Lake Titicaca.

Admit it; you probably giggled a little the first time you heard that name.

It’s ok – I still do.

Now, you’re invited to explore the lake behind the laughs.

Taquile Island is one of the most popular destinations on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca
Taquile Island is one of the most popular destinations on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca  .  A Brief Overview

Located 3,812 meters above sea level and home to 41 islands, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake.

Its borders are shared by Bolivia and Peru; with both countries joking that their side is the “titi,” while the other side is pure “caca.”

Etymologically, Lake Titicaca has been translated to mean “Rock Puma;” as the lake’s shape looks similar to a puma hunting a rabbit… or so they say.

 

Myth, Legend and Energy

According to an ancient Incan legend, life on earth began when the god Viracocha rose out of the lake and created our world.  ¹

Meanwhile, energy healers consider the lake to be one of the most spiritual and powerful places on Earth; citing it as the largest energy vortex portal in South America. ²

 

Gazing up at the cosmos above Isla del Sol, it's easy to see why the ancient Incas were so infatuated with the lake.
Gazing up at the cosmos above Isla del Sol, it’s easy to see why the ancient Incas were so infatuated with the lake.

 

A reed boat captain on the Uros islands.
A reed boat captain on the Uros islands.

 

A curious sheep on Isla del Sol
A curious sheep on Isla del Sol

Puno, Peru

On the Peruvian side, most tourists flock to Puno: a sprawling town of 100,000+ residents.

Surrounded by mountains, the town steeply rises into the horizon from the lakeside.

Architecturally, Puno is a fascinating mix of Spanish colonial architecture, brick apartment buildings and shack-like homes.

All-together, it’s a great place to spend a day exploring.

 

The town of Puno, Peru, stretches way up into the mountains.
The town of Puno, Peru, stretches way up into the mountains.

 

A church door in Puno, Peru.
A church door in Puno, Peru.

 

The Yavari is the oldest iron-hulled ship in the world, which was brought to Lake Titicaca in 1862.
The Yavari is the oldest iron-hulled ship in the world, which was brought to Lake Titicaca in 1862.

Day trips from Puno, Peru

Once you’ve had your fill of climbing Puno’s countless hilly streets, the city is a great jumping-off point for further exploration.

On land, you can find Incan ruins, local communities, museums, historic ships and more.

Meanwhile, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, countless agencies offer 1-2 day boat tours of the surrounding islands.

 

Unique to the area are the 44 manmade Uros floating reed islands; where dozens of families continue to live in the traditional style.
Unique to the area are the 44 manmade Uros floating reed islands; where dozens of families continue to live in the traditional style.

 

Just outside the city, the Sulustani Funeral Towers ruins offer a fascinating glimpse into the region’s pre-Incan history.
Just outside the city, the Sulustani Funeral Towers ruins offer a fascinating glimpse into the region’s pre-Incan history.

 

Traditional Pre-Incan terraces on Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca
Traditional Pre-Incan terraces on Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca

 

A small town center on Taquile Island offers commerce for locals and tourists alike.

Meanwhile, in Bolivia

It’s amazing how different two lakeside towns separated by 90 miles and one international border can be.

Copacabana, Bolivia, takes the basic layout of Puno, subtracts 94% of the population, adds a few hundred hippies and gives it a much more laid-back vibe.

With colorful houses dotting the hillside and a forest that forms a crescent moon around the town, Copacabana is the perfect place to relax, hike, eat, explore, hit the beach and experience local culture.

 

Copacabana has the most spectacular sunsets.
Copacabana has the most spectacular sunsets.

 

Several towns and lots of untouched nature dot the shoreline near Copacabana.
Several towns and lots of untouched nature dot the shoreline near Copacabana.

 

A series of tombs rest atop the highest mountain in Copacabana.
A series of tombs rest atop the highest mountain in Copacabana.

 

The town of Copacabana had frequent fireworks in the weeks leading up to the annual Festividad en Honor a la Virgen de la Candelaria.
The town of Copacabana had frequent fireworks in the weeks leading up to the annual Festividad en Honor a la Virgen de la Candelaria.

An Epic and Virginal Celebration

For the past four centuries, Bolivia has celebrated la Festividad en Honor a la Virgen de la Candelaria.

In Copacabana, the 431rd annual festividad featured two days of parades, intricate costumes, beer-fueled parties, live music, yummy food and fireworks.

 


 

Celebrating the Festividad en Honor a la Virgen de la Candelaria in Copacabana, Bolivia — alongside the shores of Lake Titicaca
Spreading flowers in Copacabana

 

Celebrating the Festividad en Honor a la Virgen de la Candelaria in Copacabana, Bolivia — alongside the shores of Lake Titicaca
The fiesta lasts well into the night

 

Celebrating the Virgen in Copacabana
Celebrating the Virgen in Copacabana

 

The men’s feet were just as decorated as the women’s
The men’s feet were just as decorated as the women’s

Isla del Sol: the spiritual birthplace of the Incas

According to Incan legend, Isla del Sol is the birthplace of Inti: the Sun God.

“In one version of the myth, the ancient people of the province were without light in the sky for many days and grew frightened of the darkness. Finally, the people saw the Sun emerge from the crag and believed it was the Sun’s dwelling place.” ³

 

Today, Isla del Sol doubles as Copacabana’s most popular tourist destination.

After a three hour boat ride, visitors can either hike the entire island in an afternoon or stay at one of the local hospedajes and savor the natural beauty and ancient Incan ruins.

My wife and I opted for the latter.

 

The northernmost tip of Isla del Sol.
The northernmost tip of Isla del Sol.

 

Do you see a door or a wall?
Do you see a door or a wall?

 

Isla del Sol is a perfect place to sit back, relax and enjoy the spectacular view... as long as the winds cooperate.
Isla del Sol is a perfect place to sit back, relax and enjoy the spectacular view… as long as the winds cooperate.

 

This Incan sacrificial alter can be found among the archaeological ruins on the northern side of Isla del Sol
This Incan sacrificial alter can be found among the archaeological ruins on the northern side of Isla del Sol

Want more Titicaca?

Click here for funny stories and observations about
life, food and altitude sickness on this ancient lake.