The highest navigable lake of the world

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December 14th 2013
Published: December 20th 2013
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After Machu Picchu we spent one more night and day in Cusco just chilling (literally) out and running a few errands. The next day we started our journey towards the Titicaca lake, which lies between Peru and Bolivia. We found a cool way to make the long bus journey from Cusco to the town of Puno on the Peruvian side of the lake; instead of taking a normal one, we took a sightseeing bus, which stopped along the way at several interesting sights, that way the trip felt more like being on a tour rather than just a very long bus journey. The tour included visiting a church, an archeological site and a museum, and stopping at a viewing point for taking pictures of snowcapped mountains.

Puno didn’t seem like a very nice place, just busy and not picturesque at all, apart from few buildings at the main square. So, next morning we headed immediately for the bus to the Bolivian lakeside village, Copacabana. Later we realized this was a very stupid mistake. We had read and heard much about the handmade floating islands on Titicaca, where people still live traditionally and where you can take boat trips, we definitely wanted to see those. We could have taken a three hour tour from Puno, and still reach Copacabana the same day, but no, we thought we will take a trip to the islands from the Bolivian side. Well, there are no trips from the Bolivian side, except those where you first take a bus back to Puno, and that we didn’t want to do. We hadn’t fully realized how huge the lake is, and that the floating islands actually lay in front of Puno. Well, we did see many Tripadvisor reviews complaining those islands are just a tourist trap and so on, so maybe we didn’t miss that much after all (or at least so we tell ourselves).

So, the first moods after arriving in Copacabana and looking into what there is to do were less than impressed. The lake didn’t look so spectacular from the shore, just a lake, and we wouldn’t see the floating islands either. Also we got a bad (but cheap) lunch. Would there be anything exciting at Titicaca? Well, at least we had very nice accommodation with lake view balcony, comfortable beds and a good restaurant, this was supposedly the place to book if you wanted to pamper yourself, but it only cost 22USD per room per night, pretty good value, even though the wifi hardly worked.

Things started to look up the next morning when we set out to our boat tour to Isla Del Sol. It was a very slow boat, and took about two hours to reach the starting point of the hike across the island. We had read that the scenery on Titicaca is prettier on the Bolivian vs. Peruvian side, and it was beautiful indeed, already before reaching the island, but especially the views from the hike were fantastic. The hike took more than three hours and involved few strenuous climbs uphill. There are indigenous people living on Isla Del Sol, and we had to pay them at several points of the hike to use the trail. They live quite traditionally too, as when we reached the end of the hike, a small harbor village, we ran into a traffic jam of donkeys coming up the steep stairs from the shore carrying heavy loads. Apparently a boat from the mainland had arrived loaded with goods to the island residents, who took their donkeys down and loaded the stuff on their backs. When our boat back the mainland left, it was raining and quite chilly, so we couldn’t enjoy the lake views from the top of the boat, like we had in the morning. It was btw generally very cold in Copacabana, during the day in the sun it was quite warm, but in the evenings and nights the temperatures dropped probably to only some Celsius degrees. The hostel tried to use stoves and portable heaters to heat the place up, but with little success, and so we ended up sleeping in full clothing anyway. That is understandable, though, considering that Titicaca, at 3812 meters, is the highest navigable (whatever that means) lake in the world.

So, at the end we were quite happy about what we had seen on the Titicaca. To top off a great day, we had a dinner of fondue at the hostel’s restaurant. We got a table full of vegetables, beef and trout, as well as a bit of wine for just ten euros each – we like the prices in Bolivia!

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