On our recent visit we were left awestruck by all the Puno region had to offer from majestic sunsets, stunning bucolic landscapes to colourful, friendly locals. Simply put, we fell in love with Lake Titicaca and left inspired by the people we met and the sights we saw. If you can factor in 3 or 4 days here on your Peru adventure, do it. You won’t be disappointed!
These are our top must see sights on Lake Titicaca in no particular order:
We spent a fabulous two days on this island and fell in love with the relaxed pace of life, stunning views of Lake Titicaca, spectacular sunsets and unique community organization.
Taquile is on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity list for its textile art which is produced by both men and women as an everyday activity and worn by almost everyone on the island. Men wear the ‘chullo’ a colourful woven hat with an ear flap and a thick ‘calendar’ waistband which depicts the annual agricultural and cultural activities on the island. Women wear colourful layered skirts and the traditional black shawl they wear over their heads with brightly coloured pom-poms on each corner.
In order to protect their traditional way of life, the ‘taquileños’ or locals have developed their own community-controlled sustainable tourism model and use the Inca moral code ‘ama sua, ama llulla, ama qhilla’ , which means ‘do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy’.
A visit to Taquile is like a step back in time to a slower paced world. Don’t make the mistake of just stopping off for an hour or two on a tour. Stay at least one night to discover the trails that criss-cross the island, the majestic views of the lake and the unique culture that the Taquileños strive to maintain.
Uros Floating Islands
The Uros are one of the main attractions of Lake Titicaca. These floating Islands are located 7km east of Puno and are reached only by boat. These islands are unlike any you have seen before and are made of layers of dried totora reeds that grow in the lake itself. Anchored on the lake bed, layers of reeds are added each year to replace the lower layers that rot. Islands can be made of up to 4 metres of reeds and it’s a unique feeling to walk on this spongy surface.
There are 42 floating Islands that house anywhere from two to ten families each. Unfortunately, in recent years the Uros have become extremely commercialized due to tourism and the more touristy parts definitely have a ‘Disneyland’ feel complete with rides in the form of totora reed boats and locals dressed in traditional outfits they wear just for tourists. Only about a 100 people actually still live full-time on the islands with the majority commuting from Puno to receive tourists every day.
Some of the islands further out are more authentic and can only be visited on a private boat. This is definitely worth it as it feels less touristy than the main section of the Uros and is interesting to learn how the Uros people have adapted to the difficult living conditions in the middle of the lake.
Despite the commercial nature of the Uros it is still a fascinating place to visit unlike anywhere else in the world. Most tours that go to Amantani and Taquile Islands stop off at Uros for a quick visit and you can also catch a ferry that leave from the port in Puno every hour between 6am and 4pm from S/.12 (Approx.US$3).
A stay on Suasi was the perfect end to our Puno & Lake Titicaca journey. Remarkable landscapes, majestic sunsets, laid-back comfort and a world-class sustainability project to boot made this one of the more memorable parts of our trip.
The Yavari is a British steam ship built in 1861 and transported by ship, train and donkey in 2766 pieces to the shores of Puno in a gruelling nine year odyssey across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Andes. It now finds its home on the banks of Lake Titicaca after being lovingly restored by Englishwoman Meriel Larkin.