Lake Titicaca (shared by Perú and also Bolivia) rises 12,467 feet over the main Andes, covering an ext than 3,282 square miles. That is the biggest lake in south America and the highest navigable lake in the world. Here, we market a tourism of the beautiful floating archipelago of Taquile and Amantaní.

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Text and Photos: Mariana Lafont

The an initial time I saw this good ocean in the highlands ns was twenty years old. I was going on an “initiation journey” from Buenos Aires to Perú by land through a backpack end my shoulder; i was on route from La Paz come Copacabana (Bolivia). I remember the what most recorded my fist (apart indigenous the deep blue that blends v the clear skies of the high plateau) to be the clouds glued to the horizon. Lake Titicaca (shared by Perú and also Bolivia) rises 12,467 feet above the Collao Plateau the the central Andes. It has actually 621 mile of coastline and covers much more than 3,282 square miles, making the the biggest lake in south America and the greatest navigable lake in the world. That is created by two bodies of water separated by the Strait that Tiquina. Because there is no bridge, people and vehicles cross by motorboat.

Although twenty-five tributaries feed right into this crystalline lake and it rains a lot indigenous December to March (the remainder of the year is practically dry), many of the water is shed to evaporation. Back the climate here is extreme, the big body that water creates suitable microclimate for farming activities. If the lake did no exist, this region would have been a frozen and also solitary plateau.

The legend the the beginning of Titicaca (“stone puma” in Quechua) maintains the the human being here live happily in a abundant valley wherein they short nothing and also were protected by Apus (gods of the mountain). The only problem was the they were prohibited from climbing the peaks where the sacred fire burned, but the devil incited them to do so. At some point Apus surprised them together they were climbing and also their fury was so great that they released pumas that devoured the entire populace but conserved one couple. Upon see the massacre, Inti (the sun god) cry for fourty days and forty nights, developing the good lake. When the sunlight came out, the couple, sheltered in a boat, observed that every the pumas had actually been turned come stone.

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Thousands of tourist visit this lake, attractive by its beauty, and likewise by the reality that it’s home to the Aymara, Quechua, and Uro ethnic groups that preserve their genealogical traditions here. The majority of these world are Catholic, having adapted this religion to a culture whose main deity is Pachamama (Mother Earth). To visit the indigenous world of this ethnic groups and also witness in your customs, histories, and beliefs, you must travel to the brilliantly colored islands wherein they live. Amongst the highlights space the floating archipelago of Taquile and Amantaní, constructed by the Uros, in the only of Puno, Perú.

From the Floating Totora to Amantaní

Sailing through the greatest lake in the world and visiting its archipelago is a distinctive experience. The night prior to we left, ns couldn’t sleep a wink and also just as I finally managed to autumn asleep the alarm sounded. It was a cold June morning in Puno, however soon the sun enveloped us. We boarded the boat and also soon spotted the floating islands built by the Uros about four miles away. Today there space some twenty islands, yet this number varies according to the number of families. It appears incredible the such floating truss could support so much weight. The islands are developed on blocks of totora reed roots, whose decomposition produce gasses that enable them come float. The Uros lay number of layers of dry totora reed top top top and build their homes with the very same material. They anchor the islands with lengthy sticks to prevent them indigenous drifting away.

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This ethnic team calls chin the “kotsuña” (“people the the lake”) and, according to their dental tradition, castle were compelled to flee Titicaca after the siege that the Inca Pachacútec. Due to the fact that then they rely on the lake and also the totora reed. Back they have actually turned to tourism, the present residents still practice genealogical traditions such as artisanal fishing (they maintain the fish by drying them in the sun). The ladies are expert weavers and the men are skilled builders and also navigators the beautiful rafts or “little horses” made of totora.

After cruising for a while, us arrive at an area whereby totora reeds abound. In the street you deserve to see the colorful, bright islands. We protect against to pay the enntrance gate fee and also later disembark on among the islands, where an entire family greets us. Us sit in a one on the soft surface to listen to the talk by the head that the family, if the youngest of his children, amazed, strokes mine husband’s red beard. Then several of the group stay come buy handicrafts, others journey about the area, and also some of us take a short voyage on a totora raft before continuing on with the trip.

We sail for a pair of hours until we arrive at the island of Amantaní, which has actually been inhabited since pre-Incan times. In 1580, King Charles V marketed it to the Spaniard Pedro González and also from climate on it was in the hand of soil bosses. In the direction of 1900 there was a string of lengthy droughts, and also the landowners started to offer the land come the natives, who after fifty years recovered the whole island. Because of the boat’s height and also gentle movement, sleep overcomes us. To snap out of ours lethargy we climb atop the boat’s roof and feel the new breeze on our faces. Finally we arrive at the largest island ~ above the Peruvian next of Titicaca, north of the island that Taquile. Top top the dock the group divides up and also Pedro, ours host, greets us. He guides united state to his house, opened a path among a i m crying of sheep. Agitated by the altitude and lack the oxygen, we battle to store up v him as we walk to his dwelling. He is in a hurry since it is a holiday (Pentecost) and the whole town is gathering in the key square. After reflecting us his house and rooms, he serves lunch and also invites us to the celebration. In minutes he is dressed in a highlight white suit and also we follow him through undulating routes to the overfilled plaza.

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All the locals space there in their finest attire, dancing and enjoying themselves. Beer party came and also went and also even the older females drank straight from the rims. The band played nonstop when men and also women pull in colorful outfits twirled come the valuation of the music. After a couple of drinks we left come walk around the island which, at the moment, was deserted. A rock walkway parallel to the intense blue lake available beautiful panoramic views and also if I permitted my creativity to fly, the transported me come an Aegean island.

To walk roughly Amantaní from finish to finish is easy; it stretches only about two miles. Mount Llacastiti is the highest point (13,615 feet) and you have to climb part 984 feet if you want to reach the summit, i m sorry is not so high, but at this altitude any kind of hike is demanding. On our walk, we additionally admired the cultivated terraces, whereby potatoes, oca, barley, and beans room grown, and also cattle space raised. In ~ dusk, you can feel the cold, however it is worth it come cover ourselves increase warmly and look at the stars in this little corner that the world. Us didn’t view any much more of Pedro. One of his youngsters served united state dinner and also we fell quick asleep, exhausted.

The Island the Textiles

The following morning we gained up early to proceed on come Taquile (“Intika” in Quechua). The party had been a long one, Pedro to be asleep and also one that his children served breakfast if his grandm muttered in Quechua. She was upset with Pedro for no looking after ~ his guests better. We laughed at the situation, said goodbye and also thanked them for their an excellent care. ~ a couple of hours we landed on the craggy shores the Taquile. Like Amantaní, this peculiar corner of the human being is house to one of Perú’s most distinct communities. Despite tourism, they have actually not altered their traditions and customs. The island, twenty-two miles east of Puno, is 3.4 mile long and also the second largest island in the Peruvian section of the lake, after ~ Amantaní. The people of Taquile were among the last teams to surrender come the Spaniards in the 16th century. The island was later taken in the name of the emperor Charles V until it passed to the court that Pedro González de Taquile (hence the name). Throughout the colonial period and in the 20th century it was a prison, till 1937 when the old inhabitants started buying land and also recovered the island. After the Spaniards prohibited traditional Incan attire, the islanders adopted the europe peasant dress the they tho wear today.

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The main port the Taquile is three hours away from Puno, Chilcano by boat. A cool staircase bring away you to a city frozen in time, wherein life go on peacefully. It is a micro-world there is no electricity, cars, hotels or stores; over there are just a few shops selling straightforward products. In 2005, the island got notoriety once UNESCO asserted its textile art a “Masterpiece the the Oral and also Intangible Heritage come Humanity.” The clothing are reminiscent of pre-Columbian times in your quality, design, and symbolism, which have actually been passed down from generation come generation. They room woven that llama, alpaca, and sheep wool, tinted with herbal dyes. Females wear red blouses and multi-colored skirts (covered through a large black skirt), cinched with a well belt and protect us from the sunlight by wearing lengthy black veils over their heads.

Men use black towel pants, white shirts, short jackets (the type and colors of i beg your pardon marks their role in the community), and a long embroidered sash through weaving describing the events that have significant the life the the man and also his wife. A woolen cap or cap differentiates married men (red) from solitary ones (white), and the way the earlier of the cap is worn shows whether or no a male is feather to acquire married. To see and buy these textiles you have the right to go come the neighborhood municipality in the square.

In addition to weavings there room several spiritual sites come visit, such together the security hills the Mulsina Pata, Pukara Pata, Takilli Pata, and also Coani Pata, which provide an excellent view of Taquile, the lake, and also the snowy peaks of the Cordillera royal mountain variety in Bolivia. And if you’re lucky enough to visit throughout a festival, you will see the island in every its glory. Many of the fiestas (a blend of Andean and also Christian traditions) are connected to farming activity. In January, a vital month because that agriculture, there space rituals specialized to the Apus come ward turn off frosts, hail, and also droughts. In in march there room carnival dances and also during divine Week Sikuris room danced. In June, ~ above the Sunday that Pentecost, there space rituals come ensure that seeds are fertile, and on the 24th of that month the feast of san Juan is celebrated. Respectable is committed to the building of homes and also in September the an initial plantings take it place, as well as payments come Pachamama.

Isla del Sol

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The many mythical of every the archipelago of Titicaca, the cradle the Inca culture, is the lake’s largest (it is virtually 6.2 miles long by three miles wide). Indigenous civilization of Quechua and Aymara beginnings live there, dedicating us to agriculture, tourism, handicrafts, and also shepherding ~ above their ancient Incan terraces. Isla del Sol, 9.3 miles from Copacabana, is among the main towns in the area (96 mile from La Paz) and a center of pilgrimage for visiting the Virgin of Copacabana. Boats depart every work from Copacabana to Isla del Sol and also Isla de la Luna. Another option, because that those who have more energy and time, is come trek indigenous Yampupata. The takes 3 or four hours to overcome the 10.5 miles between Copacabana and also the Strait of Yampupata ~ above foot. And later you will have to cross the strait in a boat. The island is full of little communities, however the largest are Cha’llapamapa, in the north, and Yumani (offering an ext restaurant and also hotel options) in the south. A many of world go because that the day, but it is really wonderful to spend at least one night enjoy it the incredible sunsets and starry nights.

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The northern component of the island additionally has white sand beaches. If the watercraft stops there, you deserve to take a lovely go (despite the solid sun and altitude) with the highest part of the island, which offers incredible summary views. Friend will also pass number of archeological sites, especially that that la Chincana, v the sacred Rock, native which, follow to legend, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo left in search of the location where lock later established the empire of Cusco. La Chincana is a series of buildings of Inca style, but an ext rustic, built on numerous levels and also connected through doors and hallways. The is stated that the monks who worshiped the sun lived here. Follow me the to walk you should pay numerous “tolls,” because you’ll pass through diverse communities and a chola will certainly be over there to charge. Finally, when you arrive at the southern component (the busiest), you deserve to visit the archeological damages of the Pilkokaina Temple and the rock steps the the Yumani dock that leads come the resource of Life. An unforgettable endure on the lake the the highlands.