The Top 5 Experiences to Have at Lake Titicaca

This sparkling lake at the top of the world is rich with unique cultures and customs. Our insider Jessy shares one​ ​of​ ​his ​favorite​ ​areas​ ​of​ ​Peru.

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Spanning the borders of Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake at 12,507ft (3,812m). The region is famous for its islands and crystal-clear waters as well as its festivals and archaeological sites.

Uros

The floating Uros islands are one of the main reasons tourists flock to Lake Titicaca. These islands are made from totora (a type of reed) and are about an hour’s boat ride from Puno. They were originally built by the Uros people , although most of the remaining members left in the 1950s. Nowadays locals of Aymara origin run the islands and maintain the old traditions, making their boats and even their homes from the reeds, and creating brightly colored handicrafts.

Despite an obvious lack of authenticity, I would encourage any traveler to include the Uros islands in their trip. It ’s a completely unique spot in the world. Going there allowed me to immerse myself in the daily lives of an incredible and almost extinct society in an amazingly picturesque landscape. The trip is three hours long (one hour on-site) and costs S./ 40 -50 (US $12-15.50) . 

Boats made from reeds, Uros Islands. Photo credit: Ellen Hall

Amantaní

Three hours by boat from Uros on the other side of the Capachica peninsula is Amantaní island, offering a breathtaking view of the snowy Bolivian mountain peaks.

With the vivid blue of the lake, the island’s stony ground, and the rustic look of some of the houses, the town has the feeling of a small village along the Mediterranean coast. The locals seem somewhat wary of visitors. I'm not sure if they are simply shy or if they 're concerned Amantaní might become a mass tourism attraction like the Uros. Nothetheless, the island's peaceful atmosphere and positive energy made me happy to be alive. It’s a completely timeless, stress-free place where there 's not much to do but contemplate the landscape and countless quinoa fields – and a few solar panels! 

To get here, it ’s advisable to book a two-day , one-night trip with an overnight homestay on Amantaní. This tour includes Uros and Taquile. Prices from S/. 120 (US $37) . 

Terraced fields on Amantaní. Photo credit: iStock

Taquile

Three hours from Puno and one hour away from Amantaní , the island of Taquile is equally impressive. The road from the port to the center of the village takes your breath away – in every sense of the word, for people who are not used to physical effort at altitude.

Known for its artisanal cloth – the women do the weaving, the men do the knitting – Taquile is generally a bit livelier than the other islands. Taquileans are also famous for distinguishing their relationship status with how they dress (the color and placement of hats, skirts, and tassels all have their meaning), and for promoting living together before marriage. You can visit Taquile in one day – with a stop halfway in Uros – for S/. 80 (US $24.75). 

View of the lake from Taquile. Photo credit: iStock

Sillustani

This enigmatic pre-Inca archaeological site is on the shores of lake Umayo , only 45 minutes from Puno. The simplest way of getting there is with a tour operator (S/. 40-60 or US $12-18.50), but there is also the option of boarding a colectivo going from Puno to Jaliaca (S/. 3 or US $1) and asking to be let off at the crossroads for Sillustani. From here, you must take a second colectivo (S/. 3 ) then pay the S/. 10 (US $3) entrance fee for the Sillustani site.

In addition to the cylindrical funerary towers called chullpas, what I love about Sillustani is the countryside around the lagoon. It gives the place a marvelously mysterious appearance. 

Umayo Lagoon, near Sillustani. Photo credit: Ellen Hall

Festivals in Puno

Exploring Lake Titicaca isn’t just about touring the islands – Puno is well-known for being one of the most vibrant towns of Peru. Almost every month a festival or other celebration takes over the streets.

The best-known of them all is the Virgen de la Candelaria, a Catholic festival which has been given Intangible Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO. This is when people dance the amazing and energetic diablada puneña, which features angels, demons, and a sacred condor, all in a highly colorful and extravagant fashion, including huge masks and shiny costumes.

I happened to be in Puno some years ago when they were rehearsing this dance, and I still remember the beat as if it was yesterday.

Want to know more about Peru? Check out our podcast. We chat about alternative treks to Machu Picchu, how Peru is the original home of surfing, and look at what vaccinations do you need when traveling to South America.

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