If you’re looking for culture-rich destinations in Peru, there are two spots you can’t miss: Cusco and Lake Titicaca. A popular combination for travelers to the country, visiting them both gives a great look into two very different sides of Peruvian culture, tradition and history. The highest navigable body of water in the world, Lake Titicaca is also a beautiful natural marvel in it’s own right (and one of the most breathtaking sights in South America). Any traveler to this beloved destination needs to make sure to experience a little bit of everything it has to offer- and here is our guide on how to do just that!
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A tribute to the harmony between the people and the natural environment of Lake Titicaca, these entirely (traditionally) man-made islands are the top attraction. They are made of totora reeds- a vital part of every aspect of life for the Uros people. Walk atop the buoyant woven reed, see the homes and crafts made out of it, and watch the toy-like boats of the reed sail across the waters. If you have the time, you can even spend a night in one of the reed huts.
Ferries take visitors to the islands independently, but you won’t want to miss the history lesson you’ll get from a guide. Learn about how the Uros people built these islands to escape the hostile Incas, and meet with some locals who can explain more to you about their current lifestyles. Make sure to bring your camera- every moment here looks like a shot straight out of National Geographic.
- Witness life on the Taquile Islands
On this island prized by the Incas, local inhabitants still live a completely traditional lifestyle and dress as they have for thousands of years. As you tour the island, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Watch as locals weave intricate patterns, spin yarn, practice traditional dancing, and share daily activities of cooking and farming.
Since the Taquileños began inviting visitors to the island, they have been committed to community-based cultural tourism- every member of the community shares the responsibilities and rewards.
These islands have been home to an indigenous group different from the Uros people, and thus offer a whole new perspective to your Lake Titicaca experience.
- Take a boat ride around the beautiful lake
To appreciate just how vast the lake is, make sure to take a boat ride around it. In addition to the ferries taking you to the islands, you can take tours on much smaller boats for a more exciting experience. The lake spans all the way from Puno, Peru to Copacabana, Bolivia, and as you sail you’ll wonder if it’s an ocean rather than a lake.
You can take a boat tour from the port in Puno- or be adventurous and ride one of the reed boats on the Uros islands!
- Stay overnight on Amantani island
Just a bit north of Taquile, trips to this island usually involve an overnight stay in a local home with islanders. Here you can help your family cook over open fires, play with local schoolchildren, and have the humbling experience of witnessing their way of life. While this visit will take more time than the other islands, it’s one you won’t soon forget.
- Witness one of Puno’s many festivals
In order to reach Lake Titicaca, you’ll pass through the port city of Puno. Puno is the folklore capital of the country, and hosts various festivals all throughout the year, and it’s absolutely worth trying to plan accordingly to see one! It’ll give a dose of modern culture, much different from the life on the islands you’ll see.
Major celebrations happen every month (read our full list here), and you can catch military parades held in the center of town every Sunday. The town’s decor may seem stark, but once you see these colorful and exuberant celebrations you’ll see why it’s one of the most interesting parts of Peru.
If you can, try to visit the first week of November for Puno Week. Masked, vibrant dancers wind through the streets as they portray Peru’s entire history, starting with the birth of the Incan empire. Parades go all day and late into the night.
Otherwise, come for the wildly popular Carnival in February- one of the best in the country!
Ready to experience the richness of Lake Titicaca? We recommend combining your visit with your trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu, however it’s fairly easy to access from just about any point in the country. Make sure to book a tour with a knowledgeable guide, and come prepared to step into an entirely new world. You can browse some of our current packages including Lake Titicaca here, or talk to our travel specialists about any other fully customizable trip you would like! We’re happy to help you book your transportation, accommodations, tour guides, and everything else you need.