Home Peru The Best Places to See When Visiting Lake Titicaca

The Best Places to See When Visiting Lake Titicaca

by David
Copacabana Calvary, Visiting Lake Titicaca Bolivia

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Visit the likes of Bolivia and Peru and much of the attention is drawn to hiking in the Andes Mountains. Sure visiting places like Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail is fantastic but tourists also have a great time visiting Lake Titicaca. Deep in the highlands of the Andes in South America, this lake spans across the border between Peru and Bolivia. It also happens to be the highest navigable body of water in the world, which incidentally, seems to make it a popular trivia question.

Anyway, on both the Bolivian and Peruvian sides, there are some great destinations to visit. Some are found on the shores of the lake, while other must-see destinations are actually found on the lake itself. What’s great is that Lake Titicaca manages to combine deep historical and cultural significance with some beautiful raw scenery.

I know from my time travelling around here in 2015, there was plenty more here than I ever would have expected. Each of these places offers a different balance of these elements and feel wholly different from one another. Plus, there’s the modern divide between places on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and in Peru. So with all that in mind, here are the best places to see as you’re visiting Lake Titicaca.

 

Uros Islands, Peru

Uros Islands, Visiting Lake Titicaca Peru

Perhaps the most famous of the Lake Titicaca attractions has to be the Uros Islands just off its western end. Better known as the Lake Titicaca floating islands, these man-made islands are constructed from floating reed plants roped together. This is quite a complex and continuous process to ensure the stability of the islands, but their indigenous residents are up to the task. Safe to say, you’ve unlikely seen anything quite like them.

There’s many things fascinating about the Uros Islands, from how they’re constructed to the lifestyle that this environment demands. Even just how these low-lying islands seem to appear out of nowhere as you first arrive is a surprise. Once reached from the mainland, visitors are shown about the reed islands and see how the local Uru people live. Walking about, it’s hard to get accustomed to the way the island’s reeds gently sink beneath your feet.

Floating Islands of Reed, Visiting Lake Titicaca Peru

Surviving mostly on tourism in this day and age, the Uru people sell various hand crafted products to tourists. They also offer rides in magnificent reed boats as they gently glide from one island to the next. The Uru people really make the most of this resource and manage to create something special from it. Even if you only visit to admire their ingenuity, it’s worth it.

 

Getting There: Visiting the Uros Islands on a tour from Puno is the most common way people get out there. But while many only come for the day, some choose to try a local homestay and spend the night on the reed islands.

 

Copacabana, Bolivia

Copacabana, Lake Titicaca Places

Sitting just by the Peru border at Lake Titicaca’s eastern end is the coastal town of Copacabana. No, not the famous beach in Brazil, but a humble town with one heck of a view. Much of Copacabana is fairly standard and indistinguishable from any other Bolivian town, but it does have a few features that make it a noteworthy place to visit on Lake Titicaca.

First off is the simple fact that it has a rather pleasant lakefront, with a slight beach and plenty of boats. Then there’s the slightly unexpected hippy vibe that parts of the town has managed to cultivate. This is definitely due to its place on the backpacker route as the first stop for those crossing into Bolivia from Peru. To me it was most felt on Avenida 6 de Agosto, with most of the hostels and foreign restaurants are found.

Lake Titicaca, Visiting Lake Titicaca Bolivia

But the real highlight is the hilltop Calvario that overlooks the lake with some incredible views. Associated with the 16th century Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana in town, the Calvary is topped by an altar that is very important to the local religious community. It also is quite the tough walk up because of the steep incline and the fact that it sits at 3,841 metres elevation. Thankfully, once you’re at the top you can find somewhere to sit and take in the panoramic view over Copacabana and Lake Titicaca.

 

Getting There: Take a bus either from Puno in Peru or from La Paz, which also involves a ferry crossing as well. There’s a decent range of accommodation in Copacabana that you can choose from.

 

Puno, Peru

Puno View, Visiting Lake Titicaca Peru

Of the many places positioned by Lake Titicaca, few received as mixed a response as the city of Puno. It seems that your personality, company and circumstance play a huge part in whether you enjoy your time here or not. Why then do so many people come here? Basically because Puno is very much a natural stopping point between ever-popular Cusco and La Paz in Bolivia. It also makes for a great setting off point for other destinations around Lake Titicaca and southern Peru as you can see in this article.

As for Puno itself, the city has long been a trading hub for this part of Lake Titicaca, as well as communities in the surrounding region. For tourists to Puno, the best visits seem to coincide with local festivals like Puno Week in early November, as well as Carnaval celebrations.

Everyday attractions in Puno though focus on the city’s historic churches like Puno Cathedral, as well as the panoramic city views from the hilltop miradors. In the end, Puno is typically an essential stop along Lake Titicaca, so make the most of it.

Puno Streets, Visiting Lake Titicaca Peru

Getting There: Puno is a fairly major travel destination for this corner of Peru. It’s one of the standard stops on many Peru itineraries, whether’s it via Juliaca Airport, the Andean Explorer train or a bus from various major destinations. As such, the choice of where to stay in Puno is one with many options.

 

Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Isla del Sol, Visiting Lake Titicaca Bolivia

One of the coolest and most underrated destinations in this corner of South America has to be another of the Lake Titicaca islands – Isla del Sol. A rugged island, it owes its name to the fact that the Incas believed their sun god was born on this island. Home to several small local communities, Isla del Sol is also the site of many well-preserved Inca remains. Essentially, the island is a well-rounded destination, with something for everyone.

Generally, visitors will spend time in either village of Challapampa in the north, Yumani in the south, or both. To properly see both in a day though, requires hiking from one end of the island to the other. A common activity here on Isla del Sol, I rather failed at it when I tried.

This means traversing the hilly and often sparse terrain. Still, once you start to get good views of the island’s scenery, it’s well worth it. Throw in intriguing Inca ruins like the site at Chinkana and the Inca Stairs at Yumani, and it’s safe to say there’s plenty to see.

Yumani, Visiting Lake Titicaca Bolivia

Only accessible by a slow boat ride, visiting Isla del Sol is a nice day trip from Copacabana. It seems to be quite similar to islands on Peru’s side of the lake, like Taquile island and Amantani island. Still, if you can manage to see more than one island, you won’t regret it.

 

Getting There: To reach Isla del Sol, take a ferry over from Copacabana. This can mean either a day trip over to the island, camping on the island overnight or finding a local homestay.

 

Sillustani, Peru

Sillustani , Visiting Lake Titicaca Peru

Although not exactly perched on Lake Titicaca, one other sight that surely counts it’s that close is Sillustani. Ruins from a cemetery that has existed before even the Inca, Sillustani is found by Lake Umayo just outside Puno. This historic attraction is easily spotted despite being situated on quite a rural, hilly landscape. That’s thanks to the remaining burial towers called chullpas that stand proudly among piles of scattered stone.

Not all the chullpas have survived all that gracefully, with many collapsed or reconstructed in recent years. That being said, some of the funerary towers still have carvings of animals shown on their side. Considering that many civilizations have inhabited the area since the Aymara people built them, that’s understandable. Today, it seems to be surrounded by farm land, with herds of alpaca nearby.

Sillustani , Visiting Lake Titicaca Peru

Then there’s the beautiful scene of Lake Umayo, looking like I imagine a Scottish loch would. The view of the lake really stuck with me, from a lonely fisherman paddling out across it, to Isla Umayo and its sheer cliffs. Hard to think that with a short drive you’re back in the midst of Puno.

 

Getting There: It’s possible to visit Sillustani with a day trip from Puno. Independent travel, on the other hand, could be quite a challenge.

 

Visiting Lake Titicaca

Isla del Sol View, Visiting Lake Titicaca Bolivia

Most of these places to see when visiting Lake Titicaca are firmly found on the tourist trail through Peru and Bolivia. That’s good news for travellers, as that means you shouldn’t have too hard a time reaching them. As transport providers have surely changed since I was last there, I won’t be much use in that regard.

Same goes for Lake Titicaca tours, but I will say that booking things locally worked well for me. If you are hoping to book ahead, it’s worth checking out Viator for places like Copacabana as clearly there are some options available. As mentioned earlier, Lake Titicaca also features on a number of longer tours, like those offered by G Adventures. Ultimately though, staying in Puno and Copacabana are your two best bets for visiting most of the things to do in Lake Titicaca’s area.

 


If you’ve been, where were your favourite places when visiting Lake Titicaca? What are the other best places to see in this part of South America? Should I share more from my time in Latin America? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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6 comments

California Globetrotter December 8, 2018 - 6:57 am

It’s always so interesting to read your stories and how honest you are about failing at something. This is a beautiful region I would definitely be willing to get my hiking boots out for! Thanks David for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

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beatravelling December 8, 2018 - 10:34 am

You covered a lot of places! I did Uros and Puno only. #theweeklypostcard

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Anda December 9, 2018 - 3:58 am

Wow, you made it all the way to South America, David. That’s great! Visiting Peru and Bolivia is very high up on my list, but I was rather thinking about seeing Machu Picchu and other sites. I had no idea Lake Titicaca is so beautiful. Totally worth adding to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing this. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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Brooke of Passport Couture December 9, 2018 - 6:08 am

Isla del Sol looks beautiful! That destination would be at the top of my list. I unfortunately did not make it this far south when I was in Peru, but since I have Bolivia on my bucket list, I know where I need to go when I make it there. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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Sara December 9, 2018 - 9:00 pm

Beautiful photos, as always, David. I’m amazed at the size of the reed boat compared to the homes on the island. It’s HUGE. I’m fascinated by the reed islands. Do you know anything about why the Uru people decided to settle there? It seems rather resourceful – but also I would expect it requires quite a bit of upkeep. It might have enhanced stability though if there’s a rainy season… Thanks for sharing – now I have something new to research!

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Elaine Masters December 10, 2018 - 4:26 am

I spent ten days traversing Peru but bowed out before going to Lake Titicaca. The altitude was too difficult for my heart. Still I would love to see those islands and views. Such an interesting part of the world.

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