If you’re looking for travel bragging rights, Lake Titicaca should score you a few points. It is the highest navigable lake in the world (at 12,500 feet above sea level) and the largest enclosed lake in South America (ripping across 3,200 square miles). But though this azure lake of liquid glass, ringed by reflections of its neighboring ice-capped mountains, is physically and geographically impressive, the real draw is its unique inhabitants and their exceptional way of life.
Just a couple miles offshore from Puno, glistening like golden coins carelessly scattered upon the sapphire waters, are the woven Islas Flotantes (floating islands). Created by the Uros people centuries ago as an isolation and protection measure against aggressive neighboring tribes, today these reed-woven islands are a major tourist attraction, and rightfully so. There is nothing like them anywhere else in the world. The indigenous locals, who speak Aymara, continue to practice the ancient technique of torta reed weaving, which they use to create their island homes, their houses, and their canoe-like boats.
Continue further into the lake to the natural island of Taquile, where the culture is distinctly different. Here locals speak Quechua, the ancient language of the Incas, and manage to maintain resilient cultural authenticity. Men and women alike weave beautiful textiles. The larger neighboring island of Amantaní is also a strong example of rural Andean life, where locals still practice ancient traditions. The island has several ruins and is a popular pick for Lake Titicaca homestays. Another homestay option is upon the private island of Suasi, an isolated outpost in the northern portion of the lake. Here you can treat yourself at a luxury eco-resort, where it will only be you and the sweeping Andean scenery.
Because the lake laps over Peru’s eastern border, this is a great place to cross into Bolivia, a landlocked and highland country. The main city on the Bolivian side of the lake is Copacabana, and the main islands of the Sun and Moon contain Inca complexes well worth a visit. Consider traveling through Bolivia to its de facto capital La Paz, or onto the otherworldly Salar de Uyuni salt flats.
Keen to see Lake Titicaca for yourself? Check out our Peru itineraries here or speak to one of our Destination Experts about crafting the bespoke vacation of your dreams.
Thanks to Xiao Zhuli for the title image of this blog.