Introducing Isla Del Sol & Isla de la Luna
The Island of the Sun is the legendary Inca creation site and is the birthplace of the sun in Inca mythology. It was here that the bearded white god Viracocha and the first Incas, Manco Capac and his sister-wife Mama Huaca (or Mama Ocllo), made their mystical appearances. Isla de la Luna (Koati; Island of the Moon), the site of a deteriorating convent housing the virgins of the sun, is smaller and less touristed; a small admission fee may be charged.
With a population of around 5000, Isla del Sol is dotted with several villages, of which Yumani and Cha’llapampa are the largest. The island’s Inca ruins include Pilko Kaina (admission US60¢) at the southern end and the Chincana complex in the north, which is the site of the sacred rock where the Inca creation legend began. At Cha’llapampa, there’s a museum with artifacts from the underwater excavations near Isla Koa, north of Isla del Sol. The museum entry ticket (US$1.25) is also valid for the northern ruins and the now rather abandoned Museo Templo de Sol at Cha’lla, which features a collection of dusty pots; its opening hours are erratic.
Networks of walking tracks make explor-ation easy, but the sunshine and altitude can take their toll. You can see the island’s main archaeological sites in one long day, but it’s best to stay overnight. Bring food, water and sunscreen. On a day tour, the boat arrives at Cha’llapampa near the northern end of the island at about 10am. A Spanish-speaking guide shows groups around the museum and accompanies them to Chincana. From there it’s a moderately strenuous three- to four-hour walk along the ridgeline to Yumani, where food and accommodations are available. The Escalera del Inca (Inca Stairway) goes down to the jetty at Fuente del Inca, from where tour boats leave at 4pm for the return journey. Most tour boats stop to visit the Pilko Kaina ruins on the way back, finishing at Copacabana at around 6pm.
Most tour tickets theoretically let you return on a later day, so you can stay on the island to explore. But hooking up with your original company for the return isn’t always easy. Half-day tours (US$2) only give a glimpse of either end of the island and are hardly worthwhile. The easiest solution is to purchase two separate one-way tickets, which allows flexibility and works out at around US$3.25.
Last updated: Jul 22, 2009
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