Lake Titicaca

Shutterstock/6700069/Jarno Gonzalez ZarraonandiaStraddling Peru's southern border with landlocked Bolivia are the deep, sapphire-blue waters of mystical Lake Titicaca, everyone's favourite school geography statistic. This gigantic inland sea covers up to 8500 sq km and is the highest navigable lake in the world, at an average 3810 m above sea level. Its shores and islands are home to the Aymara, Quechua and Uros peoples. Here you can wander through old traditional villages where Spanish is a second language and where ancient myths and beliefs are still held.

The main city on the lake is Puno, where chilled travellers gather to stock up on warm woollies to keep the cold at bay. The high- altitude town is the departure point for the islands of Taquile and AmantanĂ­, as well as the floating reed islands of Los Uros. But while the latter may not be to everyone's taste, having acquired a reputation for tourism overkill, a trip to Taquile and AmantanĂ­ provides a real insight into traditional Andean life, especially during one of the festivals. Apart from the obvious attraction of the lake's islands, Puno is also well placed to visit the remarkable funeral towers of Sillustani. Even if you're feeling a bit ruined-out by this stage in your Peruvian odyssey, Sillustani is well worth the effort. For community-based tourism, the Capachica Peninsula is similar to the islands, but quieter, and you don't have to take a boat to get there. When it is time to move on, there is the beautiful but expensive train ride from Puno to Cuzco, and the opportunity to reach the parts of Peru that other travellers rarely get to, by exploring the remote eastern shore of the lake, an area that is only just beginning to welcome curious visitors.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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