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Lake Titicaca

Destination Lake Titicaca

An undeniable calming and majestic sight, LAKE TITICACA is the world´s largest high-altitude body of water. At 284m deep and more than 8300 square kilometers in are, it is fifteen times the size of lake Geneva in Switzerland and higher and slightly bigger than Lake Tahoe in the U.S.A. an immense region both in terms of its history and the breadth of its magical landscape, the Titicaca Basin makes most people feel like they are on top of the world. Usually placid and mirror-like, the deep blue water reflects the vast sky back on itself. All along the horizon – which appears to bend away from you – the green Andean mountains can be seen raising their ancient blacks towards the sun; over on the Bolivian side it´s sometimes possible to make out the icecaps of the Cordillera Real mountain chain. The high altitude (3827 m above sea level) means that recent arrival from the coast should take it easy for a day or two, though those coming from Cusco will already have acclimatized.
A National Reserve since 1978, the lake has over sixty varieties of bird, fourteen species of native fish and eighteen types of amphibian. It´s often seen as three separate regions: Lago Mayor, the main, deep part of the lake; Wiñaymarka, the area incorporating varios archipelagos that include toth Peruvian and Bolivian Titicaca; and the Golfo de Puno, essentially the bay encompassed by the peninsulas of _Capachica and Chucuito. The villages that line its shores depend mainly on grazing livestock for their livelihood, since the altitude limits the growth potential of most crops. These days, Puno is the largest settlement and port in the whole of Lake Titicaca. Densely populated well before the arrival of the Incas, the lakeside Titicaca region is also home to the curious and ancient tower-tombs known locally as chullpas: rings of tall, cylindrical stone burial chambers, often standing in battlement-like formations.
There are more than seventy islands in the lake, the largest and most sacred being the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), an ancient Inca Temple site on the Bolivian side of the border; Titicaca is an Aymara word meaning “Puma´s Rock”, which refers to an unusual boulder on the island. The island is best visited from Copacabana in Bolivia, or trips can be arranged through one of the tour companies in Puno.
One the Peruvian side of the lake you can visit the unusual Uros islands. These floating platform islands are built our of reeds – weird to walk over and even stranger to live on, they are now a major tourist attraction. More spectacular by far are two of the populated, fixed islands, Amantani and Taquile, where the traditional lifestyles of these powerful communities give visitors a genuine taste of pre-Conquest Andean Peru.

Choose your Lake Titicaca Tour

History


The scattered population of the region is descended from two very ancient Andean ethnic groups or tribes – the Aymara and the Quechua. The aymara´s Tiahuanaco culture predates the Quechua´s Inca civilization by over three hundred years and this region is thought to be the original home for the domestication of a number of very important plants, not least the potato, tomato and the common pepper.

Geography


Lake Titicaca forms a natural border between southeastern Peru and western Bolivia. Expanding 3,200 square miles (8,300 square km) over the Altiplano region at 12,500 ft (3,810 m) above sea level, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world.

lake titicaca geography

Puno is the gateway city to the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca.

  • Elevation: 12,500 ft (3,800 m) above sea level
  • Lakefront city in northwestern side of Lake Titicaca
  • Uros Islands, Taquile Island, and Armanti Island accessible via boat

Copacabana is the gateway city to the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca.

  • Elevation: 12,600 ft (3,840 m)
  • Lakefront city in the southern section of Lake Titicaca
  • Isla de Sol and Isla del Luna accessible via boat

Attractions


Sillustani Island

Scattered all around Lake Titicaca you´ll find chullpas, gargantuan white-stone towers up to 10 m in height in which the ancient Colla tribe, who dominated the region before the Incas, buried their dead. Some of the most spectacular are at SILLUSTANI, set on a little peninsula in Lake Umayo overlooking Titicaca, 30 km northwest of Puno. This ancient temple/cemetery consists of a ring of stones more than five hundred years old – some of which have been tumbled by earthquakes or, more recently, by tomb robbers intent on stealing the rich goods (ceramics, jewellery and a few weapons) buried with important mummies. Two styles predominate at this site: the honeycomb chullpas and those whose superb stonework was influenced by the advance of the Inca Empire. The former are set aside from the rest and characterized by large stone slabs around a central core; some of them are carved, but most are simply plastered with white mud and small stones. The later, Inca-type stonework is more complicated and in some cases you can see the elaborate corner-jointing typical of Cusco masonry.

Sillustani Island lake titicaca

Uros Islands

The man-made floating UROS ISLANDS have been inhabited since their construction centuries ago by Uros Indians retreating from more powerful neighbours like the Incas. They are now home to a dwindling and much-abused Indian population. Although there are about 48 of these islands, most guided tours limit themselves to the largest, Huacavacani, where several families live alongside a floating Seventh-Day Adventist missionary school.
The islands are made from layer upon layer of totora reeds, the dominant plant in the shallows of Titicaca and a source of food (the inner juicy bits near the roots), as well as the basic material for roofing, walling and fishing rafts. During the rainy season months of November to February it´s not unusual for some of the islands to move about the surface of the lake.

Uros Islands lake titicaca

Taquile Island

One of Titicaca´s non-floating islands, TAQUILE is peaceful place that sees fewer tourists than the Uros. Located 25-30 km across the water from Puno it lies just beyond the outer edge of the Gulf of Chucuito. Taquile is arguably the mots attractive of the islands hereabouts, measuring about 1 km by 7 km, and looking from some angles like a huge ribbed whale, large and bulbous to the east, tapering to its western tail end. The horizontal striations are produced by significant amounts of ancient terracing along the steep-sided shores. Such terraces are at an even greater premium here in the middle of the lake where soil erosion would otherwise slowly kill the island´s largely self-sufficient agricultural economy, of which potatoes, corn, broad beans and hardy quinoa are the main crops. Without good soil Taquile could become like the main floating islands, depending almost exclusively on tourism for its income. Today, the island is still very traditional. There is no grid-connected electricity on the island, though there is a solar-powered community loudspeaker and a growing number of individual houses with solar lighting; it´s therefore a good idea to take o torch, matches and candles.
The island has two main ports: Puerto Chilcano Doc (on the west of Puno side of the island) and El Otro Puerto (on the north side, used mostly by tour boats of tour agents because it has an easier and equally panoramic access climb). Arriving via Puerto Chilcano Doc, the main heart of the island is reached via 525 gruelling steps up a steep hill from the small stone harbour; this can easily take an hour of slow walking. When you´ve recovered your breath, you will eventually appreciate the spectacular view of the southeast of the island where you can see the hilltop ruins of Uray K´ari, built of stone in the Tiahuanaco era around 800 AD; looking to the west you may glimpse the larger, slightly higher ruins of Hanan K´ari. On arrival before climbing the stairs, you´ll be met by a committee of locals who delegate various native families to look after particular travellers – be aware that your family may live in basic conditions and speak no Spanish, let alone English (Quechua being the first language).

Taquile Island lake titicaca

Amantani Island

Like nearby Taquile, AMANTANI, a basket-weavers´ island and the largest on the lake, has managed to retain some degree of cultural isolation and autonomous control over the tourist trade. Amantani is the least visited of these two islands and consequently has fewer facilities and costs slightly more to reach by boar. Of course, tourism has had its effect on the local population, so it´s not uncommon to be offered drinks, then charged later, or for the children to sing you songs without being asked, expecting to be paid. He ancient agricultural terraces are excellently maintained, and traditional stone masonry is still practiced, as are the old Inca systems of agriculture, labour and ritual trade. The islanders eat mainly vegetables, with meat and fruit being rare commodities, and the women dress in colourful clothes, very distinctly woven. The island is dominated by two small hills: one is the Temple of Pachamama (Mother Earth) and the other the Temple of Pachatata (Father Earth). Around February 20, the islanders celebrate their main festival with half the 5000-strong population going to one hill, the other half gathering at the other. Following ancient ceremonies, the two halves then gather together to celebrate their origins with traditional and colourful music and dance.

Amantani Island lake titicaca

Cultural norms


Cultural Melting Pot

Long before an imaginary line was drawn through Lake Titicaca, establishing its Peruvian and Bolivian halves, ancient civilizations thrived in the region. Sometimes they coexisted peacefully, while other gaps in history are marked by periods of war. Farming and building techniques improved with time. And through many Andean beliefs have been passed down through the centuries, new adaptations have been created by different communities and influenced by newer Catholic ideals.
There’s no denying that the cultural makeup of Lake Titicaca is a layered one, and uncovering the differences and similarities between the different island communities is part of the fun. Colorful traditional clothing is usually the first cultural aspect that catches your eyes. But did you know dress style actually varies from island to island? On Taquile Island you can tell a man’s marital status not by a ring on his finger, but the color of the hat on his head! Listen closely during your tour to different islands and you’ll likely hear two foreign languages that aren’t Spanish: Quechua and Aymara.

Tipping

Tipping is a nice way to show your appreciation for a job well done. Below are suggested tipping ranges to give your guide for a half or full day tour.

  • Half day tour: 10-30 Soles per person
  • Full day tour: 20-60 Soles per person
*The ranges represent a total amount that varies with the number of people in your tour group and can be divided amongst everyone. Of course, the amount of tip you leave is at your own discretion.

Activities


Go Island Hopping

Hop aboard a boat with our expert guide in Puno, Peru to explore the nearby islands. Visit the floating reed islands of Uros and then cruise to Taquile Island famed for its textile traditions. Meet local residents and learn firsthand about their centuries-old traditions. For an extended adventure, stay overnight with a host family on a 2 day/1 night visit to Uros, Taquile, and Amantani.

Lake Titicaca Homestays

Staying with a resident family is a unique look into the daily life of island locals. Enjoy a warm welcome and home cooked meals prepared with locally grown potatoes, grains and vegetables. Tour the island by day and get decked out in traditional dress for a celebratory evening with music and dance. Homestay accommodations are very simple with no running water nor electricity.

Andean Island Getaway

It may seem unorthodox to plan an island getaway in the middle of a lake, but the luxurious Suasi Island provides top notch amenities amid an extremely tranquil environment. Treat yourself to a massage after a day of exploration and then enjoy a pisco sour cocktail as the sun sinks below with mountainous skyline off in the distance.

Adventure Activities

Cruise through the royal blue waters of Lake Titicaca on a traditional torta reed boat or rent a kayak. Those brave enough to take on the lake’s icy 50-57ºF (10-14º C) water can plunge in for a swim! Land-lovers can hike up to a stunning island vistas on Isla del Sol (Bolivia) or Taquile and Amantani Islands (Peru) or hangout with some resident llamas.

Hotels



The following are our top choices for hotels in Lake Titicaca.

Libertador Puno

Address: Esteves Island s/n, Lago Titicaca, Puno.

It is the only luxury hotel in Puno city that sits atop private Esteves Island on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. From anywhere in the hotel, guests can admire the sunrise and sunset into this area, as each room has a spectacular and unique view of the lake.
The hotel offers superior rooms, featuring flat-screen televisions and views of the city or lake, as well as the Junior suite, which is more spacious to stretch out , and includes a separate dining and living area. The hotel offers an array of modern amenities like Wi-Fi, a fitness center, Jacuzzi and outdoor pool where you can enjoy a day of sun.


libertador puno

Casa Andina Private Collection

Address: Sesquicentenario Avenue #1970, Puno.

With its contemporary design cutting-edge technology, the Casa Andina Private Collection. Puno hotel is the top of its class.
The rich and varied breakfast buffet features seasonal fruits, cereals, hams, cheeses and egg. For lunch and dinner, the restaurant offers a proposal that combines inputs from roots and traditional local cuisine with the best of international dishes. Besides services like facial, body treatments and massages, hot stones, reflexology and relieving.


casa andina private collection

Eco Inn Puno

Address: Chulluni Avenue #195, Puno.

The Eco Inn Lake Titicaca hotel offers the best in Puno accommodation and treats each individual guest with high quality service, making each vacation a memorable one. This 4 star hotel is perfect for solo travelers who would like to explore the wonders of South America, honeymoon couples looking for something a bit different, friends and family.
The Eco Inn Lake Titicaca Hotel features a restaurant where its guests can try local cuisine, business travelers can make use of the hotel’s complimentary wired Internet access and onsite business center.


eco inn puno

La Hacienda Puno Plaza

Address: Puno Street #419, Puno.

The Hacienda Puno Plaza hotel offers a central location in the city, a few steps from the main plaza and the Cathedral of Puno. This hotel offers a restaurant where guests can try Peruvian and international dishes, also is offered a complimentary breakfast is served daily, as well as a business center that guests can have complimentary high-speed Internet (wired), open 24 hours and a computer at your disposal.
The hotel features 28 pleasant rooms with LCD cable TV, free wireless internet; guests can also watch their favorite TV show with satellite channels, besides offer private bathroom with a bathtub or shower and hair dryer, bath amenities, telephone.


la hacienda puno plaza

Sonesta Posada del Inca Puno

Address: Sesquicentenario #610, Sector Huaje, Puno.

This lovely 4-star hotel feature panoramic views of the Lake and is designed to resemble traditional Peruvian and Inca cultures.At this hotel, guests will be immersed in the magical city of Puno while discovering the wonders of Tiahuanaco culture and enjoying the beauty of this unique landscape and the genuine hospitality by its people.
Make sure to try the excellent "Inkafe" restaurant, offering a huge variety of menus with delicious Andean and international dishes. During your meal time, you will enjoy great views of the Lake either on the terrace if weather allows it, or from the large windows.


sonesta posada del inca puno

Jose Antonio

Address: Highway Puno - Desaguadero Km 6.5, Puno.

The hotel is located in front of the Lake Titicaca, at 10 minutes from the center of Puno. Jose Antonio Puno hotel offers people the comfort and the warmth of home that everybody deserves.
The Jose Antonio Puno Hotel is enviously set upon the shore of Lake Titicaca; the vast whitewashed red-roofed building is carved almost in solitude into the sloping cliffs that drop into the world’s highest navigable lake. The hotel was opened in 2008, it boasts ultra-modernity, top-class luxury and impressive views of the stunning lake from almost every window of its rooms.


jose antonio

Sol Plaza Hotel

Address: Puno Street #307, Puno.

The Sol Plaza Hotel is located in the heart of the city of Puno, a few steps from the main square, near museums, colonial churches, shopping centers, banks, ATMs, travel agencies and among other interested places.
The Sol Plaza Hotel offers its guests the comfort of modern facilities and equipment, as well as its experience in hospitality. Its main priority is to satisfy the desires and needs of its guests, ensuring their holiday unforgettable and maximizing their trip.


sol plaza hotel

Tierra Viva Puno Plaza

Address: Grau Street #270, Puno.

The Tierra Viva Puno Plaza hotel is located at Grau Street, into the historic center of Puno city. Its strategic location allows its guests an easy access to several main attractions, such as the main plaza, the Cathedral and the Dreyer Museum. The hotel is also next to Lima Street, the most commercial and cosmopolitan street in the city, where travellers may enjoy the best restaurants, popular art stores, artistic bars and peñas of Puno.This hotel was design, with spacious, bright rooms equipped with modern soundproof windows, which allow its guests the maximum comfort and resting after a long day discovering the Lake Titicaca and the Andean Plateau.


tierra viva puno plaza

Where to eat


Addressing the important “where to eat” inquiry while traveling to Lake Titicaca requires a look at different itinerary options. Which side of Lake Titicaca will you visit? Peru? Bolivia? What type of tour are you taking? We outline the basics below:

Where to eat puno

Puno

Peru has a handful of great sit-down restaurants. Mojsar Restaurant (Jr. Lima 635; across from Puno Cathedral) serves traditional Peruvian dishes and specialty pizzas. Hotel restaurants – such as Los Uros at Hotel Libertador Puno (Isla Esteves, Puno) or Alma at Casa Andina Private Collection Puno (Avenida Sesqui Centenario 1970, Sector Huaje, Puno) are oases of culinary goodness. Plus, there are local eateries lining the side streets around the main plaza with cheap set menús which include a starter, main course and a drink.

Copacabana

Bolivia is less developed than Puno and has fewer upscale restaurants. Avenida 6 de Agosto (a street that runs perpendicular to the town’s lakefront area) is lined with casual restaurants and cafes. El Condor & The Eagle Cafe, known for its hearty breakfasts and good coffee, is a top traveler’s choice.

Day Tours

Many Lake Titicaca attractions are in remote locations. It’s a good idea to brings bottled water and snacks in your daypack. There are small corner stores in Puno and Copacabana where you can purchase food and drink items. Lunch may or may not be included in your day tour, so ask your travel advisor.

Weather


Lake Titicaca Climate
The Altiplano, or high plain, where Lake Titicaca is located has a semi-arid climate. Daytime temperatures average between 60-65ºF (15-18ºC) throughout the year. On a clear day the sun’s rays are strong – especially reflecting off the lake surface – and sun protection is a must. Night temperatures really drop around Lake Titicaca, so pack a jacket to keep warm. Snowfall is very unlikely.

Dry Season Vs. Rainy Season
- Dry Season: is from April to November. Weather conditions are usually sunny and pleasant. In June and July, nighttime temperatures hover above freezing.
- Rainy Season: is from December to March. On days with rainfall, clouds usually build through the morning to bring afternoon showers and thundershowers. January and February see the heaviest rainfall.

When is the best time to visit Lake Titicaca?
- Peak travel season: is during the months of June, July, and August. These months are at the heart of the region’s dry season.
- Shoulder season: falls between the rainy season and peak dry season; April-May and September-November. The weather during these months is pleasant and there are fewer tourists. April and May – after the tail end of the rainy season – is a particularly beautiful time to visit Puno because the surrounding landscapes are green and flowers are in bloom.

weather lake titicaca

Travel Tips


Lake Titicaca Tour Packing Checklist

  • Sun protection (glasses, sunscreen, hat)
  • Comfortable and sturdy footwear
  • Warm jacket, for chilly evenings and windy conditions on the lake
  • Camera
  • Motion sickness remedy for boat ride
  • Rainy season: Travel side umbrella, waterproof clothes, or pancho

Health Concerns

  • Altitude Sickness: Lake Titicaca is located at 2,500 ft (3,810 m) above sea level. This is slightly higher than the elevation of Cusco at 11,120 ft (3,400 m), so travelers visiting Lake Titicaca next will have already had time to adjust to the altitude. Everyone responds differently to high altitude. Shortness in breath, headache, loss of appetite, or nausea are minor symptoms that can result from the change in altitude. Serious reactions to altitude are rare and hard to predict.
  • Strong Sun: On a clear day, the high altitude of Lake Titicaca paired with the sun’s strong reflection off its surface is relentless and without proper protection it’s very easy to get a serious sunburn. Don’t forget your glasses, wide-brimmed hat and sunblock for your lake excursions.

Transportation

Below are different options for getting to and from the principal hubs: Puno, Peru and Copacabana, Bolivia. Motorized boats are used for transport to Lake Titicaca’s various islands.

  • Puno, Peru is accessible by bus, train or plane. Bus routes connect Puno to other popular Peruvian destinations, such as Cusco and Arequipa. The luxurious Andean Explorer train operated by PeruRail runs between Cusco and Puno. For travelers going directly from Lima to Puno, flying is the most convenient option with a 1 hour 45 minute flight time. The Inca Manco Cápac International Airport is located 30 mi (50 km) from Puno in Juliaca.
  • Copacabana, Bolivia is accessible by bus or plane. From La Paz, the country’s capital, the tourist bus takes about 4 to 5 hours to reach Copacabana. Some travelers cross the border between Bolivia and Peru. The Puno – Yunguyo (border town) – Copacabana route takes about 3 hours. Some travelers, such as US, Australia, and need to pay the reciprocity fee.
  • Around the lake: Don’t just go to Lake Titicaca; you must go out on Lake Titicaca to its islands. Boat tours in Puno depart daily. Only a 30-minute ride away, the Uros floating islands are nearest to the city. A full-day tour is needed to explore both Uros and Taquile Island which is further out. Boat tours also depart from the pier in the harbor of Copacabana to Isla del Sol. Cruise to Challapampa to the north end of the island, or Yumani to the south.