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Tour the Islands of Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. For thousands of years, people have built and lived on man-made islands.

Lake Titicaca is one of the wonders of the world. The lake, the largest in South America, is situated at the astounding elevation of 12, 397 feet (3, 809 meters) above sea level and as such it is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. Aside from witnessing the enormity and beauty of this lake, a principal motive for going to Lake Titicaca is to visit the numerous islands, both natural and man-made, that have been continuously inhabited for centuries.

The base town for such an exploration is Puno on the eastern shores of the lake in Peru. Puno is a small town - its attractions include a main square, a market, and a church. A few excellent hotels are available for overnight stays. Access to Puno is by bus, train, or plane via Juliaca (45 minutes by car from Puno).

Tours to the islands of Lake Titicaca depart from the dock in Puno. The first stop is usually at the floating islands of Uros. These islands are constructed by hand by the inhabitants. Totora reeds are woven together to produce each island. After some years, old islands are abandoned and new ones built. The number of islands therefore varies from year to year. There are also watchtowers on the islands, also constructed of reeds.

The next island on the tour is Taquile, a hilly island 45 kilometers from Puno. The islands include pre-Inca and Inca ruins as well as agricultural terraces. From the highest points of Taquile, snow-capped mountains on the Bolivian side are visible. There are no cars and no machines on the island and all agriculture is carried out by hand.

The people of Taquile still maintain many of their cultural traditions, most visibly in their clothing. Textile arts on Taquile are of very high quality and have been declared a UNESCO masterpiece of humanity. Males on the island specialize in knitting whereas women make yarn and weave. Tours of Taquile usually include stops at the local market and the main plaza. Hikes to the surrounding ruins are also an option. Other alternatives include homestays and other cultural activities.

If visiting from the Bolivia side, or if interested in further exploration of Lake Titicaca, look into Isla del Sol, which can be accessed from the Bolivian town of Copacabana. This island is also hilly and rocky and there are no motor vehicles or paved roads. The island is replete with pre-Inca and Inca ruins, including the Sacred Rock and the labyrinthine Chicana.

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