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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 is the border that separates Peru from Bolivia, the lake spreads over the Altiplano with 3,200 square miles, it has a height of 12,500ft above sea level, this makes it the highest lake in the world to navigate.

lake titicaca geography

Puno borders the Peruvian side of the lake.

  • With an altitude of 12,500 ft. (3,800m) above sea level.
  • On the northwestern edge of the lake is Lakefront City.
  • All islands including Uros, Taquile and Amantani are a short boat ride away.

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

Before there was any sort of division in the lake, separating Peru and Bolivia, ancient civilizations establishes themselves in the region. During some years the communities were able to live together peacefully, but some periods are tainted by war. Agriculture and building methods have been adapted and improved over the years, the Andean religious beliefs have also been tinkered with to adapt the new catholic concepts. All the cultural differences are what make the Lake Titicaca community and culture so unique and interesting. Seeing similarities between the islands is a fun learning experience, for example the clothing worn on each island has a different symbolism. A man on the Taquile island will show his marital status by the color of the hat on his head, not buy a ring on his finger. Make sure to pay close attention to your guide while touring the islands, you are likely to hear other native languages like Quechua and Aymara.

Tipping

The best way to show appreciation for a job well done is to reflect it in a tip. Here we have a tipping range for your guide, depending if it’s a full or half day.

  • 10-30 soles per person for a half day tour.
  • 20-60 soles per person for a full day tour.
*The amount of money also varies with hoe many people are in the group, the amount can be divided among everyone. Also remember that the amount you leave is completely up to you.

Activities


Go Island Hopping

Jump on board on one of our boats with an expert guide and explore the nearby floating islands, the reed islands of Uros is a great place to visit and the Taquile island (famous for its textile traditions) is only a short boat ride away. You can learn about traditions that are centuries old by the people that actually live on the islands. If one day is not enough, there are over night options, stay the night with a host family and visit Uros, Taquile and Amantani.

Lake Titicaca Homestays

If you are looking for a unique experience on the islands and want to learn about the local’s everyday life, then consider staying the night with a resident family. Appreciate their stories and enjoy a home cooked meal made with the freshest ingredients, which are locally grown. During the day tours experience a local party with music and dancing where you be dressed in traditional gear. The homestay housing can be very fun but also very modest, don’t expect running water or electricity.

Andean Island Getaway

Planning a vacation to an island in the middle of a lake may seem a little odd, but the Suasi Island can provide a very luxurious getaway, in an extremely quiet area with the best features. With activities like hiking and exploring the island during the day, unwind and relax with a massage, and finish the day with cocktails while watching the sun set.

Adventure Activities

The best way to get to know this amazing lake is buy sailing on a traditional, handmade, torta reed boat, kayaks are also available for renting. For those who are feeling courageous can take a dip in the freezing 50-57’F (10-14’C) water. For those who prefer land, there are hikes on Isla del Sol (Bolivia), Taqulie and Amantani islands (Peru). While there you can also visit some local lamas.

Hotels



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

Libertador Hotel 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 Puno

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 Hotel 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 Hotel Puno

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 Puno

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

Seasonal Info

The Amazon has a warm, tropical climate with high humidity. Average temperatures range from 25°C (77° F) to 42°C (107°F).

Dry Season

May through October are usually the driest months in the Amazon. Between June to September there are periodic cold spells called friajes that can drop the temperature to 10°C (50°F) for a couple days at a time. Friajes are cold fronts the blow up from Patagonia and then whip down over the southern jungle from the Andes.

  • Pros: Trails less muddy, higher probability of seeing parrots and macaws at the clay licks
  • Cons: Hotter temperatures, sunny days usually see less bird activity, amphibians harder to spot

Wet Season

The Amazon is a rainforest, so really there’s chance of rain throughout the year. But more constant rains that define the region’s wet season begin in November and continue to April. November and December usually receive the most rainfall.

  • Pros: Temporal wetlands make it easier to see reptiles and amphibians, cooler temperatures
  • Cons: Muddy conditions, less likely to see birds at the claylicks, higher chances of flight delays

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
- The dry season starts in April and ends in November, there is usually warmth and sunlight during the day, however in June and July the temperatures are borderline freezing.
- Rainy seasons starts in December until March, during the morning clouds with accumulate over Cusco to create massive showers in the afternoon. The heaviest rainfall Cusco will have is during January and February.

When is the best time to visit Lake Titicaca?
- Throughout June, July and august is the busiest season for tourism, due to the fact that it is dry season.
- During April-May and September-November there is fewer tourist, these months will experience rainy and dry season but will mostly be pleasant weather. One of the best times to visit Puno is after the rainy season, this is when plants are blooming and the landscapes are greenest.

weather lake titicaca

Travel Tips


Lake Titicaca Tour Packing Checklist

  • Glasses, sunscreen and a hat are recommended for sun protection.
  • Comfortable and appropriate footwear to prevent injuries or sores.
  • With icy temperatures on the lake, make sure to take a warm jacket.
  • Camera with plenty of battery packs.
  • Motion sickness medicine in case (for the boat ride).
  • A poncho, rain jacket or an umbrella.

Health Concerns

  • Altitude sickness can be concern on you trip, the lake is at an altitude of 2,500ft (3,400m) which is fairly higher than Cusco (11,120ft/3,400m). Upon arrival, you will have time to adjust to the altitude, but be aware that it can affect everyone differently, some symptoms include, headaches, nausea, no appetite and difficulties breathing. Serious reactions are rare but it is best to be precautious.
  • At such high altitudes, the suns potency can increase, combined with the sunlight that reflects off the lake, it can be very easy to get a sun burn without the proper protection. For a tour on the lake never forget your essentials for sun protection, hats, sun glasses and sunblock.

Transportation

Here we will list the multiple options for transportation to and from the main cities; Puno (Peru) and Copacabana (Bolivia). Transportation to the lakes islands is usually by small motorized boats.

  • Puno, Peru is easily reached buy multiple forms of transportation, buses are available in all other major cities including Cusco, Arequipa and Lima. Another option is train travel. PeruRail has a luxurious Andean explorer train which travels between Cusco and Puno. Flying is also a great option for travelers that want to go direct from lima, with a short fly of lees than 2 hours, flying is definitely the easiest option. The airport, Inca Manco Capac, is only a 30-minute drive away from Puno.
  • Copacabana, Bolivia can be reached by going to Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. You can reach the capital by bus or plane, from La Paz there is 4-5-hour bus ride down to Copacabana. There are travelers that prefer to cross the border between Bolivia and Peru. This route takes about 3 hours and goes through Yunguyo (the border town) where some tourists such as Americans and Australians will require to pay a reciprocity fee.
  • To fully experience the lake, you must also visit its islands, numerous boat tours are available daily, only a short 30-minute boat ride away is the Uros island and close by is the Taquile island. Boat rides from Copacabana’s isla del sol are also available, these will take you to the north end of Challapampa or to the south of Yumani.