A Travel Guide to Lake Titicaca
- by our local guide Willy López
What can you do at Lake Titicaca?
Since ancient times, the Lake Titicaca has been considered a sacred living spirit and it is the object of profound spiritual significance still today. This vast mass of water located at 12,400ft (3800m) above sea level has generated optimal climatic conditions allowing the raising and development of great civilizations since the 6th century (A.C) until the Inca occupation of the region. Moreover, some well-rooted legends point to Lake Titicaca as the origin of the great Incan Civilization. Wherever you go in the highlands surrounding the lake, you will appreciate spectacular views, and you will meet with local communities who are the custodians of ancestral wisdom and appreciative ways of life connected with the nature that surrounds the region.
At Lake Titicaca you can visit sites of archaeological or natural interest such as Sillustani, Cutimbo, Molloco, Pukara, Altarani (all are archaeological remains of important civilizations of pre-inca times) and unique eco-lodge in Suasi island where you can connect peacefully with the energy of the sacred lake Titicaca. You can also enjoy learning experiences with the local culturals, and get immersed in local communities on the islands of Amantani, Taquile, Tikonata, or the floating islands of Uros on the Peruvian side and Sun and Moon Island in the Bolivian side. There are also plenty of opportunities to hike around the beautiful peninsulas of Capachica and Chucuito and meet with local communities in Llachon, Capachica, Luquina, Karina, Copamaya, Choccoconire and Juli. In many of these communities’ local people offer simple but comfortable guest houses on a Homestay Tour where we can rest and eat delicious local food and participate in the lives of the locals.
How many days should you spend at Lake Titicaca?
Ideally the perfect length of an enjoyable and stress-free journey in the region is 3 days. The longer your stay the better chances you have to enjoy authentic connections with local culture. Of course, if you are short on time there are many great options for one to two day trips where you will have an interesting and memorable visit!
What are best best things to do in the city of Puno?
It really depends on the interest of the traveler. If you want to learn about the living culture and traditions we suggest a homestay in local communities such as (Amantani, Taquile, Llachon, Luquina, Tikonata), if you enjoy hiking you can walk the natural trail to Altarani also known as Aramu Muru´s gate. Another great activity is kayaking to visit Uros floating islands or other islands on the lake. If you are passionate about archaeology there are many sites such as Sillustani, Pukara and Cutimbo on the Peruvian side and Tiwanaku in Bolivia.
Best food to try in the region:
The highlands of Lake Titicaca are the home of small farms who produce mainly potatoes, fava beans, and Andean grains such as quinoa and amaranth. The local farmers also raise herds of sheep, llamas and alpacas. Therefore, signature meals in Puno include quinoa in different varieties, one is “pesque de quinoa” (a quinoa puré served with alpaca steak) or mazamorra de quinoa (a porridge of quinoa). Another favorite is the Quinoa soup accompanied with beans, small potatoes, pieces of pumpkin and seasoned with local herbs like muña (a sort of Andean mint). The kankacho (baked lamb marinated with pepper and Andean herbs) and chicarron de alpaca (fried alpaca meat) are also highly recommended to try.
Tip: We highly recommend eating lightly at night, especially your first night at this altitude, as some heavy foods can impact your body's ability to adjust to the high elevations.
What is Lake Titicaca famous for?
Lake Titicaca´s culture is fascinating because of his living traditions. The most important manifestation of this living culture is the extraordinary religious festivity in honor to the Virgin of Candelaria. Every year starting on February 2nd the city of Puno honors the distinction of being known as the Capital of Peruvian Folklore. Hundreds of dancers from remote villages, rural communities and other cities of Peru reunite in Puno to represent over 300 traditional dances that show the combination of ancestral tradition and colonial expressions with modern influences that are reflected in dance, music, and art expressions.
Is it safe to swim in Lake Titicaca?
While it is safe to swim on the lake (far from the bay of Puno and beyond the floating islands), it is not recommended to swim because the water is so cold. The average temperature is (55F) 14° Celsius and the outside temperature might fluctuate from 32F - 70F or (0 to 21 degrees C) within 24 hours. When the sun shines, the outside temperature is warm but the water in the lake is always cool. Yet some brave people have plunged into the water and enjoy a short swim!
How to get from Cusco to Lake Titicaca?
Route 1: Lima-Arequipa-Cabanillas-Juliaca-Puno (1320Km) 21 hour bus ride
Route 2: Cusco-Juliaca-Puno (389Km) 7 hour bus ride
Route 3: Arequipa-Cabanillas-Santa Lucia- Juliaca- Puno (325Km) 6 hour bus ride
Route 4: Tacna-Candarave-Laraqueri-Puno (415Km) 7 hour bus ride
Route 1: Lima-Juliaca (1h 45min flight) plus 1-hour bus ride from Juliaca to Puno
Route 2: Cusco-Juliaca (35min flight) plus 1-hour bus ride from Juliaca to Puno
Route: Cusco-Puno (10-hour ride) (Only Wednesday, Friday and Sunday)
What if I only have 1 day?
There are many possibilities to organize a beautiful and interesting full day in Puno. A sample of an interesting one day visit could be a kayak adventure at sunrise and visit the floating islands of Uros at a time when you will not conflict with the tourist crowds. After a nice breakfast on the islands you return to Puno to continue to the alpaca ranch at Fundo Chinchero, a beautiful spot situated near the lake’s shore. Before leaving the ranch, you can enjoy a traditional lunch. Then, you can go on to visit the archaeological site of Sillustani where you will enjoy breathtaking views of the Andean plateau and landscape. On the way back to Puno you will stop to visit a local family from the community adjacent to Sillustani site for a friendly cultural exchange encounter.
What is suggested for a Multi-Day Tour?
One of the most popular multi day tours is a visit to Cultural Amantani. You can share the farming activities of a local host family on the island and sign up for many other cultural exchange activities in the community!
For active travelers we have multi-day kayak tours to Taquile island and for hikers we have additional hiking tours to beautiful natural and enigmatic places such as Aramu Muru´s gate! Book a custom trip here.
Is Lake Titicaca the largest lake isn the World?
Lake Titicaca is considered the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest lake in South America by volume of water.
Do people really live on the Floating Reed Islands of Uros?
The Uro people ancestors were simple fishermen and bird hunters and preferred to remain isolated from the more advanced civilizations. When the Spanish chroniclers encountered the Uros by the end of the XVI century, the Uros people were still living on the lake in small reed-boats that they used as floating houses. Only in the early 60s, the Uros started to build small artificial islands with reeds for their homes. In the late 70s tourism started to develop and this activity has given the Uro inhabitants the chance to earn an extra income and to pursue better education for their children.
Nowadays, The Uro islanders strive for a better future for their children. Many families have been able to build small houses in the city. The young “Uro” can go to schools in the city and have access to a more regular education system. It is likely that they will not return to live on the “floating island”. In the meantime, tourism is an important source of income for the adult population in Uros and they keep their homes on the islands too. The days of this old community will most likely end with the next generation.
Where should I stay when visiting Lake Titicaca?
If you prefer the comfort and privacy of a hotel, there are some very good hotels in Puno to fit all budgets. Also, in the region of Lake Titicaca (outside of the city) the homestays in rural local communities are an excellent experience. Local host families offer accommodation and provide meals for their guests. These cultural exchange experiences have left touching and long-lasting memories for travelers.
What is your your favorite part of the Lake?
The lake is magical for everyone it just depends what make us “clic” to choose a favorite place. If we want to relax and have an easy day by the lake, I would choose to go to Fundo Chincheros farm which has a small but interesting alpaca ranch. They provide lodgment and food and it is a precious place to enjoy the lake without much traveling. If I am curious about the culture and traditions of the local people, I would sign up to do a homestay experience on any of the local communities that have been mentioned above. If I would like to enjoy the magnificence of the lake and escape to reconnect with my family, I would sign up for a 2 or 3 day visit to Suasi island. If I love party and dancing, I would choose to come to Puno for the Festivity of Virgin Candelaria.
Best Adventure on the lake for someone trying to get off the beaten track?
- Multiday kayaking activity to Taquile island and camping
- Hiking in the peninsula of Chucuito visiting rural communities and encountering local weavers
- Visiting remote communities which are not on the tourism map and where local people can take you around for an authentic discovery of the reality of living in the highlands.
- Book a custom trip here