Isla del Sol - What You Need To Know About The North South Divide

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Isla del Sol (The Sun Island) is said to be the birthplace of the Incas and it feels every part as special as that makes it sound. Over recent years, tourism has continued to grow on the island which is hardly surprising giving the beauty of the place. However with growing tourism there are often problems which arise and in the case of Isla del Sol a particular problem reached its climax a year ago, where a local community shut off the Northern part of the Island. 

We spoke to the locals who themselves had decided on the border, about why such a drastic measure had to be taken - what follows is what they told us. Although this may not be completely accurate due to imperfect Spanish translation, we have found very little on the internet about this and so would like to share what we have found.

So as tourism grew on Isla del Sol, a pattern developed where tourists would mainly stick to the far North or far South of the island, understandably as this is where the two main villages are based. This meant that tourists were only really spending their money in these areas and therefore the wealth generated from the tourism wasn’t at all reaching the inhabitants in the centre of the island. 

From what we understood it seems that these central communities tried to come to some sort of agreement with those in the North, so that they were not left behind in the development of the island. However no such agreement was made, leaving the central communities on the island to get relatively poorer as time went on. This community in the centre therefore decided to take action, by not allowing tourists to cross into the North through their area and in doing so cutting off all tourism to the North. 

Things to note:

  • When we talk about the North of the Island, we are really talking about the majority of the island. Tourists are currently restricted to only the areas South of the red line on the following image, around the area of Yumani.

  • This means that in terms of walking on the island (the main reason people visit), you’ve probably got about enough room for a 2 hour walk round trip.

  • We’d also like to point out that the people who have set up this border have done it purely for economic reasons and it has been done in a peaceful way. They were more than willing to engage in a conversation about the situation with us and apologised for the affect on tourists. Please remember that this is their home not yours and respect whatever measures have been put in place.

  • If your main motivation of going to the island was to see the Incan ruins, then you should probably reconsider as they are all on the Northern side.

I have been lucky enough to have come to the Island before the border was put up and having come back now, although a bit disappointed, I still think it was worth it. In my opinion if you were planning on spending a few days here then that might be too much time to spend in such a small area, but for a day or so it is still worth the boat trip out from Copacabana, especially when combined with visiting Isla de la Luna. Even from the small Southern area of the island, the views over lake Titicaca with the backdrop of the Andes are truly beautiful and shouldn’t go a miss.

If anyone out there knows the story in more detail than this or has any updates on the situation, please leave a comment so we can keep this post up to date.

Hope this is useful!

Thanks for reading,

Will & Melissa

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