Lake Titicaca, glistening atop the Andes Mountains, is a tourist attraction, spiritual oasis, and cultural hub all in one. It is also South America’s highest (at 12,507 feet/3,812 meters) and largest (at an astounding 3,230 square miles/8,366 square kilometers) lake, as well as the highest navigable lake in the world.
The best way to explore Lake Titicaca is on its famed waters. Ride a boat out to the Uros Floating Islands to learn how the Uro people have lived on Lake Titicaca for generations; Taquile and Amantani Islands are particularly well known for their well-preserved cultural traditions and handicrafts, and they offer lodging and homestays. Active travelers can explore the lake on a kayak or paddleboard for a more adventurous outing. Most Lake Titicaca tours cover the basic attractions, while a private tour gives you more opportunity to customize your itinerary. Trips to Titicaca National Preserve, a protected section of the lake, offer opportunities to see 60 species of bird, such as the endemic Titicaca grebe, as well as fish and amphibians, including frogs weighing up to seven pounds (three kilograms). If you have more time in the region, multi-day tours often include visits to Machu Picchu, Lima, and Cusco.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Lake Titicaca is a must for nature enthusiasts and those wanting to learn more about native cultures.
- The lake is split between Peru and Bolivia, and is accessible from both sides.
- Be prepared for altitude sickness if you are not acclimated before arrival.
- Dress in layers with sun protection for fierce sun, chilly afternoons, and cold nights.
How to Get There
The lake is divided between Peru and Bolivia, which bookend its beauty with the small cities of Puno and Copacabana, respectively. Both are fine bases to explore the lake’s amazing islands, replete with hotels and restaurant. Most travelers reach these cities by bus, though flights are available to the Inca Manco Cápac Airport in Juliaca, roughly an hour from Puno, and a train runs between Puno and Cusco. A few of the islands also offer lodging, though some are available only to travelers on tours.
When to Get There
For the most warmth and sunshine, visit Lake Titicaca from May through September, though temperatures are still chilly at night. Expect rain almost daily from October through March.
Lake Titicaca is thought to be the birthplace of the Andean peoples, where the Creator God Viracocha summoned the sun, moon, and first human beings from what is now called Isla del Sol. The Incas, Aymaras, Uros, and countless other indigenous nations thus hold this lake sacred.