How to Visit Lake Titicaca and Isla del Sol in a Day

This post provides itinerary, prices and everything you need to know for a DIY family day trip from La Paz to Lake Titicaca’s Isla del Sol.

The name itself makes you do a double-take. Our family with three little boys had to say it multiple times and snicker.

Lake Titicaca is a sacred spot for the Incans, held to be the birthplace of the Sun in Andean mythology. Sitting between Bolivia and Peru on the Altiplano (the high plains of the Andes Mountains), the world’s highest lake navigable to large vessels is also a bucket list item for many tourists and pilgrims.

On the Bolivian side, the lakeside town of Copacabana is just 150 kilometers from La Paz. This makes it an easy target for travelers going through the capitol city. That was our family back in March 2023.

We had five days in La Paz, on the tail end of a month in Bolivia and heading out to Colombia during our family gap year. Since we were so close, we figured we might as well check out Lake Titicaca and Isla del Sol, aka Island of the Sun. But we could only spare a day.

Can you visit Copacabana and Isla del Sol in a day from La Paz? Absolutely. We did it and we’ll share the details in a moment.

Should you do it in a day? If we had it to do over, we would have stayed a night on the island. This schedule is tight.

A Day Trip to Isla del Sol

Stop by any travel agency storefront in La Paz, especially near the Witches Market, and you will find package tours to Lake Titicaca. Being the do-it-yourself types who don’t like to be herded around by tour guides, we skipped this option in favor of piecing together public transportation on our own.

By nature of the transport schedules and distances, a day trip is going to be jam-packed. Beware that lots of it will be sitting in trufis (minivan public transport in Bolivia) or buses and on boats. (But the views are magnificent!)

Our day trip to Lake Titicaca’s Isla del Sol from La Paz started at 7:30 in the morning and ended at 10:30 at night.

Itinerary and Costs

  • 7:30am: Arrive at the bus station in La Paz.
  • 8:00am: Leave in a trufi. (150B, $21.73 for family of 5)
  • 11:30am: Arrive at Copacabana (10B, $1.45 for all to take ferry at Tiquina)
  • Lunch (75B, $10.86 for 3 standard dishes)
  • 1:30pm: Board boat for Isla del Sol (200B, $28.97 there and back for family of 5)
  • 3:00pm: Arrive at Isla del Sol, southern port. We had just enough time to hike up to the village.
  • 4:00pm: Return to the boat.
  • 4:20pm: Boat stops for a brief excursion to Templo del Sol, an Incan ruin.
  • 4:35pm: Return to the boat.
  • 5:50pm: Boat docks at Copacabana.
  • Dinner (20B, $2.90 for street food)
  • 6:30pm: Bus to La Paz (125B, $18.11 for family of 5)
  • 10:30pm: Arrive back in La Paz.

Total Cost for our family of five = 580B or $82

Getting from La Paz to Copacabana

Many public transport options are available from La Paz to Copacabana, departing as early as 7:30 am. These can be booked in advance online or simply by showing up at the La Paz bus station the morning-of. We went to the bus station a couple days before, found a window advertising the trip, and booked five seats on a trufi, Bolivia’s mini-bus public transit option. Being a family of five, we prefer not to show up and hope there are enough seats for all of us.

Our family took up about half the seats. Along for the ride were a French man and his guide and a few other stray tourists from Europe.

Embarrassingly, our three-year-old had to poop minutes into the trip, as we were driving through El Alto, the neighborhood on the western plain above the La Paz canyon. Matt sheepishly told our driver, who had to look around for a public-use toilet. This took at least 10 minutes, during which time we yelled at Miles to squeeze it in tight. Apparently our admonitions were too effective, because when Matt finally rushed him to the makeshift toilet behind a storefront (seat not included) Miles wasn’t able to get anything out. We didn’t tell the driver that all our efforts and the trip delay didn’t not produce the anticipated result.

The barge for trufis to cross the Strait of Tiquina, part of the ride from La Paz to Copacabana.

The ride to Copacabana is beautiful, going through windswept plains and fields of quinoa. About halfway through the trip the road begins to wind around the southern portion of Lake Titicaca. It zigzags down to San Pablo de Tiquina, where all passengers must get off to book a passenger ride on a ferry while the trufi gets moved by barge over the Strait of Tiquina to the peninsula where Copacabana sits. We enjoyed the time out of the trufi (our oldest always gets carsick) to get some fresh air.

Our entire trip from La Paz to Copacabana took about 3.5 hours, including about half hour for the ferry crossing. Depending on the winds, the ferry crossing can make the trip significantly longer.

Booking the Boat to Isla del Sol

Once we got to Copacabana we walked to the main street of restaurants and tour agencies that leads to the lakeshore (Avenida 6 de Agosto). We found a lady at an agency who sold us boat tickets to Isla del Sol. While you can also get them at the ticket stand right at the lakefront, no one was there until minutes before departure. The prices are the same either way.

We also got our return bus tickets from the same lady. While we waited for the boat launch we got lunch and walked around the lakeshore, making friends with a cute puppy.

On the Island of the Sun

The boat trip to Isla del Sol is slooooow. The Copacabana shoreline inched away from us as the motorboat puttered along. The Altiplano sun was scorching, despite the cool temperatures. (Be sure to bring hats and sunblock!)

On the way over we heard that one of the two groups that control the island recently closed part of the island off from tourists. This didn’t affect us, with our limited time there. Once we landed at the southern tip of Isla del Sol we had about an hour before our boat returned to the mainland.

We don’t recommend just spending an hour on this beautiful island! We envied the folks with their backpacks and luggage who were ready to stay the night. In any case, we hoofed it up the hillside to the top of the island and took a few photos before hoofing it back down, stopping along the way to get a trinket (probably made in China) from a local woman.

The boat ride back took us on a stop to Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun). Locals were in the middle of doing some renovations. Finally, some Incan ruins! Since we weren’t able to make it to Peru during our family gap year, we had to hit up as many ruins as we could in Bolivia and Ecuador.

The southern port at Isla del Sol.
Locals resting from work at Templo del Sol.
View of the lake from Templo del Sol.

Copacabana to La Paz: The Return Trip

There are only a few return options for a day trip from La Paz to Isla del Sol and back. So be sure to get back to Copacabana before the last bus leaves for La Paz (6:30 pm). As mentioned before, we bought the return bus tickets from a travel agency on Avenida 6 de Agosto earlier in the day. We could probably have also showed up at the square where the buses leave (Plaza Sucre) right before departure and hopped on.

We didn’t have enough time for a sit-down dinner before the bus left, so we found a lady walking the streets selling humitas (corncakes wrapped in corn husks) and that filled our bellies.

It was dark and windy by the time we crossed the Strait of Tiquina. On the other side, we waited for our bus cross by barge and pick us up, for what seemed like an hour.

Of course, someone had to poop. This time, it was our oldest son, who tried to hold it in because he was worried the bus would show up and we would get on without him. He stood on the curbside jumping from foot to foot and whining. Finally, he wandered into a nearby convenience store and overcame his bashfulness to inquire about a bathroom in Spanish. That’s how you know it was urgent.

We were glad to finally get back to our hotel in La Paz. It was a long day and it was late. And the kids, much to our relief, had on-demand access to a toilet.

  • Liuan

    Liuan is an author and journalist. Her favorite topics to cover are spirituality, embodiment and environmental issues. Her favorite snack is dark chocolate.

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Liuan is an author and journalist. Her favorite topics to cover are spirituality, embodiment and environmental issues. Her favorite snack is dark chocolate.

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