Planning a South American vacation? Well, there is a dream vacation spot you may not have considered yet, it is called Lake Titicaca and it should definitely top your list of vacation destinations. If you do not know a lot about Lake Titicaca, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about. In this article, we will fill you in on everything you need to know about this beautiful location to help you plan the vacation of your dreams.
Where is Lake Titicaca located?
Lake Titicaca can be found in the altiplano on the border shared by Peru and Bolivia. The eastern shore of the lake opens up in Bolivia while the shore of the south-western corner is perched in the Puno Region of Peru. However, a larger part of it lies in Puno so the lake is generally regarded as part of Peru.
There are several ways of getting to Lake Titicaca. You can fly or travel on road by train or by bus, depending on your budget, time constraints and preferred means of transportation. First of all, airlines do not take direct international flights to Puno, a principal city in the region. So if you are flying into the country (Peru), the Inca Manco Cápac airport is the closest international airport to Puno so you will have to make a stop there. The airport is in Juliaca, which is about 1 hour away from Puno if you are making the rest of the journey by road.
Lake Titicaca is also easily accessible from Cusco. There are two main transport options to Titicaca from Cusco – by bus and train. Taking the train from Cusco to Puno will take about 10 hours. However, the train ride is luxurious featuring first-class accommodations and a lookout-car, where the travelers can savor the sights of the picturesque Peruvian highlands as they ride by. The bus ride is slightly shorter by about two hours than the train ride. And although it is not as luxurious as taking the train, the bus usually makes a number of pauses along the way at rest stops and archaeological sites.
If you are coming from Lima, you can choose to fly to Juliaca or Cusco, from where you can decide to either travel by bus or train. Although traveling by plane will take you there fast, you will miss out on the amazing scenery along the way. While the route to Lake Titicaca might seem somewhat challenging, the ministry of tourism in Peru offers a variety of Lake Titicaca travel options to fit any budget.
Fun facts about Lake Titicaca
Did you know that Lake Titicaca is located at a very high altitude of 12,506ft? That is about 3800m above sea level! This makes it the highest commercially navigable body of water on earth. Covering an area measuring 3,963 sq miles (7,988 sq-km), Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in the whole of South America and one of the largest in the world.
The lake itself is actually two water bodies brought together by the narrow Strait of Tiquina (Estrecho de Tiquina). This location also has 41 beautiful and enchanted islands, home to a variety of indigenous tribes, all striving to sustain their traditional ways of life.
If you do visit Titicaca, you may hear the natives refer to it as the “birthplace of the sun”. This is because an ancient Andean belief regards the lake as indeed the birthplace of the sun, as well as the birthplace of Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, mythical beings highly regarded as forefathers of the people of Andes. As such, it is not surprising that Lake Titicaca is considered as sacred by the whole Andean race.
Nevertheless, with its deep blue waters and emerald green islands, a trip to Lake Titicaca will have you completely enchanted leaving you with no doubts about why this magical Peruvian altiplano is divine.
What to do at Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is without a doubt one of the best-rated tourist attractions in Peru. So you can bet there is an abundance of things to do that will keep you occupied all through your stay. Below are some of the must-see places in Lake Titicaca for a fun-filled and pleasurable trip.
- Uros Islands
This is the most visited site in the entire region and even if you fail to do every other thing, you must not fail to come here. The Uros Islands are man-made islands formed from sheets of dried totora reeds. There are 42 islands here and each islet shelters anything from 2 to 10 families who use the totora reeds to build boats, huts and play tools. The Islas Uros can only be reached by boat so if you are making the trip, prepare yourself for a boat ride. These islands are considered the highlight of Lake Titicaca and a view of the floating islands will show you why.
- Taquile Island
Sitting on just 7sq-km with a population of about 2000 people, Taquile may look small but there is a lot more to this place than what meets the eye. From a fascinating landscape of stone archways and hills to the stunning turquoise lake, you will need more than a few hours to take in and fully appreciate Taquile. Culturally, Taquile doesn’t slack either. The island is on the list of UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity for its colorful textile art produced by the locals. Life here is lived at a slow and relaxed pace and you will completely fall in love with this community.
- Iglesia de Santiago Apostol
Iglesia de Santiago Apostol is the pride of locals and that should tell you it is worth seeing. The building is a lime mortar church, however, that is not even the most interesting thing about it. Here you will find a full-scale sculpture of The Last Supper, secret tunnels, eerie catacombs and dozens of skeletons put together in a creepy skull-and-crossbones arrangement. A visit here may leave you scared to death or giddy with excitement, either way, you can bet it will be an unforgettable experience.
- Museo Carlos Dreyer
If you would rather not be spooked out of your minds but you still want to see some archaeological artifacts, you can opt for a visit to the Carlos Dreyer Museum. The museum holds an intriguing collection of some of the most significant pieces of arts and artifacts in Lake Titicaca from colonial and Republic periods to the pre-Inca and Inca eras. If you don’t mind some ghoulish arts, you can look upstairs where you will find a life-sized fiberglass chullpa and three mummies. You have to see it to believe.
Where to stay in Lake Titicaca
While the availability of lodgings option may not be in abundance in Lake Titicaca as it is with most vacation spots around the world, do not let this stop you as there are still a variety of established options at hand that you can lodge in during your vacation. From Puno to Uros Island, there is a good selection of options that will fit any budget you may have.
Looking for a top choice luxury resort on the shoreline of Lake Titicaca, look no further than Titilaka. You will love the serene landscapes with the large picture windows. The rooms have comfortable king-sized beds with window-ledge seating. There is also a gourmet restaurant and a spa. If you are traveling with family, then you will be pleased to know there’s also a game center for kids.
- Hotel Isla Suasi
If you love the idea of a private and exclusive resort, then, it doesn’t get better than Hotel Isla Suasi. Here, you will get to enjoy lake views from terraced rooms with fireplaces. If you are up for it, you can go swimming and kayaking in the lake and with the lack of crowds, you can bet it will be a relaxing experience.
- La Estancia Ecolodge
If you want a place where you can wake up to an unobstructed view of the sunrise at Lake Titicaca, La Estancia Ecolodge is the place. The lodge comprises 15 bungalows all located on the hillside. The European-style rooms have beamed ceilings and are equipped with hot-water showers in stone floor bathrooms. There is also a common dining area where the guests can enjoy three-course meals. If you are passionate about protecting the environment, then you should definitely come here. The ecolodge utilizes solar power, takes the trash off the island and recycles water back into its garden. Awesome right?
Where to eat in Lake Titicaca
You can’t visit Lake Titicaca and leave without a taste of the local flavor. However, you need to know the best restaurants in the area where you can be guaranteed an amazing culinary experience. That said, whenever you are in town, below are some of the best restaurants you should not fail to check out.
Mojsa is an “Aymara” word which means delicious, and it definitely lives up to that name. The menu features a great range of both international and Peruvian dishes including trout and quinoa, a specialty of the people in this region. Every meal is served with a bowl of locally grown olives and fresh bread. You can also get brick oven pizzas here in the evenings if you feel like it.
- La Table del Inca
If you are thinking fine dining, then La Table del Inca will give you something to dress up for. The restaurant is beautifully decorated with interesting paintings from the local artists and it is located away from the town so you can enjoy your food in peace and quiet. La Table del Inca is a fusion restaurant meaning you can enjoy a blend of Euro-Peruvian cooking styles here. If you are opting for strictly Peruvian meals, you may want to try out the Lomo saltado which is stir-fried beef served with chili and potatoes. If you want a taste of something that blends the Euro-Peruvian styles, you can order alpaca carpaccio with huacatay or quinoa risotto. Whatever choice you make, you can be certain it is the food you will enjoy.
- Mareas Ceviche y Más
It wouldn’t be out of place to want to try ceviche and seafood when you are vacationing beside a lake. That said, if you want to eat seafood in Lake Titicaca, Mareas Ceviche y Más is a family-friendly courtyard restaurant offering a thoughtful variety of seafood options. Trout ceviche, squid fried rice, ceviche palteado, and seafood pasta are just a few of the mouth-watering dishes you have to choose from.
From the divine natural beauty of the area to the interesting indigenous communities with friendly and accommodating natives, Lake Titicaca will not fail to impress you. However, if you are visiting, do well to plan your visit in November or February. This is when the weather is warmest in the area making it the best time of the year for tourists to visit and explore the town. Lake Titicaca is unlike anywhere else in the world and you will not be disappointed.