Is it worth going to Lake Titicaca?

Is it worth going to Lake Titicaca?

When we were planning our trip to Peru, we were close to skipping Lake Titicaca altogether, mainly because of all the bad press it receives about being so touristy.

But if you avoid the tourist traps, you will discover some of the most beautiful, serene and tranquil places in Peru, such as Amantaní island. You can have an authentic experience, living within a welcoming community, rich with culture and no foreigners for miles.

WHAT IS LAKE TITICACA?

Lake Titicaca is considered to be the origin of the Inca civilisation, where the creator god, Viracocha made the moon, sun and stars from the islands in the centre of this large lake. It is also believed to be the birthplace of the first Inca king, Manco Capac, the sun god's son.

Visiting Lake Titicaca Manco Capac legend
Manco Capac, the first Inca king, born in Lake Titicaca according to legend

Lake Titicaca straddles the border of Peru and Bolivia at an altitude of 3,800 metres (12,500 feet). It is not only the world's highest lake, but also one of the oldest, thought to be over 1 million years old.

There are several indigenous communities living here, the most prominent are the Uros in the floating man-made islands, the Quechua speakers of Amantaní Island and the Taquile people of Taquile island.

Map for is it worth going to lake titicaca

WHY IS LAKE TITICACA CONSIDERED A TOURIST TRAP?

Lake Titicaca gets a bad reputation mainly because of the Floating Islands of the Uros people. Most tour companies in Puno will sell you a day trip to the Uros Islands with promises of a unique and authentic indigenous experience. Regrettably, you won't get it here.

You can't help feel like it is completely staged and orchestrated for tourists. The experience involves a 30 minutes well rehearsed talk about their way of life and how the islands are made. Then you're swiftly directed to their handicraft souvenirs and invited to take a $25 tour in their water taxis. Unfortunately, they are quite pushy with the way this is done, which makes you doubt the authenticity of it all.

It hasn't always been this way. For centuries the Uros people have lived undisturbed, as fishermen and hunters, in the middle of the lake. However in 1986, a severe storm devastated their man made homes, pushing them to rebuild closer to the security of Puno.

As a result, new opportunities arose from tourism, but with every touristic experience, if it is not regulated properly, it falls into the trap of turning into a Disney-fication of the culture. Sadly, this is what we found has happened to the Uros people.

Is it worth going to Lake Titicaca Uros tourist trap
Part of the show put on for tourists on the floating islands of the Uros people of Lake Titicaca

CAN YOU FIND A MORE AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE ON LAKE TITICACA?

If you spend some more time venturing beyond the islands near Puno, you will quickly discover a more authentic and far more rewarding experience. We recommend spending a few days in a homestay at one of the more remote islands, like Amantaní.

Amantaní island is one of the larger islands, located 40 km (25 miles) from Puno. It has around 4,000 inhabitants with 10 communities, each with its own chief and outfit! It takes around 3 hours to reach it by boat. As such, very few tourists come here.

Amantani island reason why it is worth going to lake titicaca
Amantaní Island: one of the more remote islands of Lake Titicaca

We spent 2 days on Amantaní Island and what we loved the most was how welcoming the locals are. They are not only very friendly, but also curious and excited to show off their island.

The most touching moment was as we were leaving, one mother who was also on our boat taking her children to school in Puno said to us proudly in Spanish “thank you for visiting us on Amantaní”. There was no hidden agenda, she didn't work for anyone, she wasn't trying to sell us anything, she was simply excited and proud to see people taking an interest in her island.

Is Lake Titicaca worth visiting Amantani Island
Some of the friendly locals of Amantaní Island

WHERE TO STAY ON AMANTANÍ ISLAND?

Amantaní island has a mix of traditional homestays to immerse yourself with the local life. It also has a new exclusive lodge available, offering a barefoot luxury experience and still allowing interaction with locals.

AMANTICA LODGE

  • Two exclusive suites offering incredible views over Lake Titicaca with private terraces, fireplace and delicious gourmet food using local ingredients like alpaca, fish and quinoa.
  • Luxury yes, whilst maintaining authenticity: the rooms are built using traditional materials like wood, mud, reed (the main material in the lake) and are decorated with straw roofs, typical of the island.
  • Prices at Amantica Lodge start from $670 / £540 a night and includes all meals and transportation.
Amantica Lodge is it worth going to lake titicaca
Our room at Amantica Lodge on Amantaní Island

TITICACA LODGE HOMESTAY

  • This is a homestay offered by Osvaldo and his family, who are native to the island. The rooms are rustic but cosy, clean with comfortable warm beds. The real highlight is the food. Every meal was unique, made from local ingredients.
  • Prices at Titicaca Lodge start from $44 / £35 a night, which only includes breakfast. Lunch and dinner is available for an extra cost.
Peace and tranquility it is worth going to lake titicaca
Peace and tranquility on Lake Titicaca

LAKE TITICACA: the highest blue sea in the world

Lake Titicaca is not just about the people and their culture. The landscapes are breathtaking and the lake reminded us of the Mediterranean Sea.

One of our favourite moments at Amantaní Island was watching the beautiful sunsets on our private terrace, listening to the sound of the waves and just soaking up the peace and serenity of the place.

SO IS IT WORTH GOING TO LAKE TITICACA?

If you're tight with time and only have a few hours to spend, then skip it. At best you'll visit the floating islands of the Uros people near Puno and won't enjoy it.

But if you have 2-3 days, then we strongly advise investing your time heading to one of the most remote islands like Amantaní. It truly is an experience everyone should add to their Peru itinerary.

Amantani island Lake Titicaca
Amantaní Island: where time stands still…

OUR FAVORITE TRAVEL RECOMMENDATIONS

⭐️ TRAVEL INSURANCE — We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

⭐️ SAFETY & SECURITY — All travelers can sometimes encounter danger when traveling. CloseCircle is your “virtual body guard” mobile app which provides security alerts and support wherever you are in the world. They have a 24/7 emergency response team monitoring their users who will contact you immediately if the SOS swipe button is activated. Support can include anything from practical advice, to free evacuation from areas with extreme weather or security risks. You can read more about CloseCircle in our article about how to stay safe whilst traveling.

⭐️ ONLINE ANONYMITY — A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a must in many countries: it allows you to surf anonymously and maintain your privacy whilst traveling. You'll particularly need it in countries where dating apps are blocked by the government. We recommend ExpressVPN, a reliable and cost effective service which we used and loved during our travels.

⭐️ HOTELS or APARTMENTS — When we plan a trip, we always look for the best hotel deals. We love Booking.com because not only do they have a comprehensive listing of accommodation options, they also offer the best prices. Added bonus: they provide 24/7 support and free cancellation for most listings.

⭐️ SIGHTSEEING and ADVENTURES — When we travel somewhere, we like to seek out the best experiences, whether it is cooking with locals in Bangkok, hiking on a glacier in Patagonia, or going on a wildlife safari in Sri Lanka. Our favorite place to look is GetYourGuide because they have over 30,000 highly rated activities, a user-friendly booking process with free cancellation and a 24 hour customer support.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for the tips! We have taken your advice and booked the Titicaca Lodge. I am a little concerned about transportation to the island. We should get to Puno around 1:30 pm on the first day. We will have a total of three nights. Should we stay in Puno the first night or can we catch a boat that late in the day? I only booked two nights on Amantani for the time being. Also, how do we go about getting a boat to take us there and back?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Candie. Yeah not a bad idea to stay overnight in Puno- we did that. For transfer, Amantani Lodge where we stayed picked us up and then brought us back. They should be able to arrange it for you 🙂

      Reply

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