Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake with a surface elevation of 3,812 metres (12,507 ft) is one of the most visited attractions in Peru. It straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia. The beauty of the brightly reflective water attracts a wide number of tourists both on the Peruvian and Bolivian side.
Uros, Amantani and Taquile are the three islands open for tourism on the Peruvian side and Isla del Sol, Isla de la Luna and Suriki on the Bolivian side.
I decided to go on a 2-day tour on the Peruvian Side with Planet Odysseys.
The tour started with a 7 a.m. pick up from the hotel. We drove to Puno’s harbour where we met our tour guide and boarded the boat to explore the hidden gem.
Seven kilometres off the coast of Puno, Uros islands are Lake Titicaca’s prime attraction. The boat anchored on the shores of one of the floating islands of Uros, our first stop. The shimmering rays of the morning sun allured the view of the golden island.
We lolled on a broken branch as our guide explained the way the Uru people live.
He started with an astonishing fact that the natives spoke in Aymara and not in Spanish or Quechua. The first civilization was in 1500 BC. Uros’s 60 artificial man-made floating islands are clustered on the western coast of the Lake. These islands are made of layers of cut totora, a thick buoyant reed that grows abundantly in the shallows of the lake. Each of the 50 feet by 50 feet islands elects a person as a head for every three months.
On being asked by a fellow traveller about their source of income, the guide explained that fishing is their main occupation apart from earning their livelihood by making handiwork items which are mainly sold to visitors. Education and Healthcare are sought from the Puno.
The president of the island stepped ecstatically next to our guide treating the group with a quick demonstration of the way these islands were built. She greeted us in Aymara “Kamisaliki” (how are you?). To which our tour guide told us to respond with “Waliki, Juspakara” (I am fine, thank you).
She concluded the demonstration by placing two dolls each of a man and a woman cooking.
She then invited us to show her quaint hut, some of us got dressed in a handmade native attire to pose for the camera.
Just as the tour through this serene island came to an end, we were offered a ride for S.10/ to the next island in Uros on the “Mercedes Benz” boat. Mercedes Benz boats are exclusively for tourists. These reed boats are slightly bigger than standard boats and have an extra structure in the centre that looked a bit like the saddle you’d see on top of an elephant.
An Uru lady rowed the boat to a bigger island that had shops and a restaurant also it is where I got my passport stamped as a souvenir for S./1.
We then embarked on a three hours journey to Amantani, an island which we called home for the night.
The boat devoured the last few kilometres towards Amantani. The sight of a distantly present mound grew. The guide briefed us on the itinerary while passing a photo album with pictures of birds dwelling on the island.
As the boat docked, we were divided into smaller groups of four and were introduced to our host who came to receive us in the pier.
After picking up our individual rooms we mollified out grumbling stomach with a delicious lunch, “Quinoa” soup and rice with mixed vegetables.
The major attractions in Amantani are the two pre-Inca temples Pachamama (Mother-earth) and Pachatata (Father-Earth), that symbolizes the principle of complementarity and harmony in the Andean culture. It was a rewarding sight from Pachatata to witness the sun setting on the world’s highest navigable lake.
As darkness swept over the island like a blanket, we got dressed in a traditional outfit to join a party where locals played folklore music while travellers grooved to their tune.
The next morning after an early breakfast the host accompanied us to the pier from where we sailed off to our last stop Taquile.
The boat anchored on the bottom of terraced slopes of the Taquile after a nerve jolting ride through stormy waves. The hike from the pier to the Main Plaza, located 3950 meters above sea level took 45 minutes through the winding path of stone steps with a view of the lake on one side.
Taquile was once a prized possession of Incas. The Empire seized the island in the 15th century. The inhabitants still speak its tongue, Quechua. Once a political prison, Taquile is now known for handicrafts which are protected by UNESCO. Knitting is exclusively performed by males, starting at age of eight. Women spin wool and use vegetables and minerals to dye them. Women are also the weavers of the Chumpis, the wide belts with woven designs worn by everyone in the community of Taquile.
Each piece of clothes symbolizes their status rank in the community. Kids wear different hats than adults, women wear different hats than men, single people wear different hats than married, divorced and widowed people.
After a hike down the 540 steps, I was back in the boat to Puno, squirrelling away the incredible moments on the paradisiac place in my mental drawer for posterity.
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