Things to do at Lake Titicaca

Lake Titcaca is at an altitude of 12,555ft (3.826 meter) and the highest navigable lake of the world, it stretches almost 125 miles (200km) and forms a natural border with Bolivia. The main reason to visit the Puno area are the floating reed islands in Lake Titicaca with it's habitants whom many live their lives in the same way as their ancestors.


Uros Islands

These floating artificial islands are made out of bundles of tortora reed, and they are home to the Uros tribe.  The Uros people likely adapted this isolated way of life as a means of escaping the Inca people and other more aggressive tribes.  Amazingly, these islands are home to over four thousand people, and the islands can be moved from one location to another.  The tortora reed is also used to make the houses, boats, and crafts.  The islands are constructed with successive layers of tortora reeds that are continually replenished as the submerged layers rot away in the water.  The islands are located less than ten kilometres from Puno, and are perfect for a day trip, although limited accommodations are available for overnight stays.  Other amenities are limited but there is a post office where you can send a postcard.  The Uros islands are an incredibly unique and mesmerizing experience, and they are a must-see if you are visiting Lake Titicaca.

Inhabitants at the Uros Islands
Inhabitants of Uros island show how they construct their islands

Taquile Island

Isla Taquile is one of Lake Titicaca's principal islands, and it is located about 45 kilometres from Puno.  At only about six square kilometres, the island isn't terribly large, but it is home to over two thousand permanent residents.  The island's inhabitants, known as TaquileƱos, live off the land through farming and fishing, and their society is based on community collectivism.  The people have recently taken steps to gain greater control over the tourist trade on the island, which sees over 40,000 visitors per year.  This is making Isla Taquile an increasingly popular eco-tourism destination, and the accommodations on the island are typically provided through homestays and other similar types of lodging.  Most visitors choose a one night stay, which gives plenty of time to see the entire island.  Electricity is generated primarily through solar power.  The island is home to a variety of flora and fauna, and the island's highest peak makes for an excellent hike, as it provides sweeping views over the entire area.

Taquile Island, 3 men traditional dressed sitting on a bench

Isla Amantani

The island of Amantani is only slightly larger than Isla Taquile, and it is located just a short distance away.  Isla Amantani is home to fewer than four thousand residents, and like their neighbors to the south, the people of Amantani take pride in their self sufficient lifestyle and eco-friendly way of life.  Accommodations are arranged through homestays with families on the island, who will provide meals as well as lodging (most visitors also choose a one night stay).  Amantani has two large peaks, pachatata and the slightly higher pachamama, and both offer excellent hiking with sweeping views over the entire island.  Ancient temples are built on both peaks, although they are generally closed to the public.  There is also a small museum on pachatata, and for viewing the sunset, pachamama is generally preferred.

View of the fields at Amantani island

The Puno Area

Puno is a port city located on the western shore of Lake Titicaca.  It makes an excellent base camp to explore Puno's surrounding attractions, such as the archaeological site of Cutimbo, which sits atop a large volcanic hill.  This historic site features three large stone towers, or chullpas, each of which houses an ancient tomb.  The tombs were built by Colla, Lupaca, and Inca cultures.  The city of Puno has a large, beautiful square, and there are a number of options for accommodations and other amenities as well.  Puno's San Pedro Church has been called the Sistine Chapel of the Americas, and it's definitely worth a visit.  The city even offers nightlife that caters to the many tourists passing through this lively region.

Reserva Nacional Titicaca

The Titicaca National Reservation is the largest natural preserve on Lake Titicaca.  It covers over 35,000 hectares, and is assumed to contain the area of the lake itself, which is nearly 200 kilometres long.  Lake Titicaca has served as a vital and life-sustaining part of the native cultures for many, many years, and the surrounding area is so rich in culture and beauty that the lake has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The coastal areas of the reservation provide protection for the tortora reed marshes used by the Uros-Chulluni communities.  Lake Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake, and it is also the largest freshwater lake in South America.  The Titicaca National Reservation is home to over sixty species of birds, including the Titicaca grebe, in addition to a dozen species of fish and ten different types of amphibians, such as a unique species of giant frog.