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The majestic Lake Titicaca, located at 3812 meters above sea level between the territories of Peru and Bolivia, is the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest freshwater lake in South America. It has water of increible color from which emerge beautiful islands like Taquile or Amantani, that can be reached after a nice boat ride. Some have interesting remains of pre-Inca temples.
The lake has an area of 8562 km2, roughly the size of Puerto Rico, more than 3 times the size of Luxembourg or a fifth of the size of Switzerland. 56% of the lake is located in Peru and 44% in Bolivia. It has a very variable depth, the average is about 100 meters but it reaches about 280 meters in the Peruvian side. It is fed by over 25 rivers. Despite the height at which it is located, the average water temperature is 13ºC. It is relatively quiet but in the summer months (December to March) violent storms can occur, creating huge waves on the surface of the lake. Since 1978 the Titicaca National Reserve was established to preserve the natural resources of the lake and to protect its wildlife.
The lake is home to diverse wildlife. Vicunas, alpacas, llamas, guinea pigs, foxes and Andean cats are present throughout the area. As for birds, chulumpi tiki, guallata, Andean flamingo and Titicaca grebe are the most representative. In its waters you can find fishes like pencil catfishes, carachis and trouts.
One of the most important pre-Inca cultures that settled on the banks of the lake were the Chiripas in the south and the Pucaras in the north. Around year 200 AD, the Tiwanaku culture dominated the Titicaca lake, leaving important ceremonial centers on the islands and around the lake. Later came the Incas for which the lake had great religious significance. Indeed, they considered Island of the Sun as the place of departure of the legendaries Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo of their journey to found their new empire, Tawantinsuyu.
There are 36 islands scattered around the lake. On the Peruvian side, the most important islands are Amantani, Taquile, Soto and Chirita. The Wiñaymarca archipelago has islands on both sides of the border. On the Bolivian side, the most important islands are Island of the Sun and Suriqui.
With an area of 9.28 km², Amantani Island is the largest island on the Peruvian side of the lake. Its highest point is the summit of Mount Llacastiti at 4130 m, ie 320 m above the lake. The population is composed by about 800 families (4000 people) spread over 8 communities. they produce potatoes, barley and beans. Other activities include fishing, livestock and textiles. The island has natural viewpoints and some archaeological remains left by the Tiahuanaco culture like Pacha Tata and Pacha Mama. Less touristy than its neighbor Taquile, it works on rural tourism, allowing tourists to spend a few days in the homes of the villagers so they can learn the local customs. The warmth of its people and the majesty of its scenery will make your stay on the island an unforgettable experience !
With a length of 5.5 km and a width of 1.5 km, Taquile Island is the second largest island in the lake on the Peruvian side, after its neighbor Amantaní. It has a population of about 2200 inhabitants. Its economy is based on fishing, potatoes growing thanks to a typical platforms system, and tourism (it receives over 40,000 tourists each year). The taquileños are especially known for their weaving, considered the finest not only in Peru but even in the world. It also has some interesting archaeological remains.
There is a set of artificial islands in the lake, the Uros Floating Islands. The islands are made of woven totora (an aquatic reed) that forms a natural layer on which the Uros build their houses, also of woven totora. In Peru there are over 20 uro islands of the Chulluni ethny. The number of households in each island is quite variable, generally ranging from three to ten. Most tours propose the visit of one of these islands.
On the Bolivian side, the Island of the Sun is certainly the best known. With an area of 14.3 km2 (9.6 km long by 4.6 km wide), it is the largest island of the lake. In Inca times, it was a sanctuary with a temple of virgins dedicated to the sun god (Inti), hence its name. Throughout the entire island, you can find several archaeological sites like the "Sacred Rock" (or "Rock of Origins"), from which emerged Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo to go to found the city of Cusco
. You can also see the "Chinkana" (or labyrinth) and the Palace of Pilkokaina.
The lake has numerous beaches like Capachica, Chifron, Ccotos, Charcas, Chatuma, Juli and Perka on the Peruvian side and Copacabana on the Bolivian side.
The most important city on the Peruvian side is Puno
, a city of over 125,000 inhabitants and exit point for tours to the Amantani, Taquile and the Uros Floating Islands. In the city, you can visit the Cathedral of the eighteenth century and the Kuntur viewpoint from where you will have a spectacular panoramic view of the city and the lake. Near the town you can visit the archaeological site of Sillustani, a cemetery where you can see a series of impressive tombs in the form of inverted cone, belonging to the Kolla culture. The city is also famous for hosting on late January the Feast of Our Lady of Candelaria. It is the largest and most important cultural, musical and dancing manifestation of Peru, and one of the most important religious festivals in South America. It involves about 100,000 dancers and 10,000 musicians.
Other interesting towns are Chucuito, former home to the Tax Office ("Caja Real") during the colonial era. In this town you can visit the beautiful Church of the Assumption, of the seventeenth century. Outside town, you can visit the shrine of Inca Uyo, dedicated to the worship of fertility. The town of Juli is also called the "Rome of Aymaras" for the number and beauty of its churches. Pomata houses beautiful churches among which that of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. James, of the seventeenth century. Yunguyo is the border town with Bolivia and organizes trade fairs every Sunday.
On the Bolivian side, Copacabana is the most important city. In Copacabana you can visit the Museum of the Virgin of Copacabana, the Calvary and the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana. Around town, you can walk along Kusijata Bay, visit the "viewpoint of the Inca" and the "Courthouse of the Inca". It is also the starting point to the Island of the Sun and Island of the Moon.