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Lake Titicaca, a cultural and natural highlight

High in the Andes mountains lies Lake Titicaca, one of the largest lakes in South America. Since before the time of the Incas, the lake has played an important spiritual role in the lives of the local population. Visit the lake and enjoy spectacular views, a fascinating natural environment and encounters with ancient indigenous cultures.

Lake Titicaca is located in southeast Peru, on the border with Bolivia. The colour of the water varies from azure to indigo and the lake seems to stretch far across the altiplano (high plateau). The entire lake is a protected nature reserve, home to numerous migratory birds and aquatic birds. The city of Puno is a great starting point from which to explore Lake Titicaca; rent a boat to visit the floating Uros islands or participate in a colourful festival along the lakeshore.

Endless Lake Titicaca
Endless Lake Titicaca

Lima

Searching for the Incas in the mountains

The Inca creation story begins at Lake Titicaca. According to the legend, God Virachocha rose up from the water and created the sun, the stars and the first Inca monarchs. Visit the temple ruins around the lake to learn more about the rich cultural heritage of the Incas.

There are several ruins in the area around Lake Titicaca but also on the lake itself, such as on the small island of Amantani. This island is home to 6 villages where the local people still speak Quechua, the Inca language. There are no hotels on the island so visitors often spend the night with local families. Two mountains, the Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Pachatata (Father Earth) give the island its characteristic appearance. The trail to the top leads hikers through valleys and terraces before letting them arrive at the majestic Inca temples and other ancient ruins. The sweeping view of Lake Titicaca is spectacular.

View from the ruins
Dancers in Puno

Folklore in Puno

Visitors to Puno will quickly learn that the residents are very proud of their city's status as the folklore capital of Peru. During the many festivals, lively dancing crowds dressed in colourful costumes fill the streets. Festivities take place year-round, but one of the most interesting celebrations is the Fiesta de la Virgin de la Candelaria, a fascinating blend of indigenous and Christian rituals, taking place each February. Dancers in terrifying costumes bring offerings to Mother Earth and perform the famous ‘diablada’ or devil’s dance.

Floating islands

The Uros islands are a must-see for visitors to Lake Titicaca. The floating islands were built by the Uros people, who constructed enormous rafts with the sturdy reed that grows along the lakeshore. The first islands were built as a refuge from the advancing Incas. The Uros still live on these man-made islands. Lake Titicaca boasts approximately 40 islands; tourists are welcome to learn more about the traditional lifestyle of the Uros. Be very careful when you step onto these islands; in some places the subsoil can be very soft and fragile.

The man-made Uros islands

Photo credits

  • Dancers in Puno: istill, Shutterstock