Everyone knows about Lake Titicaca, even if just for its socially awkward name, but what puts this massive high-altitude lake on the map is its culturally significance for both Bolivia and Peru. The famous Uros Floating Islands and the Incan religious site Isla del Sol are two major draws to this 12,507-feet high lake and what brought us to its launchpad cities of Copacabana, Bolivia and Puno, Peru.

 

Cobacabana travel tips
To get to the peninsula of Copacabana, Bolivia our minibus was floated across on a boat. This would be fine but when its pitch black at night and the driver unexpectedly tells you to get out and hop on a dingy while your luggage floats across on a barge, it sort of throws you for a loop. Nevertheless, we got to this beautiful lakeside town with ourselves and luggage intact.

 

copacabana travel tips
A hike up the city’s Mount Calvario gave great perspective on the town and vastness of the lake. For locals its a weekend hotspot to pay homage to the 14 stations of the Cross and enjoy the outdoors. If you get a chance to take this hike, we suggest taking the more scenic and challenging back route up, then  the stairs down.

 

Copacabana religious ceremonies
Pilgrims travel from Bolivia to pay homage to Copacabana’s Virgin of Candeleria but more interesting us  was its quirky bi-product: La Benedicion de Movilidades or “blessing of the vehicles.” Cars come fully decked out in streamers, carnations, stuffed animals and other accoutrements for the lord and priest performing the ceremony of safe travels. Here, we were lucky enough to see a car pastor perform the christening on this minivan and plenty of other gussied-up vehicles waiting in the wings.

 

visiting copacabana bolivia
The 16th-century Basilica of our Lady of Copacabana is in mint condition with spectacular domes and Spanish tilework. Vendors line its plaza selling votives, incense, rosary beads…the works.

 

Bolivian cuisine
The shore was packed with food vendors but this ceviche stand was calling our name. Fresh fish from the lake is cured in lime and topped with these corn-nut-style nuggets, this may have been the best dish we had in all of Bolivia.

 

Isla del Sol travel tips
Across the shore from Copacabana lies Isla del Sol, birthplace of the Incan Sun god and home to over 80 Incan ruins. The island is usually a day trip for tourists but it’s absolutely worth an overnight—for the unreal sunsets if nothing else.

 

bolivia travel tips
Though most of the tour operators want to sell you a ticket to the north side of the island, we loved the quiet and calm of the south shore. Our cliff-side B&B, Jjacha Inti, had spectacular views and it was close enough to the shoreline that we could watch the boats come in and the mules get packed for their daily deliveries.

 


There are no cars or roads on this island, just an ancient system of walking trails. We rambled up and down through traditional towns, beach coves, and terraced farms, getting a look into this fascinatingly isolated culture.

 

Incan Ruins Isla del Sol
The labyrinth-like Sacred Rock is the island’s main attraction. The stone structure is in good condition despite the abundance of cows and pigs making home of its corridors.

 

isla el sol travel
There is something magical about Isla del Sol, even if the roaming miniature llamas are swaying my vote.

 

floating islands toll booth
Our journey across the Lake Titicaca continues to Uros, Peru’s floating Islands. Built entirely out of totora reeds and rope, these pre-Incan man-made islands were created as a defensive strategy to keep mobile in case of invasion. Today, this exceptional community still survives off fishing, trade, and now tourism. This small reed structure is the Uros toll booth for curious boats passing through.

 

Visiting the Floating Islands
Around 44 islands comprise Uros and with 2-10 people living on each. For every family to make a bit of money from tourism and not to have their daily lives totally disturbed, the island communities take turns hosting tourists a couple times a week. On our tour we visited two islands, learning about their homes, crafts, and life on the water.

 

Life on the Floating Islands
Layers and layers of these reeds are bound together to form the buoyant floor. Constantly soaking in water, the the lower reeds start to rot away so new layers must be added every few months to keep the homes afloat. A major part of the men’s tasks is to simply maintain this vulnerable landmass, while ladies mostly tend to the crafts and cooking.

We fell in love with Lake Titicaca. Which part did you like best?

  • Bill McCue

    Great post, Anne. Thanks for sharing your amazing trip with us. Godspeed!
    Bill McCue

    • http://HoneyTrek.com/ Mike Howard – HoneyTrek.com

      Thanks so much Bill. You know Mike from back in the Kiwibox days right? great to meet you – Anne

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=768603196 Kristin DeMarco

    I can’t imagine a home on reeds and having to keep replacing the flooring, talk about maintenance! 

    • http://HoneyTrek.com/ Mike Howard – HoneyTrek.com

      omg yeah. and it keeps degrading and your home sinks a bit, then you lift up your house, add a few feet of reeds, and back to life as normal….pretty nuts eh? and the floor was really squishy, it was fun to walk on.

  • Lee Rider

    Wow, its amazing how some cultures remain virtually unchanged over centuries

    • http://HoneyTrek.com/ Mike Howard – HoneyTrek.com

      yeah it really is Lee. and these guys moved out onto the island when they didnt want to obey the rules laid in place by the Spanish colonialists…love it. everyone should visit this place!

  • KimRogers2012

    Very interesting.  What’s up with Homer Simpson?  Why him?

    • http://HoneyTrek.com/ Mike Howard – HoneyTrek.com

      Thanks Kim. We have no idea why Homer, but the Simpsons are huge down there, they were used in lots of signage, and we saw many TVs with the simpsons on in the evenings…translations were hysterical :)

  • valcope

    Gorgeous photos. I promise I will no longer giggle when I hear about Lake Titicaca.
    VCC

    • http://HoneyTrek.com/ Mike Howard – HoneyTrek.com

      Val, thanks for the love on the photos! Yeah now you can’t giggle….really this place was amazing and these people were an inspiration. They have school boats (instead of buses). Milk delivery boats, it really was such a unique “city”

  • http://HoneyTrek.com/ Mike Howard – HoneyTrek.com

    Thanks, Erik! Yummmm…yes,we had plenty of trucha! I actually like it better than trout in the states, it has more of salmon heartiness.

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