Lake Titicaca claims the title of the world’s highest navigable lake at a dizzying 3,812 metres above sea level. And as South America’s largest lake, it’s one of Peru’s many attractions. With deep blue waters ringed by the undulating mountains of the Andes, it’s an incredibly scenic spot. It’s made all the more interesting by the indigenous communities that have called this place home for centuries and continue to live a traditional way of life. Here are some of the highlights you can expect when visiting Lake Titicaca.
Uros Floating Islands
Quite possibly Lake Titicaca’s most popular sight, the floating islands of Uros are a unique example of human ingenuity. Especially when it comes to using what nature provides to make the best of an otherwise difficult situation. Built entirely from the totora reeds that grow in the waters, these man-made islands have been home to the Uru people for hundreds of years. However, the islands themselves need replacing every 12 to 15 years as the water rots the bottom layers.
Guided tours here visit a particular island where a small community live. You can learn how they trade goods and produce with their land-based neighbours, bartering fish for potatoes and grains. The mamas are in charge here and will welcome you onto the island, inviting you into their homes. These industrious women also demonstrate how they make bails of dried reeds for use in constructing buildings and boats.
Tourism has provided invaluable financial opportunities for the inhabitants of the floating islands. Each family earns an income from having tour groups visit their communities and by selling decorative items made from reeds as souvenirs. During your visit it’s also possible to enjoy a ride on a balsa, a traditional reed boat. They can measure up to 30 metres in length and are operated by two people.
Many day tours of Lake Titicaca will also include a visit to one of the two genuine islands located within Peru’s borders. The island of Taquile is the more popular as it’s quicker to reach from the Uros floating islands.
The rugged scenery of the island is reminiscent of the Greek isles with pretty agricultural fields punctuated by small clusters of homes. The island is home to six communities of Quechua people totalling a population of 2,200 with not a motorised car in sight. Nor dog come to that matter. Quinoa and potato are the main crops here and the Quechua people hold onto their age-old traditions and customs.
On a visit here you can discover how single men and women identify themselves with their dress and the items that must be crafted once a couple get married. Interestingly, the wife will weave a special belt with a distinctive pattern at the front. The back of the belt is made from white fibres and hair. This hair will be her own, hair that she will only cut twice in her life to make this belt for her husband.
Visiting Taquile you can also see how the locals make organic shampoo from an endemic plant. And how they wash wool clean. Homely restaurants serve trout and quinoa soup for lunch so there’s no reason to go hungry.
Folk show in Puno
If you’re visiting Lake Titicaca in Peru, it’s more than likely that you’ll be using the town of Puno as your base. Situated on the edge of the lake with a rich living tradition, it’s a great place to spend a night. Here you can also take advantage of the folk music and dance dinner show at the Balcones de Puno restaurant. Talented local musicians perform traditional flute and pan-pipe melodies accompanied by exotically dressed and highly athletic dancers. It’s the perfect taste of Andean culture enjoyed over a quality meal. And no better way to end your day exploring Lake Titicaca.