Lake Titicaca Lago Titicaca
At an elevation of 3820 m / 12,338 ft, Lake Titicaca (Lago Titicaca) is the highest navigable lake in the world. Stretching 170 km by 60 km across the Peruvian and Bolivian borders, this is also the largest lake in South America.The lake is steeped in legend and has been inhabited throughout the centuries by ancient cultures. Today Lake Titicaca supports a unique way of life in the Andes, not seen in other areas of Peru.
Across the Bay of Puno from the city of Puno, is the little village of Llachon, on the Peninsula of Capachica. This area receives very few tourists and is not promoted at all. Llachon is a great place to see the traditional way of life of Peruvians living around Lake Titicaca, without all the tourists and tourist hype.Villagers in Llachon and along the Peninsula of Capachica harvest reeds from the lake in their wooden boats, and transport them up to their hillside farms on the backs of burrows. Going for a walk along the pathways that connect the towns and homes allows a glimpse of the whole process in action as you pass burrows carrying their loads and children herding sheep from one pasture to the next. Crops are planted along the hillside and in some area right through the sand beach to the edge of Lake Titicaca.There are no hotels or restaurants in Llachon or the surrounding area. Visitors here must stay with families, usually in a small outer building, and they will cook meals for their guests.Llachon can either be reached by boat or via car down a dirt road which takes about 2½ hours. Trips can be booked through some travel agencies in Puno, although it is not always easy to arrange. Titikayak offers kayaking trips in the Llachon area and will arrange accommodation in the area as well.
Urose Floating Islands
The main attractions on Lake Titicaca are the Islas Flotantes (Uros Floating Islands), often referred to as, The Floating Islands. These islands are manmade creations, built with totora reeds which are harvested from the shallow areas of Lake Titicaca. The Islas Flotantes are home to Uros Indians, as they have been since the time of the Incas. Unfortunately, today the inhabitants rely mainly on tourism to survive.There are 45 floating islands which are anchored in the Bay of Puno, with varying numbers of people living on each island. Tours to the islands bring visitors to only two of these islands and it is a staged event designed specifically for tourism. It is hard to imagine that there is anything traditional about what is seen during these highly commercialized boat trips to the islands.Trips to Islas Flotantes, which take about a half day can be arranged in Puno very easily through any travel agency, some of which work in conjunction with local hotels. You can also hire a boat from the docks. Islas Flotantes can also be visited as part of day trips which go to Isla Taquile and Isla Amantani.
Isla Amantani is about a 4.5 hour boat ride from Puno and 2 hours from Tequile. Visiting Amantani from Puno usually involves spending the night and staying with a local family on the island. There are a couple companies which offer high speed boat service with day trips to the island, but this seems to be dependant upon demand for such trips.The island is home to about 800 families, mostly farmers and fisherman who go about their traditional ways. Due to its distance from Puno, Amantani sees less visitors than the other islands. Consequently it has a more remote, rustic feel about it, and it is less influenced by tourism. Nonetheless, they are used to hosting foreigners and there is still a staged evening event for tourists but it is generally a small scale family oriented affair. Visitors to the island can spend the day hiking and sightseeing around the island.Tours to Isla Amantani can be easily arranged through local travel agencies in Puno.
Juliaca, just under an hours drive from Puno, is an industrial city with very little character. The city likes to boast about its progress and prosperity, primarily due to the cement factory, but it is not much of a tourist destination.The main reason visitors stop in Juliaca is for the airport, the bus connections, and the train station. The Juliaca airport is the closest major airport to Puno and Lake Titicaca, with service to Lima and other major destinations around Peru. The train between Cusco and Puno makes a stop in Juliaca. People sometimes get off here to catch a bus or arrange a taxi to Llachon.There are lots of hotels and restaurants in Juliaca. This can be a good place to spend the night for travelers catching an early flight in the morning. Of interest in Juliaca is the Sunday Market and the Plaza Bolognesi, next to the train station.
Taquile Island (Isla Taquile) is a natural island about four hours by boat from Puno. Unlike Las Islas Flotantes, Isla Taquile is not so reliant on tourism and has a much more authentic feel. The islanders are living in a traditional manner, with no electricity or vehicles.Taquile has been inhabited for 10,000 years and has a real sense of history about it. Inca stone terracing and ruins are scattered around the island. There are beautiful views all over the island out over the incredibly blue lake and sky. The island is quite small, measuring 6 km / 3.75mi long and 1 km / .6 mi wide, and is a great place for walking.Visitors can see the island as part of a day trip or choose to stay over night, which involves a home stay with a local family. These tours can be easily arranged through a travel agency in Puno.
Near the north shore of Lake Titicaca is Isla Suasi. This island is the perfect place to get away from it all. Except for one hotel, this 5 acre island is uninhabited.The hotel was built in the late 1990s and designed to blend in, as well as possible, with the surroundings. It is made of stone and thatch, and runs on solar power. Also on Islas Suasi is a garden with native vegetables and herbs, llamas, rowboats, and a sauna.This is one of the few island options on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca that doesn't require a home stay with a local family. Reservations are a must and can be arranged through travel agencies in Puno.