Copacabana: 151km (94 miles) NW of La Paz, 8km (5 miles) N of Kasani (the border of Peru)

Still, serene, and spiritual, this vast lake of blinding light and calm water is the birthplace of one of the greatest empires in history. At Lake Titicaca the children of the Sun stepped forth from the sacred rock that still stands near the northwest tip of the Isla del Sol (the Sun Island), and the Inca culture began.

The rugged, snow-covered peaks of the Cordillera Real loom over the shores of the lake, but its waters are calm and relaxing to the eye. They're disturbed only by the operators of a few tour boats, launches, and hydrofoils, and by local fishermen searching for trout, often in wooden sailboats or rowboats. Even the most primitive of these vessels are relative newcomers. The swaying reeds on the water's shore provided the material for the first boats on Lake Titicaca, and today there are still a few craftsmen who remember how to make boats from reeds, as their ancestors did.

Besides the lake itself, and the Isla del Sol within it, the highlight of the region is the picturesque lakeshore town of Copacabana, allegedly established by the Inca Tupac Yupanqui. Copacabana has a number of small but important Inca ruins, but all of them are overshadowed by the town's main attraction, the Virgin of Copacabana. Pilgrims travel from all over South America for the Virgin's blessing. If you're here on a Sunday, you'll notice many car and truck drivers, who come to have their vehicles blessed by one of the local priests in a ceremony that involves lots of garlands. On Sundays, locals celebrate by shaking and spraying fizzy drinks, and, of course, making a small donation to the church. Nobody seems to mind paying.