Globe Trotter: Lake Titicaca Travel Guide
Our fellow jet-setters! There’s a chance you’ve heard of Lake Titicaca in the past. While perhaps referred to in English-speaking countries with jest, the location itself is a fascinating, breath-taking locale.
First thing’s first; where is Lake Titicaca?
A quick geography and history lesson:
This oasis rests on the border of Peru and Bolivia: it reigns over other bodies of water the largest lake in South America. Located in the Andes Mountains, Lake Titicaca is at a high altitude at 3,810 meters above sea level—in fact, it’s the highest navigable (“boatable”) lake in the world. So, that’s two “world record” titles under its belt. To top that off, in the pre-Columbian period, the Incan people believed the lake was the birthplace of the sun and, subsequently, humanity—for this reason, Lake Titicaca is often referred to as “the cradle of the world.”
It’s historic floating islands, Inca ruins, and stunning vistas attract a flurry of tourists each year: and for good reason! Considering visiting Lake Titicaca in the next year or two? Allow youRhere to hit you with the three most important aspects for your vacation: where to hang your hat and where to set off on a South American adventure.
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Where to Stay
Team YRH is all about getting as immersed in the cultures you’re visiting as possible—so, why not stay where people live? There are some gorgeous, select Airbnbs in the Lake Titicaca area that will fit a plethora of your home-away-from-home needs. The majority of the Airbnb options hang out on the Peruvian side, but there are some amazing island options on the Bolivian side as well. Browse some of these amazing options on every part of the lake here and here!
Bonus: if you book your accommodations through youRhere, you’ll get $65 off for your stay! Use this link (here) to claim your $65 off from our founder, Rekia Spencer!
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What to Do
The ultra-special aspect of activities around Lake Titicaca: visitors have the opportunity to experience two different countries and their traditions.
On the Peruvian side: 56% of the lake itself is in Peru!
One of its most magical attractions, by far: the floating islands. Though the phrase may sound redundant, these marvels are actually man-made islands constructed with totora reeds. Pre-dating the Incan people, the Uros tribe originally built these islands in the Puno part of the lake as a way to quickly evade potential enemies without leaving their homes. Modern-day tribe people live on these islands to this day, and they must constantly replace the totora reeds to keep the floating islands… well, floating! You can visit the islands and experience a quick peek into the everyday lives of the Uru people.
Speaking of islands, going a bit further into the lake (remember: it’s the largest lake in South America, so it’s a long boat ride) will land you on Taquile Island. Most of the 2,500 inhabitants—both men and women—are world-renowned for their gorgeous, hand-made textiles. They are truly a collectivist culture; all families share food and money amongst the entire island. Locals strictly control visitors; you’re charged to visit and your tour is all walking (nary a car, nor a bike, exists on the island) up to 4,050 meters above sea level. Though it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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On the Bolivian side: A slightly smaller 44% of the lake is in Bolivia!
Isla del Sol—the birthplace of the Incan empire—is on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. In stark contrast to the physicality of Taquile Island, Isla del Sol is exceedingly serene and peaceful. The space is teeming with architectural foundations; there are over 80 Incan ruins to explore and a multitude of small villages, made up of indigenous families, dotting the island.
According to Incan legend, the island is the place of origin for the sun and the first two Incans: Manco Capac and Mama Ocollo. Similarly to the floating islands and Taquile island, there is a distinct absence of cars on Isla del Sol. Experts recommend making your visit a few days long in order to thoroughly discover the corners of this destination.
Finally, it’s time to jump into the big city that is La Paz, Bolivia, just off the southeast part of the lake. On top of the general manic energy of this city (over 2.7 million people live there), you’ll be contending with the high altitude: 3,600 meters above sea level. But fear not! La Paz is incredibly well known for their cable car system—they’re opening new lines to new sections of the city all the time. Indigenous culture is deeply ingrained into the everyday lives of La Paz: from the food, to the entertainment, to the artisanship.
One of the most popular attractions? The “WWE-style” wrestling via the city’s cholitas. Also, make sure to bring your comfy shoes for both the intense nightlife and the breath-taking natural wonders (such as nearby Palca Canyon).
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Lake Titicaca is truly one of the most remarkable bodies of water on the planet. From Incan ruins to cleverly used totora reeds, to the rich histories of both the Bolivian and Peruvian side, visiting Lake Titicaca allows for a full-scale sensory experience for each individual traveler. Its high altitude calls for an active spirit and its breath of history demands a curious mind. Team YRH is excited to hear about your plans to visit the largest lake in South America!
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