Lake Titicaca is the world’s largest lake above 2000m, and actually it is really that large. You can enjoy Lake Titicaca and its many islands which are inhabited by people who hold their culture close to them from both Peru and Bolivia. The great part of taking a trip around Lake Titicaca is that you can experience the customs and food of these cultures rather organically, and who doesn’t enjoy a nice boat trip. The border crossing from Bolivia to Peru at Copacabana also presents an opportunity to visit a native holiday town. It is not overly busy, you walk from building to building, and there is an ice cream store at the end. Awesome.
Things to do
Puno is one of the larger cities that borders Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side and is the port closest to the floating Island of Uros making it a great place to put on your ‘to visit’ list. This modern city has everything you need including supermarkets, nice restaurants, a gorgeous church and town square in which to relax. It also boasts a large indoor market where you can find literally whatever you need. It reminds me a lot of ‘La Vega’ in Santiago, Chile. Puno is host to many chullpas or funerary towers and of Sillustani, an archeological site with Inca Imperial styled buildings for those fans of architecture. Puno pro tip– SUNSCREEN, WEAR SUNSCREEN!! It may not seem like it is THAT hot outside, but trust me, walking around town or boating around Lake Titicaca at 4,000m….you ARE closer to the sun. Learn from mymistakes…I spent the next week blistered and leaking followed by red and peeling skin. This is not cute.
Floating Islands of the Uros
A realistic review of thefloating Islands of the Uros people is that…it sounds a lot cooler than it is. The Uros people began to build their lives on floating islands made from Totora reeds in an effort to isolate themselves from the Incas. They once had their own language but it has since died out due to inter-marriage with Aymara people. Everything on the islands is made from the Totora reeds and this extends to the houses, to the boats and even to the islands themselves. Reeds are layered, level upon level over old layers of reeds which, as they get closer to the water start to rot; the islands constantly need to be maintained as each layer rots within 6 months. I would not miss the opportunity to view these islands if you are on a boat out to a homestay, however you should know that this has become nothing short of a ‘tourist’ attraction like Space Mountain is in Magic Kingdom. The native people park their motor boats behind their reed homes and likely live in Puno. The islands smell of rotting reeds, and the only cultural experience you will have there is shopping. You can visit the Totora houses which may or may not be lived in and have the opportunity to buy all the things in the Puno market for twice the price! Also don’t worry about your boat ride on the Totora boat, you will move 10 feet from the island, and then back again. I found the islands inorganic, but go anyways, why not….and please, wear sunscreen
Taquile Island is on Lake Titicaca with a unique culture making it a worthwhile stop for any visitor. After climbing (30 minutes slow walk) to the top of the Island you are greeted with stunning views of Lake Titicaca. The people of the island come from a culture of knitting which is mostly done by the men. The hats they knit are more than just fashion and warmth. They have a social function as well. Each style of hat a man wears denotes a different stage of his relationship life. This allows the girls on the island to know who is looking, who is too young, and who is married by their hats. These hats are tightly woven, and surprisingly still worn and functioning in their traditional manner. After a delicious fish lunch, we took a walk on a cultivated path from one side of the island to the other and it was absolutely striking,the farms, the coast and the view of the water itself. I would rate it an excellent experience on Lake Titicaca and encourage a visit. Pro tip don’t forget that sunscreen
Homestay on Amantani (or Isla del Sol alternatively)
If you are going to visit Lake Titicaca, I would recommend ANYONE do a home stay. This was a great experience that G adventures set up for us, however you can set this up through any travel agency in Puno. A homestay is an opportunity to experience life as a local. The locals receive you from the boat and take you up to the local community center where you first play a competitive game of futbal against the local team. Following this you are dressed in local clothing and taught a traditional dance. This is a great experience for someone looking to enjoy the cultural side of Lake Titicaca. Later, you are taken in groups of 2, to a local family home where you have dinner with your new family, made by your family. Rooms here are nice, warm, comfortable, and most have an ensuite bathroom. Expect a good sleep, save for the donkey that will probably wake you up at 5:00 am, and if not a donkey, then a rooster for sure. The next morning after breakfast you spend the rest of the morning learning the everyday chores of the local people. This can be anything from herding sheep to picking potatoes, to fishing. They generally feed you lunch and return you to the boat where you are transported back to the city of Puno. In my opinion, it is totally worth it. The people are warm and welcoming making it quite the memorable experience.