I promised a lot of new and exciting travel posts in the month of June when I announced the Monument Series. In keeping with my promise, on the eve of my birthday, here’s another new series – Blessed Landscapes. Being spiritual seekers, my husband and I are always on the lookout for places that are good for the mind and soul. We live in a very busy world, full of duties and responsibilities, so full of commitments, to-do lists, traffic jams, lost time and the ever continuous and endless cycle of balancing our lives. And as life’s pace quickens and becomes increasingly complex, we human beings yearn for something deep, transformative and reflective. Something that slows us down and gives us the much needed comma before we head towards the full stop and regret not doing things that we wanted to.Blessed Landscapes: Islands of the Sun and Moon! #TravelwithArchie @archanackapoor Click To Tweet
In the journey towards collecting our thoughts to enable the mind and body to catch up, we often tap into the scared – the forces, symbols, icons and beliefs that have touched and guided the human race for centuries – the goal being inner peace. We have always looked to the landscapes we live in to to narrate stories about ourselves and our origins, about the Gods we worship, the myths we dream about and the myriad mysteries that we cannot explain. As part of this series, I aspire to take you to inspiring, electrifying places that not only are wild and glorious in their own right, but which also truly touch the soul. These posts will be short and quick, giving you a glimpse into the most blessed landscapes of the world that we live in today. And as you can guess this is not just an announcement, I am beginning with the first special place for which you have to sail with me, across the waters of Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca to the islands that the Aymara, an ancient Inca people, knew as the birthplaces of the Sun and the Moon.
Welcome to Islands of the Sun and Moon!
At 12,500 feet, you are ore than 2 miles (3 kilometers) closer to the sun than you would be at sea level. The thin air will feel bitingly cold as you are ferried the 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) from Copacabana across the deep, azure waters of Lake Titicaca to the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun). At that height, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable (by large boats) lake in the World. Part of the lake belongs to Peru and the other part to Bolivia. Lake Titicaca is famous for its stunningly intense blues, and its deep, fresh, cold waters fed by the melting ice of the Andes and local rainfall. Its dazzling islands are peppered with archaeological remains, some dating back over 5000 years.
The Isla del Sol is the largest and culturally most important of the 41 islands scattered over the lake’s 3,200 square mile (8,288 square kilometer) expanse. The island’s arid soil supports only the hardiest vegetation, but the colors are dazzling, ranging from the vibrant greens of the trees to the vivid reds, yellows and greens of the cantutas flowers. Something else thrives here, too – the culture of the Aymara, who have lived in this part of the Andes since pre-Inca times.
The ancient Aymara believed that the sun was a god, whom they named Inti, and that he was born on the Isla del Sol. They also believed that the moon was born nearby, on the smaller Isla de la Luna, also known as Coati, or ‘island queen,’ because to the Aymara the moon was the female counterpart of the sun. To wander through the many ruins of the Aymara shrines and temples draws you into the heart of their religion and culture.
Highlights of the Islands of the Sun and Moon
- On the Isla del Sol, Challapampa was the site of a huge tone complex of mazes, the Chinkana (labyrinth), thught ti have been a training center for Inca priests.
- Seek out the Fountain of Youth at the top of the 206-step Inca stairway at the Yumani, the main town of the Isla del Sol.
- The top of the lighthouse on Isla del Sol provides a good viewpoint for watching the sunset as the rays of the dying sun illuminate the lake and surrounding mountains.
- The well-preserved temple complex of Iñaq Uyu (the Court of Women) on Isla de la Luna was dedicated by the Aymara for the worship of the moon.
When to go: Late July, when the indigenous priests, known as yatiris, lead the celebration of the Aymara new year on the Isla del Sol.
Planning: You can see both islands on a day trip from Copacabana, but to get a real sense of the life of the Aymara, it is best to stay overnight and set our to explore the sites at dawn. Rustic hotels and hostels are available on the Isla del Sol, but there are no accommodations on the Isla de la Luna. Be prepared for substandard electricity and plumbing.
A good way to see the islands is on foot; a four-hour trek will take you around most of the sights on the Isla del Sol. At this altitude the sun’s heat offers some relief from the cold mountain air, but you will need sunblock and a hat. You will also need sturdy walking shoes and warm clothing.
Hope you enjoyed reading the first post of the Blessed Landscapes series. There are many more lesser known sacred places in store, which I will unveil one by one. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome.
Featured Image: Flickr
One who is born with wings has many stories to tell. I was a born wayfaring story-teller! But then, how does a chirpy story-teller who also has wings on her back and wheels on her feet find a colossal audience to recount those sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes eccentric encounters. I realised there was no other way I could narrate my tales to the world unless i started penning them down in black and white. That's how TravelwithArchie was born. I love calling myself a vagabond! One who dreams about places and then travels there to see how they look in the real world. Come, borrow my wings for a while and see the world with my lens!