After Arequipa we decided to spend a few days at the Titicaca lake mainly to relax and walk around a little bit in the villages at the lake before crossing the border and heading to Bolivia for carnival.
First stop was Puno, the biggest city at the lake. The town itself was not something you would call particularly beautiful but the centre was a nice place to hang out, it felt safe, also at night, and you could choose out of a variety of restaurants and bars.
What I really liked about the city is that most elderly women wore their traditional dresses all the time which we didn’t see a lot before, because a lot of people in the cities like Lima or Arequipa wore “normal” clothing.
A short walk from the centre there is already the water and the harbor, where you can take boats out to the floating islands. And you can also walk on a little pedestrian bridge crossing the water for about 1 km. The bridge is full of kissing young couples but if you are lucky you can also see some interesting animals. In our case flamingos. :-)
An interesting and beautiful view is what you get from the Mirador del Condor which is located south of the main square. It’s hundreds of stairs up a hill, which is a lot harder to do at the altitude of 3800 m, so don’t underestimate it. The view of the lake and mountains/hills around it, however, is worth the climb after all and you will be greeted by a huge Condor statue.
A little secret spot recommended by our host in Puno was the little village of Chucuito only about 20 minutes and a few Soles in colectivo out of Puno. The village itself doesn’t have a lot of attractions, of course, but just wandering around the mystical alleys, enjoying the view of the lake from the cemetery a few minutes of walking up the hill, or sitting down at the lake shore enjoying the sun, was worth the trip and definitely the village experience we were looking for.
Besides the sparingly filled kiosks, the little village had some great restaurants and Lars was happy to have the best fish filet (or even meal) since traveling in Peru.
At the lake shore we happened to meet a mother of two little girls taking them out on a boat. We would have come along, if we could. Actually, we didn’t dare to ask!
Along the lake shore
Making our way South, towards the Bolivian border, we took a colectivo from Puno. On the way we passed some great landscapes. Crazy stone formations on the one side and little peninsulas on the other side.
The whole ride was, even though pretty bumpy, always right next to the lake shore and therefore pretty spectacular. Unfortunately I lack good pictures for this one, mainly due to the fact that we were crammed into a van way too small for its “passenger capacity”.
Our plan was to cross the border as soon as we got to the last village still in Peru, Yunguyo, but as we arrived there at sunset we figured that it might be too dangerous in the dark and looked for a room. Big mistake! The village turned out to be really crappy and the accommodation options were quite limited. It was such a pity because on our way to this border village we passed by so many nice towns like Juli or Pomata for example which I would recommend to check them out, they had a really rustic look and didn’t seem to be too touristy yet.
On the plus side of sleeping in this creepy village, we got up and entered Bolivia in the early morning which left us with almost a full day in Copacabana. To our surprise this was one of the most touristy places since our travels, probably because it’s the best spot to start your boat tour to the Isla del Sol. The streets are filled with dozens of cute hippie restaurants that belong to hostels, there is a market in the streets and the centre is buzzing with all the tourists, travel agents and vendors. It’s most certainly a great place to stay for a few nights to get to know travelers from everywhere, though not the cheapest.
As the day tour to the island was way too much hustle and just like “ticking-off-this-place-from-the-list” for us, we decided to stay onshore and enjoy the views from the nearby hill that you can climb as there are stations of the cross.
Again, the hike was pretty exhausting due to the altitude, you could literally feel the air missing in your lungs and we were crazy too to take all our bags with us. But when up there the view takes your breath. We spent a good amount of time on the hill just soaking up the sun and checking out the islands and the shoreline in the distance.
Despite its Bolivian city style, Copacabana has a big and white church surrounded by a similarly white plaza.
After all we spent the days resting most of the time, strolling through the streets or at the lake, as time didn’t permit us to do the whole island hopping. So we decided to come back to the lake after our travels through Bolivia and learn more about the indigenous life then, and of course visit the islands! :-)
I found the lake one of the most surreal places of our travels so far, considering the altitude. I can’t wait to go back in a few weeks!