Cieza de León. He came upon the remains of Tiwanaku in 1549 while searching for the Inca capital Qullasuyu.
The name by which Tiwanaku was known to its inhabitants may have been lost as they had no written language. The Puquina language has been pointed out as the most likely language of the ancient inhabitants of Tiwanaku.
How to go
Getting there is rather easy. If you’re staying in El Centro (the city), take a taxi to, or a minibus with the “Cementerio” flap on the window to the Cemetery. Across the street from the cemetery’s main gate, there are florists and to the right of this area are minibuses headed to Tiwanaku, which is usually a stop on route to the border at Desaguadero.
The trip should take about 6 hours in total, so it’s ideal to take a bus to Tiwanaku around 8:00am, do a 1.5 – 2 hour tour, buy souvenirs and check out the museums, and head back to La Paz getting there around 2:00pm or 2:30pm.
You shouldn’t pay more than 8-15 bob (15 Bolivianos as of July 2014) for the bus to the entrance to the modern village of Tiwanaku. It is 2-3km from the entrance of the village on the main road (90 mins by bus from La Paz, a bit more to the town itself) to the archecological sites, so try to find a direct bus whenever possible. Buy some snacks and drinks before going anywhere close to the archeological sites, because prices may double and triple as one approaches.
You can book a tour when you arrive there for 95 Bolivianos (July 2014) per group (the bigger the group, the less you pay per person). The tours are very helpful and informative (otherwise you probably won’t know what’s going on) and last 1.5 – 2 hours. (Note: the tours are in Spanish).
You can also book a tour through the many tour operators in La Paz. Most of these appear to be in Spanish only.
Lake Titicaca is South America’s largest lake and, at 3821 m above sea level, the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. There are higher non-navigable lakes and tarns in the Andes and Himalayas Titicaca has a surface area of approximately 8300 square kilometers. Located in the Altiplano high in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia, it has an average depth of between140 and 180 m, and a maximum depth of 280 m. More than 25 rivers empty into Titicaca, and the lake has 41 islands – some of which are densely populated.
Titicaca is notable for a population of people who live on the Uros, nine artificial islands made of floating reeds. These islands have become a major tourist attraction for Peru, drawing excursions from the lakeside city of Puno. Another island, Taquile, is another tourist attraction featuring a different indigenous community. The Taquile locals are known for their hand woven textile products, which are some of the highest quality handicrafts in Peru.
Titicaca is fed by rainfall and melt water from glaciers on the sierras that abut the Altiplano. It is drained by the Desaguadero River, which flows south through Bolivia to Lake Poopó; however, this effluent accounts for less than five percent of the water loss, the rest being accounted for by evaporation as a result of the strong winds and intense sunlight at this altitude.
The origin of the name Titicaca is unknown; it has been translated as “Rock of the Puma”, combining words from the local languages Quechua and Aymara, and as “Crag of Lead”. Locally, the lake goes by several names. Because the southeast quarter of the lake is separated from the main body by the Strait of Tiquina, the Bolivians call this smaller part Lago Huinaymarca and the larger part Lago Chucuito. In Peru, these smaller and larger parts are referred to as Lago Pequeño and Lago Grande, respectively.
How to go to Copacabana
Buses leave from La Paz’ cemetery bus terminal; the fare is around Bs20 (Bs35 if you splurge for hotel pickup — tickets are sold at all travel agencies in La Paz) and travel time is 3-1/2 hours. At the Tiquina Strait, you get off the bus and take a quick ferry ride (Bs2) to pick up the bus (which is ferried across by barge) on the other side. Beware of theft and keep a close eye on all valuables. Buses arrive in Copacabana at Plaza 2 de Febrero and leave from Plaza Sucre.
There are now new direct buses to Copacabana called Bolivia Hop. They can bring you straight into Copacabana from La Paz or/and Puno and Cusco. This new service has brand new semi-cama buses and allows you to hop on or hop off at any of these places, they provide passenger assistance in Spanish and English at the border. Bolivia Hop includes hotel/hostel pick-ups and drop-offs they also can include a tour to the Islands.
Buses also leave from Puno in Peru, and take roughly the same 3-1/2 hours to arrive in Copacabana; an hour is typically spent at the border, just 5 miles south of Copacabana. Beware of dishonest border police issuing false fines. Refuse to pay and stand your ground.
Update Jun 2015: Do not change money before Peruvian/Bolivian border as you will be instructed to do so by bus conductor. It’s a scam operated by all bus companies and you’ll end up with MUCH worse rate than exchanging your money later at the border or in Copacabana town. There is a number of exchange offices for competitive rates.
If you take a bus from Cusco to Puno, be aware that the saleswomen on the counters will be dishonest and tell you absolutely anything just to sell you a ticket! If you want to travel during the day from Cusco to Copacabana, you will need to spend the night in Puno, no matter what the bus companies tell you! The border closes so this is the reason. The bus from Cusco to Puno arrives in Puno between 3-4PM. The buses from Puno to Copacabana leave ONLY at 7:30AM and 2:30PM. There are three companies leaving Cusco at 10.00 pm. In all three options you have to change bus in Puno! All of them arrive around 6.00 am in Puno, the bus on to Copacabana leaves at 7.30AM. Vans and/or shared cabs leave for the Peruvian border from Plaza Sucre as soon as they fill up. 3 Bs, 30 minutes. From the border to the Peruvian town of Yungani its about 2 km, 1 Sol by van. From Yungani to Puno buses and vans leave several times every hour, 5 Soles. This way is slower, more dangerous and less comfortable, but cheaper, than direct buses.
It is possible to get to/from Sorata without going back to La Paz. Get on a La Paz bound bus/minibus/micro from either town, tell the driver you wish to go to Sorata/Copacabana and you will be dropped off at the small lakeside town of Huarina (2 hours from La Paz). Cross the road and wait for a Sorata/Copacabana bound bus/minibus with space to pass. They should honk their horn if they have space and see people waiting, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye out and flag one down if you see it first. Best to get started early as you may have a bit of a wait at Huarina – it should still be quicker than going all the way to La Paz and then 2 hours back in the same direction though.
Hostel in Copacabana Isla del Sol
All pictures by the author
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