I sit on a rock and look out over Lake Titicaca. The sun has almost set and the last rays of sunshine are shining over the lake. The sky is clear, the lake glistens and is surrounded by some of the most impressive mountains of the Andes. Around me is an oasis of tranquillity. I don't need much more than that.
What is Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is located in the Andes at an altitude of 3,812 metres, making it the highest navigable lake in the world. It forms the natural border between Bolivia and Peru. The lake covers an area of 8,340 km2 and is the largest lake in South America.
Of historical importance
Lake Titicaca is mainly known for its beautiful surroundings. But also from a historical point of view, Lake Titicaca is enormously important. Here lies the foundation of the Inca empire. Legend has it that the first Inca king, Manco Capac, was born on Isla del Sol, an island located in the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca. From here he left for the Sacred Valley to found a city, Cuzco. From there, he would lead his future empire. On the islands and on the shores of Lake Titicaca you will find many small villages where the indigenous people still live in the traditional way.
The birth of the first Inca King Manco Capac is celebrated on 5 November
My visit to Lake Titicaca
In the afternoon, we arrive in Copacabana, the holy village on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. The Virgin of Copacabana (La Virgen de la Candelaria) is patron saint of all of Bolivia and many miracles are attributed to her. The city is not to be confused with the beach of the same name in Rio de Janeiro, although they do have a link with each other. It turns out that the famous beach is named after this village. Legend has it that a grateful Brazilian fisherman, who was rescued from the storm by the Virgin of Copacabana, named Copacabana beach after her.
Copacabana is not full of sights, but I like it. The height differences in the streets and the big hill that rises above the houses. From that hill, you have a good view over Lake Titicaca and we are told that the sunset is beautiful. Of course, we want to see this and we head out. It is a big hill and a pretty tough climb if you are already at an altitude of 3,800 metres. Once at the top I am speechless. My heart is beating in my throat and I need to catch my breath for a while, but I am speechless from the amazing view. We sit down on a rock and look out over the immense Lake Titicaca. The sun's rays glisten over the lake and the tranquillity falls over me like a blanket. In silence we watch the sunset.
Meanwhile, we got hungry from the walk and back in the centre of Copacabana we find a nice restaurant where we order the local delicacy; trout from Lake Titicaca. Together with a Paceña beer, Bolivia's pride made at an altitude of 3,600 metres with purified water from the Andes. It tastes delicious.
On the road by bike
After a good night's sleep we want to see some more of the area around Lake Titicaca. We decide to rent bicycles and cycle along the shores of the lake. Although we've been travelling for a while now and we know that nothing is as it seems, we fall into the trap of expectations again. We could have known that the bicycles are not in such a good condition as in the Netherlands. On top of that, every effort at an altitude of 3,800 metres costs three times as much energy and you can imagine that it will be a tough trip. Nevertheless, we enjoyed it here as well. The surroundings of Lake Titicaca are beautiful and I would not have wanted to miss it.
To Isla del Sol
The next day, we say goodbye to Copacabana and get on a boat in the direction of Isla del Sol, one of the many islands in Lake Titicaca. Isla del Sol is also called the holy Inca island. According to the Incas, the founders of the Inca empire, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo were born here. The island lives up to its name, because the sun almost always shines here.
There are no cars present on the island, and life is even more quiet here than in Copacabana. We take a walk and simply enjoy the surroundings. At the end of the afternoon, it is rush hour, because all the cattle is being brought back inside. Herds of sheep, pigs, donkeys, cows and llamas are walking across the dirt roads on their way to the stables. All led by small women with bowler hats and dressed in traditional clothing.
In addition to exploring the area on foot, Isla del Sol has a lot to offer in terms of Inca civilization. Here you can visit the sun temple Pilcocaina and the holy fountain. The holy water would provide an eternal youth and a life full of happiness. While we are here, it is worth trying, right?
The passage to Lake Titicaca in Peru
In the afternoon we leave Isla del Sol and return to the mainland. From here, we cross the border to Peru. A good base for a visit to Lake Titicaca in Peru is the colonial city of Puno. Here you will find several hotels, and from here you can make several excursions.
Tip: Stay in Titilaka lodge
For an unforgettable experience, stay at the Titilaka lodge, about 90 kilometres from Puno. This unique luxury hotel is situated on a 'private' peninsula with panoramic views over Lake Titicaca. The hotel has 18 sleekly designed rooms. You will stay here on a full board basis with the offered excursions included.
Pictures: Titilaka Lodge
The Uros Indians on floating reed beds
On the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, you will find the floating reed islands, or Islas Flotantes. On these islands, which are literally made of reed, the Uros Indians still live in the traditional way.
With a boat we head out and sail along the islands. On the islands there are women and men in traditional costumes waving happily at us. It is a special sight and almost impossible to imagine that these people really live on these islands. We get explanations about how the islands are built and we get a tour on one of the islands. There are several houses on one island, so it is a kind of village. We are also allowed to have a look inside one of the houses, which is really no more than a bed and a reed bale as a couch. Finally, we are hoisted into traditional clothing.
Today, the people here earn their money through tourism. And although people still live here, this place has become very touristy. Nevertheless, it is nice to visit it and enjoy the hospitality and cheerfulness of the locals. The Volendam of Peru we will say.
It was time for us to leave Lake Titicaca. If you have more time, you can visit several more islands in the lake. One of them is the small island Tacquile. This is where the Aymara Indians live.
Would you like to make a trip through Peru and Bolivia and visit Lake Titicaca? Then take a look at the travel itinerary Bolivia and Peru which we have put together for inspiration. You can book this trip directly, but we are also happy to put together a personal programme based on your wishes and ideas.
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