Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America – and indeed, the highest altitude lake in the world – is one of the main draws of Peru to travellers. While most flock to Machu Picchu and Cusco, those who spend a bit more time in the country will inevitably end up at Lake Titicaca to explore the lake’s floating islands and find more out about the communities who live on the lake. As half of the lake is in Bolivia, it is also possible to visit from the Bolivian side, but as we only had a day on the lake, we explored the Peruvian half – so if you’re visiting Peru and are interested in visiting Lake Titicaca (which I wholeheartedly suggest you do), read on!
Where to Stay:
Most travellers visiting Lake Titicaca stay in Puno, which, despite not being the most exciting of places, provides easy access to the lake. There are tonnes of hotels and hostels in the town – although beware, that being more popular with travellers, prices are slightly higher, so it’s worth booking ahead. While there, do take the opportunity to have a ride in a triciclo, as, while touristy, it’s really good fun! Our guide also told us that it is possible to stay on the Uros Floating Islands in a homestay, or on Taquile Island – although if you’re short on time, it is possible to visit both in a day. However, make sure to have a night in Puno before visiting the lake, as most tours start very early in the morning.
How to Visit the Lake:
There are a few different options for tours out onto the lake – you can either do a half day tour, visiting just the Uros Floating Islands, or alternatively the one and two day tours go to both the floating islands and Taquile Island. We did the one day tour, which I would definitely recommend as it meant we got to visit Taquile Island, which is 100% worth the visit. While I was originally more excited about visiting the floating islands, it was Taquile Island which really blew me away, as it was simply stunning! If you do get the chance, the two day tours are also meant to be brilliant, although I felt as though we weren’t short on time only visiting for the day.
The Uros Floating Islands:
The first stop on the tour was the famous floating islands. The Uros people actually make the islands out of Totora reeds that grow on the lake, which they build up for about 10 years until it begins to sink – and then they begin the process all over again. They also use the reeds to make their boats, homes and other everyday items, so visiting the islands really is a unique experience! However, they do also now live off of tourism, which has caused many people to question the authenticity of the community, and whether it’s worth a visit. While this was something that we were sceptical about, the islanders work on a rota (there are about 80 floating islands), so that each island is only visited once or twice a week. This has allowed them to maintain their culture, with tourism aiding them, rather than destroying the community. This was lovely to see, and it was really interesting to find out how they make the islands, and more about how they live. While the Uros people mostly speak Aymara, instead of Spanish, the guides are brilliant at translating. So if you’re considering missing Lake Titicaca based on concerns regarding tourism, I would definitely recommend visiting – even if just to see the beauty of the lake itself!
Top Tip: remember to bring your passport, as you can get it stamped for one soles (about 25p)!
From the Uros Floating Islands, we then moved onto Taquile Island, which took about 2 hours by boat. While Taquile Island has also been accused of being overly touristy, we had a completely different experience. Although most people visit the North of the island – which is apparently very touristy – we visited a homestay in East. This gave us the opportunity to learn more about the weaving process (the weaving on Taquile Island is actually UNESCO World Heritage protected!), as well as get to know the family we were visiting. We had lunch with the most beautiful view of the lake, before playing football with the locals we were with! You also have the opportunity to buy some of their products, which I would recommend if you’re looking for a unique souvenir to get from your time in Peru!
After lunch, we then hiked over to a secluded beach on the West side of the island, which was stunning – and a good opportunity to acclimatise a bit more to the altitude. This is definitely a good idea if you’re planning on either doing the Inca Trail Hike or Rainbow Mountain, as Altitude Sickness really isn’t fun!
We then returned to the boat, for a two and a half hour trip back to Puno for the night, before we continued on to the Sacred Valley!
If you are travelling by bus or coach on to the Colca Canyon (or coming from there!) I would also recommend stopping at Lake Lagunillas. Although we had quite bleak weather, and it was absolutely freezing, it was definitely worth checking out.