Lake Titicaca Travel Guide
Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca ©
Regarded as the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,580 feet (3,825m), Lake Titicaca covers 3,861 square miles (10,000 sq km) and is shared by neighbouring Bolivia and Peru. It has clear water, numerous islands and most importantly a place in Inca history. To many Peruvians, it is a revered and mythical place: legend has it that the founders of the Inca Empire, descendants of the sun, rose from the waters of the lake to create the ancient civilisation. The Uros Indians today live on unique man-made floating islands in the lake, believing they are the direct descendants of the Inca royalty.
For centuries the Uros people have built their homes and made their boats from the abundant source of reeds that grow in the shallows of Lake Titicaca. The islands are made from many springy layers of reeds that are continually added to replace the rotting layers below and it is not uncommon for the islands to drift after heavy rains. Fisherman can be seen navigating the water channels in beautifully crafted, sturdy 'canoes', some with reed figureheads forming a creative extension of the prow. Excursions to the floating islands have become rather commercialised and many visitors are put off by the throngs of children begging for sweets and the persistence of the souvenir sellers, but its popularity remains due to the fact this unusual and fascinating way of life is not found anywhere else in the world.
Further out into the lake and therefore less visited, but more beautiful, are the two fixed islands of Taquile and Amantani, with a genuine traditional lifestyle without electricity or solid infrastructure that gives visitors a glimpse of pre-colonial Andean Peru. The inhabitants of the attractive island of Taquile still use age-old weaving techniques and wear colourful traditional clothes, and the steep-sided fertile shores are covered in pre-Inca agricultural terraces that are the basis for the island's self-sufficient economy. The larger island of Amantani is a basket-weavers island and traditional crafts like stone masonry, and Inca structures of agriculture and trade are still practiced.
Day tours can be arranged from Puno, taking travellers to the Floating Islands, and the two natural islands where traditional hospitality and accommodation is provided by the local residents; or boat trips depart for each island individually at various times throughout the day.
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