Stunning, unpredictable. and enormous, visiting Lake Titicaca is a world of unique flora, fauna, cultures, and geology. Lago Titicaca, which means lake of the grey (titi) puma (caca) in Quechua, borders Peru and Bolivia, with Peru´s largest portion to the northwest. While Peru boasts the largest port in Puno, Bolivia´s side has Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna, two beautiful islands with great views and Inca ruins. The Bahía de Puno, separated from the lake proper by the two jutting peninsulas of Capaschica and Chucuito, is home to the descendents of the Uro people, who are now mixed with the Aymará and Quechua. The lakeshores are lush with totora reeds-valuable as building material, cattle fodder, and, in times of famine, food for humans.
Although it´s generally cold, the beaming sun keeps you warm and if you don´t watch it, burned.
A boat is necessary for visiting lake Titicaca. Most people go to the islands with a tour, but colectivo boats in Puno Bay will transport you for USD 3 - USD 10. Most boats are super slow, super old, and they won´t leave port unless at least 10 people are smushed aboard. A four-hour trip will take only an hour in one of the newer speedboats that the higher-end tour companies now use.
A hidden island in a corner of Lake Titicaca, Ticonata is one of the greener islands on the lake. It has a warm microclimate that allows lush green grass to grow, crops to bloom, and many birds to be spied. In 2004 the Quechua-speaking natives of this island were nearly gone - only two families remained on the island. But a community-based project began to teach locals how to use their resources for travel tourism. Today more than a dozen families have returned and ancient island practices are being taught to younger generations. Only a small number of visitors are allowed at a time and the focus of a trip is to help families farm and fish while learning the ancient traditions of the Ticonatas.
It´s typically a two-day trip that starts by visiting the floating islands, then the Capachica Peninsula and Llachon, where you can hike through an original pre-Inca path or kayak in the lake. Following a picnic lunch, you head to Ticonatas. In the morning you´ll head to Amantani Island by rustic sailboats and then back to Puno. Most visits need to be arranged by Edgar Adventures. A group tour is easier to book, but a private tour is an option as is volunteering on the island for several days.
One of the peninsulas that form the bay of Puno, Llachon juts out on the lake near Amantani and Taquile. You can venture out yourself from the port in Puno via water colectivo and then arrange a homestay once in Llachon, or for slightly more money, you can have a tour operator arrange the accommodations for you. By land back from Puno it´s about 2-3 hours, Llachón is also a great place to kayak. Kayaking operator Ttitikayak has lots of trips around here.
In the Winaymarka section of Lake Ttiticca, near the Bolivian border are the Aymara-speaking islands of Anapia and Yuspique. This off-the-beaten-path two-day trip can be done with a tour operator or on your own. With 280 families living on the islands, very few people speak English or even Spanish, but rather traditional Aymara.
The trip usually begins in Puno where you board a bus for two hours to the village of Yunguyo near Punta Hermosa where you catch a 1.5 - hour sailboat ride to the flat, but fertile Anapia. On arrival hosts will meet visitors and guide them back to their family´s home for an over night stay. The day is then spent farming, tending to the animals, or playing with the children, and also includes a hiking trip to nearby Yupisque Island, where lunch is cooked in a natural clay oven and buried in hot soil with lots of herbs, is served along with fresh fish. Yuspique is not very populated, but is home to more than 100 wild vicuñas.
After returning to Anapia you´ll follow an evening´s activities of traditional family life, such as music or dance.
Excursions to the ploating islands of the Uros as well as to any of the islands on Lake Titicaca can be arranged through tour agencies in Puno. Most tours depart between 7:30 and 9 am, as the lake can become choppy in the afternoon. You also can take the local boat at the Puno dock for about the same price as a tour, although boats don´t usually depart without at least 10 passengers.