Titicaca, Sacred Lake of the Incas
A huge and placid mirror of water sits between Peru and Bolivia, holding within it an endless number of mysteries and legends. Some of these mysteries can be explored in the surrounding archeological remains, some are still held within local lore and beliefs, and some have been lost into the depths of history. One of the most prominent legends, however, serves as the foundation of South America’s most glorious empire: the Inca Empire. This legend and all it stands for is of fundamental importance to the current local population, who continue to recognize and respect the two ancient cultures native to the zone, who are differentiated by their language, among other things: the Quechua, and the Aymara.
This lake – born into the Andean antiplano when the Andes emerged from below the Pacific Ocean, millions of years ago – is considered the highest navigable lake in the world. The Titicaca, as it is known, sits at 3,812 meters above sea level, and spans over 204 kilometers long, 65 kilometers wide, and has an average depth of 107 meters – although it reaches 283 meters deep at its most profound point. In addition, it houses 42 natural islands and a variety of diverse peoples.
The history of this lake dates back to pre-Inca times. It was these first inhabitants who left behind archeological remains, as well as the legend of the foundation of the Incan Empire. The colonial and Republican eras, on the other hand, left their marks primarily of the surrounding cities – Peru’s Puno, and Bolivia’s Copacabana. There are some other towns on the lacustrine coast, however, that also house constructions from these periods.
Although it may be hard to fathom, the lake plays a fundamental role in moderating the climate, despite its incredible location and height. Thanks to this climate-regulation action, the surrounding regions feature impressive agricultural and livestock activity. Currently, 49% of Peru’s alpacas, 32% of its sheep, 29% of its llamas, and 10% of its bovines can be found in this area. Thus, this region is the most important geo-economic region in Peru’s southern Andes.
Being both enormous and one of a kind, Lake Titicaca boasts incredible tourism potential. If there is any one thing that characterizes the lake, it is its ability to transmit a magical feeling to all those who visit it, fueled by the legends and local stories influenced by its former inhabitants. It is a meeting point for people of many cultures. Locals live on the many natural and man-made floating islands, and proudly share their native customs, as well as their navigation technology with visitors. To be in this place, so grand and vast that it seems like an ocean instead of a lake, surrounded by cultural and archeological legacies that date back to pre-Incan times, and to be guided around it all by local inhabitants who continue to honor and maintain millenary customs and traditions, well, that is a magical thing. And this kind of magic that makes for unforgettable, life-changing experiences.
The islands of Titicaca: these islands sit upon a mirror of water, underneath the bluest sky imaginable:
The Uros Floating Islands
Showcasing a surreal way of life, these artificial islands are made from blocks of earth united with hollowed-out totora reed roots, which provide floatability. These unisons come together to create ample surfaces anchored to the earth, which are then filled with a carpet of dried totora reeds. Everything on the island is made from totora - the houses, and the boats, the reeds are even used for medicine and eaten as food! There are two communities on the Peruvian side of the lake that live in close connection to nature, both of whom are very hospitable and welcome visitors to stay and enjoy a well-attended night on the islands!
Inhabited by Quechuas with a clear Catalan influence – albeit poorly documented – which is reflected in their garments and textiles. UNESCO has declared the local weavings “Intangible Cultural Heritage Masterpieces”. Visit these local peoples and share with them as you learn more about their way of life, and the pre-Columbian history hidden within the traditions, designs, and symbols of their gorgeous textiles.
This island is the largest on the Peruvian side, reaching 4,150 meters above sea level, and boasts stunning natural beauty. The history of the island dates back to pre-Incan times, and ancient vestiges can be found scattered across its lands. The island currently houses a community of friendly locals made up of about 800 families, who welcome visitors into their homes for day and/or overnight visits. Spend an unforgettable evening immersed in local culture and partake in rural community life.
An impressive natural beauty, this island – located four hours from Puno – is the only private island on the lake. It offers a unique, luxury hotel experience. Venture here and stay in one of the dream suits at an exclusive country-house style hotel, with all the commodities necessary for an unforgettable experience. While visiting, take a hike on the gorgeous lands, explore the lake in a kayak, enjoy the spa, or relax in a hammock and absorb the view. Separate 2 or 3 days in your itinerary to revel in the full experience and recharge before continuing on with your travels.
Hotels: Titilaka, Libertador, Casa Andina, Posada del Inca.