Hello my dear readers,
How are you today?
Monday we have discovered our loved potatoes, today let’s discover Lake Titicaca, where was find the earliest archaeological evidence of potatoes.
Set between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca it is the largest lake in South America and the world highest navigable body of water. It is considered the birthplace of the sun, in Andean belief, so of course every tour of Peru cannot be done without including the islands on Lake Titicaca.
The magic of this lake lies also in the smiles and colorful clothes of its inhabitants.
The meaning of the name Titicaca is unsure, but it has been variously translated as Rock of the Puma or Crag of Lead.
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, located at an altitude of 3800 meters. At these heights the pure air and the clear sky offer magnificent days, intense colors and breathtaking views, but also a remarkable temperature range between day and night.
The high altitude can also cause altitude sickness. Is better if you go there after having acclimatized properly to Arequipa or Cusco and, especially on the first day, do not make efforts and eat lightly, because digestion is slowed by the high altitude.
The Lake Titicaca averages between 140 and 180 metres (460 and 600 feet) in depth, but the bottom tilts sharply toward the Bolivian shore, reaching its greatest recorded depth of 280 metres (920 feet) off Isla Soto in the lake’s northeast corner.
More than 25 rivers empty their waters into Titicaca Lake and its level fluctuates seasonally and over a cycle of years. During the rainy season which is from December to March the level of the lake rises, normally to recede during the dry winter months. It was formerly believed that Titicaca was slowly drying up, but modern studies have seemed to refute this, indicating a more or less regular cycle of rise and fall.
Forty one islands, some of them densely populated, rise from Titicaca’s waters. The largest, Titicaca Island is Isla del Sol that lies just off the tip of the Copacabana Peninsula in Bolivia.
In 2000, on the bottom of the lake were discovered remains of a temple and all the ruins on the islands attest to the previous existence of one of the oldest civilizations known in the Americas, with the chief site at Tiwanaku, Bolivia, at the southern end of the lake. Ruins of a temple mark the spot where, according to the tradition of the Incas, the legendary founders of the Inca dynasty, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, were sent down to Earth by the Sun.
The gateway to Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side is the town of Puno.
Puno is well connected by land with Cusco, Arequipa and the Colca Canyon via convenient buses, such as the excellent Cruz del Sur or Inka Express.
Puno is also well connected with La Paz and Copacabana in Bolivia.
It is also possible to arrive by train, but this is quite an expensive option. Belmond Andean Explorer is a luxury train service with private cabins that runs along the Arequipa-Puno-Cusco route.
In itself Puno has nothing to offer but a visit to the islands on the lake. Everywhere in the city you will find offers and options for this visit.
Islas Uros, are certainly the most famous islands. The Uros are an Aymará-speaking population, one of the oldest in Peru. They live in floating islands, around a hundred, built with the totora, floating canes originating from the lake that are widely available here. The totora’s heart, the inner part, is also used by the Uros as food, and to build boats, houses and handicrafts.
The Uros population was chased away from the shores of the lake by the Incas and built real artificial islands made of these totora reeds. The platforms are made up of various layers and as time passes the part in contact with the water is macerating. For this reason the construction work is continuous, so as to always add new layers of dry cane. The houses are huts built with rushes and the lifestyle is in part still similar to the traditional one based on the cultivation of edible algae and fishing. Tourism is a real source of livelihood for the population and makes a big difference.
The particularity of these islands is also the fact of being able to position them at will, since they are still at the bottom, but also to be able to group them, for example at events and weddings.
Walking on these islands is special, is like walking on a mattress.
To reach Uros Islands there are boats departing from Puno approximately every hour during the day, and the journey is taking around 30 minutes.
About 3 and a half hours away from Puno, Amantaní is an island inhabited by 4,000 Quechua-speaking people, and is less visited due to the long distance to reach it.
The excursions here usually include an overnight stay and are based on the practice of vivencial tourism, that is the stay with local families. Those who arrive here with an organized tour are accommodated on the basis of a rotation system, in order to allow the whole community to benefit from tourism. There are no other types of accommodation.
To observe the sunset you usually climb the two highest peaks of the island, where there are ancient ruins linked to the tiwanaku culture: the Pachamama and the Pachatata, Mother and Father Earth.
In the evening, a traditional festival is often held in town with dances and tourists are given typical clothes to wear for the occasion.
Isla Amantaní is very quiet, but above all, on clear nights it enjoys a starry sky like no other.
Here, especially traditional Andean crops are grown in terraces, mainly potatoes, corn and quinoa.
Taquile is another small island off the coast of Puno inhabited by just over 2000 Quechua-speaking people.
The sparkling blue of the lake contrasts with the reddish earth, while in the distance you can see the Bolivian snow-capped peaks.
The tradition of Taquile is very particular, here women spin while men knit, always wearing their white and red or only red wool cap or other colors based on their social position.
The Taquileños are famous for their skill in textile art and this is the right place to buy souvenirs of excellent workmanship, such as scarves, hats and wool gloves in brightly colors, strictly handmade.
UNESCO has included the textile art of Taquile among the “Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.
The thermal excursion is very strong, so it is worth to dress in layers: if during the day the sun warms up to 25 degrees C and you are fine even with short sleeves, in the evening when the sun sets, the temperature drops very quickly and during the winter dry season stands at 0 degrees C. The temperature range here is impressive.
The best time to visit Lake Titicaca is in November and in February. This is when the weather is the nicest and warmest and these months are the best months to explore the lake and its islands.
In Lake Titicaca, it is very common vivencial tourism, meaning that you can stay on the island with local families, where you can also have meals.
You will find a place both on site, or by booking a tour in advance. There is some accommodation that can also be booked on Booking if you want to explore the islands on your own.
You will find some restaurants which are managed by the community, that all offer the same tourist menu based on sopa de quinoa y trucha a la plancha, which is quinoa soup and grilled trout. Remember to bring small bills in soles, as there are no money changers or cash machines.
I have always been curious to visit South America, so many amazing places! I hope one day I’ll make it 🙂
Have you visited this beautiful part of the world? Which place did you liked most?
Thank you all for reading!
Join me next time as is time for another super easy and delicious recipe.