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Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

 

Inland Sea of South America

Titicaca (also spelled Titikaka) is the inland sea of South America. It is approximately 190 km long (120 miles) and 80 km wide (50 miles). According to the legend, the Sun God, as well as the pre-Inca god, Wiracocha, rose from its depths. The Incas amended the legend to suit their purposes. They contended that on Titicaca Island or Island of the Sun, following rains that flooded the earth, the sun placed his male and female children and instructed them to teach the barbarians who dwelt on the earth.

Copacabana, located on the peninsula that divides the lake, has been a religious sanctuary for many centuries, and is the point of departure towards the sacred islands of the Sun and Moon.

Whether on a peaceful ride with a local fishing boat that enables you to chat with your native Aymara guide as he takes you accross the Sacred Lake, to a catamaran cruise ship quite luxurious in comparision, and to a fast hydrofoil, there are many ways to explore Lake Titicaca. Also totora reed boats are still being made as in ancient times.

Titicaca Island commonly known as the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), is our destination. We will wander among the ancient ruins of Yumani and Pilkokaina, hidden in the folds of steeply terraced slopes. Ancient canals still bring water from the high hills to the baths used by Inca priests, and as visitors you are welcome to respectfully dip your hands in the cool, sacred waters.

On a two-day excursion you may hike and visit the archaeological site at Chinkana on the northern tip of Sun Island. There is the rock known as Titi Khar'ka or the Rock of the Puma. Incan myths relate that this crag was the favorite dwelling place of the sun, and the place from which it emerged to illuminate the world. If more time is allowed you may also explore other ceremonial sites and power places on the lake such as the Isla de la Luna or Island of the Moon. In ancient times this was another important religious center and it still holds sacred remains such as Iñak Uyo, the Palace of the Virgins of the Sun.

In present days the main port on Lake Titicaca is Puno, on the northwestern shore of the lake. From Puno you may visit the archaeological remains of Sillustani, the Floating Islands of the Uros (or Uru people), or the islands of Taquile and Amantani. Puno is also an obligatory stopping point en route to Cuzco.

Ask from full-day to three-day excursions and a selection of hotels for a romantic overnight on the shores of the Sacred Lake. Titicaca is accessible from La Paz and Puno.

 
Exploring the Sacred Lands of the Empire of the Sun

Lake Titicaca is famous for its stunningly intense blues, and its deep, fresh, cold waters fed by the melting ice of the Andes and local rainfall. Its dazzling islands are scattered with archeological remains, some dating back over 5000 years.

Lake Titicaca holds large populations of water birds and was designated as a Ramsar Site in 1998. Several threatened species such as the huge Titicaca Water Frog and the flightless Titicaca Grebe are largely or entirely restricted to the lake, and the Titicaca Orestias has gone extinct due to competition and predation by various introduced species of trouts and silversides.

The origin and meaning of the name Titicaca are uncertain. It has been translated as "Rock of the Puma", allegedly for its resembling the shape of a puma, combining words from the local languages Quechua and Aymara. Ruins on the shore and on the islands attest to the previous existence of one of the oldest civilizations known in the Americas. The chief site is at Tiahuanaco, Bolivia, at the southern end of the lake. On Titicaca Island or Isla del Sol ruins of a temple mark the spot where, according to tradition, the legendary founders of the Inca dynasty, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, were sent down to Earth by the Sun God Wiracocha.

In Inca mythology, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, children of the Sun, emerged from the depths of Lake Titicaca to found their empire. Like famous naturalist Jacques Cousteau, today's visitors to Titicaca will surely feel the same emotion that captivated the symbolic universe of the ancient Indians. With lofty snow-capped peaks along its far shores, the vast cobalt blue lake is one of the Andes' most enchanting scenes.

We love our Titicaca islands despite (or is it because of) the lack of modern infrastructure. The Aymara people living in the Titicaca Basin still practice their ancient methods of agriculture on stepped terraces that predate Inca times. They grow corn, beans, barley, quinoa, and the potato, which originated on the Altiplano. The stalks furnish forage for llamas and alpacas that serve the Indians as beasts of burden and as a source of meat.

Here, indigenous communities continue to live within the traditions of the 14th century, according to the principles of pre-Columbian life. The contact with other civilizations has not been able to destroy the profound identity of the pre-Columbian way.

Lake Titicaca is accessible from La Paz and Puno.

Unique expeditions, exclusive hotels and tours for people who don't like tours in Bolivia.

We the People of Titicaca – The Aymara Legacy

We live on the shores of Lake Titicaca and on its islands. We speak the Aymara language. Aymara is also the name of our ethnic group. We are the descendants of people who have lived in this part of the Andes for thousands of years.

As a matter of fact, ruins on the shores of Lake Titicaca and on the islands attest to the previous existence of one of the oldest civilizations known in the Americas, antedating the Christian era. The chief site is at Tiahuanaco, Bolivia, at the southern end of the lake. As the proud descendants of these people we come together to celebrate our heritage, to honor those who came before us, and to preserve their legacy.

While the islands are famous as places where the Inca built major shrines (e.g. to the Sun and the Moon on Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna), the Incas were not the first occupants of the Titicaca Region. Archaeological research has demonstrated that humans first settled the lake region around 7000 B.C. and we have evidence of settlement of the Island of the Sun by at least 2000 B.C. while the Islands of the Sun and the Moon were incorporated into the Inca Empire in the middle of the 15th century A.D.

So, contrary to popular misconception, we are not descendant from the Quechua-speaking Inca peoples, but are related to the aboriginal inhabitants who occupied the high Bolivian plateau (the altiplano) when the Inca conquered the Titicaca.

click here to openOur Agriculture and Economic Activities

Sometime around 1200-800 B.C., our ancestors began to plant food and domesticate llamas and alpacas. Raised fields (terraces) were a very sophisticated agricultural technique used by the people on the island for thousands of years. Today, you can see thousands of these agricultural terraces covering the slopes of the islands and around Titicaca. Many of these terraces are used today, but most were probably built hundreds, or thousands of years ago.

The principal economic activities of our villagers today are farming and fishing, a lifestyle that has predominated throughout most of history. Visitors will see innumerable stone terraces on the islands. Although difficult to date, our legends tell that most of the terraces were in use in Inca times, and most of them may even predate the Inca. Traditional crops are still grown on these terraces, including various types of potatoes, corn, and quinoa (a grain indigenous to the Andean highlands). Many of the terraces may appear to be abandoned, but they are not. The fallow system of the islands requires that the land rest 8 to 12 years between planting cycles.

Besides farming most households in our communities earn an important part of their income by fishing. The two most important commercial fish from the lake are trout and pejerrey (Odontesthes bonariensis). These fish are sold to vendors in Copacabana and La Paz. Several members of our association also own motorboats and run transport businesses from Copacabana and other small ports on the shores of Titicaca. In the last several years, the economy of Bolivia has stabilized dramatically and grown, and there has been a concomitant increase in tourism. Several hostels have opened on the Island of the Sun and other community-run tourism projects are currently being developed, and there is a brisk tourist industry emerging in the region.

 

click here to openOur Ancestors - the Tiahuanaco People

Around A.D. 500, the great high plateau state of Tiahuanaco emerged as the dominant culture of the region. By A.D. 900, Tiahuanaco influence and control already extended over 350,000 square kilometers, an area larger than modern Great Britain or Italy. The Tiahuanaco Empire (also spelled Tiahuanaco) dominated portions of what are now Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia for four hundred years (A.D. 550-950). The civilization seems to have totally vanished by 1200 A.D.

There are evidences of clusters of Tiahuanaco settlements, showing early occupation on the shores and most islands of Titicaca. The islands of Titicaca were particularly important to the Tiahuanaco and post-Tiahuanaco states.

The pottery from the sites is fine and varied, indicating that the people who lived there were of noble status and that important rituals were conducted there. Excavations have recovered Tiahuanaco offerings beneath the major Inca ruins as well. These findings indicate that the Inca were not the first to worship these places (including islands of the Sun and the Moon) but that these religious traditions extend back to the Tiahuanaco people.

The Great Aymara Kingdoms - The collapse of the Tiahuanaco state around A.D. 1100 ushered in the period known in Quechua as the "Auca Runa" or "time of warriors." For the Lake Titicaca region this was a time of regional development as the separate lake groups which had once been under the control of Tiahuanaco reformulated themselves into independent polities. This was, however, also a period of intense warfare and small political entities built huge fortified villages. During this period, population on the islands declined dramatically and the local political and economic organization collapsed. There are a number of sites of this time period on the islands.

The Inca occupation - During the Inca Period there was an increase in population on the islands. Like the earlier Tiahuanaco occupation, many of the Inca sites are located in the sanctuary areas. For instance, the Sacred Rock area on Isla del Sol has an impressive cluster of settlements, including standing Inca architecture adjacent to the rock.

 

Come along. We are eager to meet you and show you around! As you visit Lake Titicaca you have a unique opportunity to visit many of these archaeological sites. However, please remember that archaeological sites are unique and irreplaceable resources. They are our most important means of understanding the past lives of our ancestors – the Andean people. Do nothing to disturb the sites and take nothing from them.

Islands of Lake Titicaca

The islands of Lake Titicaca house hundreds of ancient settlements. A visit to these islands should be an exciting experience and this section will help you to appreciate their natural and cultural wonders.

click here to openExploring the Northern Lake – Chucuito

Copacabana, Bolivia

This is the original Copacabana (kota kahuana, meaning "view over the lake") – actually lending its name to the famous beach in Rio, Brazil. It is the main Bolivian town on the shore of Lake Titicaca. Most of all it is the most important tourism destination and religious sanctuary in Bolivia. Copacabana's religious celebrations, cultural patrimony, and traditional festivals are well known throughout the country. Thousands of pilgrims visit the Indian virgin of Copacabana every year. Do not miss a visit to the main square and the impressive basilica. The short walk up the nearby Calvary may be tiring but worth the astonishing views onto the bay, especially at sunset. From there boats leave to Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna (1½ hour cruise).

Island of the Sun (Isla del Sol) and
Island of the Moon (Isla de la Luna)

Of course these are one of the lake’s biggest tourist attractions and present beautiful views of the Cordillera Real mountain range across the lake. They both possess ancient archeological remains and more recent temple complexes built by the Incas.

The Islands of the Sun and the Moon (Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna) are two of the greatest natural and cultural monuments of South America. Also not surprisingly, they were two of the most sacred places in the Inca state. During the Inca occupation of the region (around A.D. 1470 - 1532) these islands were the final destination of ritual pilgrimages from all around the empire. However, recently recovered archaeological evidence indicates that the sacred nature of these islands extends back at least to the Tiahuanaco Empire (A.D. 600 - 1100). Prior to this time, humans first occupied the islands as early as 2000 B.C., and have continuously lived there for millennia.

Some of the finest descriptions of these islands come from the Spanish chroniclers who lived along the shores of Lake Titicaca during the conquest, in the early 17th century. Among them are the writings of Jesuit priest Bernabé Cobo:

"... Inca had many buildings constructed in order to enlarge and lend more authority to this shrine. The former temple was augmented with new and impressive buildings. In addition, it was ordered that other buildings be constructed for other purposes; these included a convent for mamaconas [chosen women] which was placed here, many magnificent lodgings and rooms to serve as a dwelling place for the priest and attendants, and one quarter of a league before one reaches the temple, there was an impressive tambo or inn for the pilgrims to stay in [...] The ruins of these storehouses remain to this day, and I have seen them myself..."

Today about a dozen major Inca sites have been revealed on the Islands of the Sun and the Moon, and there are approximately 80 Inca sites in total. The most notable sites visible with standing Inca architecture were not the locations of commoners, but were instead institutions built and maintained by the Inca state.

The island of the Sun lies just off the tip of the peninsula that extends 14 km north from the town of Copacabana. From Copacabana it takes about an hour and a half to be reached by motorboat.

Major Archaeological Sites

Major archaeological sites on the Island of the Sun and the Moon include the Sanctuary Area near the northern end of the island, a focal point of solar worship for the Inca and other pre-Columbian cultures, the Sacred Rock (Titi Khala or Rock of the Puma) from which the sun rose, the Chincana (literally “the labyrinth”), which offers impressive views of the lake, the large pre-Inca site of Chucaripupata located within the shrine complex near the sacred rock, the Inca village at Kasapata, Tintinhuayani pre-Tiahuanaco site, Apachinaca cultivated fields, the stairway and Fountain of the Inca which rests in the middle of the hill slope in a lush crescent of the Yumani portion of the island, and Pilcokaina Inca ruins – an exceptional two story building once covered in mud plaster, best known for its closely clustered interior chambers, its large corbeled vaults and doors which face the lake.

One of the best preserved ruins of the Lake Titicaca region can be seen on the small Island of the Moon (Spanish: Isla de la Luna, but we prefer to call it Isla Coati - Island of Coati): Iñak Uyu or the Temple of the Moon, of classic Inca stone masonry. It is said to have been an "Ajllawasi" or "House of the Virgins of the Sun" and consists of three main wings encircled by a patio with finely carved facades. Coati is located about 7 km to the southeast of Isla del Sol, facing the ancient stone town of Sampaya on the peninsula of Copacabana.

Puno, Taquile, and Amantani

The city of Puno lies on the shores of Lake Titicaca, northwest of Copacabana, en route to/from Cuzco. It is the folklore capital of Peru and the site of the Feast of the Virgen de la Candelaria. Nearby sites include the spectacular Chullpas de Sillustani, a compound of impressive burial towers built by the Kolla people; Llachón, a community still preserving old customs and culture, and Pucará, known for its pre-Inca pottery and the “toritos de Pucará”, traditional clay figurines representing cattle.
As in the southern portion of Titicaca (Wiñaymarka) the inhabitants of the numerous islands in this part of the lake still live as their ancestors.

The Uros, for instance, live on “floating islands” that they have artificially made entirely of totora reeds, and they sail the lake on balsas de totora – traditional rafts also made out of totora reeds. Taquile, Suasi, and Amantaní are known for the hospitality of their residents, their ancestral weaving skills, their pre-Columbian constructions, and lovely countryside. The Titicaca National Reserve (36,180 hectares) protects extensive stretches of totora reeds and various species of plants and animals.

Taquile and Amantaní Islands

A 3-hour boat ride will take you to Isla Taquile, 35 km offshore from the city of Puno.
Taquileños are known for their fine handwoven textiles and clothing, which are regarded as among the highest-quality handicrafts in Peru. Pre-Columbian remains are found in the highest part of the island. The visit to Taquile, normally is combined with visit to floating islands of the Uros (see below).

Isla Amantaní is the largest of the islands on the Peruvian side of the lake, and is located 5 hours by boat from Puno, off the island of Taquile. Despite the large population on the island, the rural communities here still live according to ancient traditions. Economic activities revolve around small scale farming and agriculture. The island features archaeological remains and textiles here are similar to those of Taquile, both in variety and design.

Islas de los Uros

The Uru people or Uros are descendents of the ancient Uru culture that pre-dates both the Incas and the Tiahuanacans, and are possibly named after one of the Pukina tribes. There are speculations that human settlements rooted in (possibly) the pukina language –now extinct– existed in the Andean highlands as far back as 10,000 B.C. The town of Oruro, Bolivia, was named after them.

These once nomadic people settled along an axis running from Lake Titicaca down to Coipasa Salt Flats in Bolivia (Uru-Chipaya). Only remnants of this population still exist nowadays: now assimilated into the predominant Aymara culture, they live a simple, traditional life in smaller communities in Bolivia and southern Peru. Their religion is a mixture of traditional Indian and Catholic, and they bury their dead on the mainland.

The Uros and other lake dwellers make their famed balsas de totora – boats fashioned of bundles of dried reeds (totora – a reed like papyrus that grows in dense brakes in the marshy shallows) lashed together that resemble the crescent-shaped papyrus craft pictured on ancient Egyptian monuments.

By extension, the Floating Islands (Spanish: Islas Flotantes) of the Uros are man-made islands of dried totora. The most famous are located in the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, just a few kilometers west from Puno port.

If you wish to visit Puno and its surrounding islands on your way to/from Cuzco, please refer to our Genesis of the Andean Culture special itinerary. You may also customize any other tour listed on the right.

 

click here to openExploring the Southern Lake – Wiñaymarka

Bordered by the Taraco Peninsula on the southern edge of Titicaca, Lake Wiñaymarka is located one and a half hours north west of the city of La Paz.

Wiñaymarka or Wiñay Marca—literally the Eternal City—is a site of great potential for rural tourism due to its proximity to world famous archaeological sites such as Tiahuanaco, its scenic natural landscapes, its people’s ancient customs, and the surviving traditional local agricultural, livestock and fisheries practices. Today, the communities of Quehuaya, Pariti and Suriqui additionally provide a number of tourism-related services, including lodging, traditional food and local culture centered activities that we are proud to support.

The shallow shores of Lake Wiñaymarka are lined with beds of totora reed, the versatile building material for which Titicaca is famous. By day fishermen ply the islands’ bays in their wooden boats. The locals are involved in fishing and totora handicraft activities. They trade cheese, fish and woolen goods in the nearby villages of Batallas and Huatajata for items from the Yungas and La Paz. Their sailing boats, which are used for fishing, are beautiful to watch as they slice through the sapphire-blue waters. The place is still a hidden corner of Lake Titicaca and its quaint atmosphere makes it a perfect place to enjoy the untouched landscapes of this part of the Andes.

Several islands can be visited in this part of Lake Titicaca and only a small portion has been studied by scientists. Important archaeological richness, translated in fine examples of pottery with figures of wild animals such as tigers and monkeys (that’s right, rainforest animals!), are some of the facts that make us think of this part of the lake as an extremely important ceremonial centre visited by remote nations.

During Inca times, some islands served as cemeteries and ceremonial places, and are still peppered with chullpares or funerary towers. Legends abound about the horrible fate that will befall anyone who desecrates the cemetery, and locals still refuse to live in the immediate surroundings.

Many archaeological sites are found in the area such as Kayun Amaya, Quqa Wati and Yacancachi to name just a few. Nearly 300 structures stand out in this site, including well preserved chullpares stone structures with tower-like form (see Quehuaya below).

On any trip you’ll get informative commentary on the legends, customs, people, history and natural features of the lake. You are allowed as much time as you’d like on each island, and we can arrange accommodation at a local community-run lodge.

Quehuaya Island (Kalahuta)

Isla Quehuaya, named after the small village on the center of the island, is also called “Kalahuta”, meaning “Houses of stone”, since the place is sprinkled with archaeological sites, including more than twenty stone tower constructions. Actually, the island could well host the largest known pre-Hispanic necropolis in the Americas, with funeral mounds (chullpares) up to two stories high.

Some houses have unique rectangular bases and Aymara roofs known as “imitation vaults” that have lasted over a thousand years. Among these houses are several “chullpares” or funerary towers made of stone, the base of which is also rectangular and with an additional base that has a double vault.

Surrounded by shallow waters and a beautiful totora bulrush forest, this well preserved island is inhabited by the Kehuaya people.

Pariti Island

The tiny island of Pariti deserves a special visit as it made world news in 2004 when a team of Bolivian and Finnish archaeologists discovered ancient Tiahuanaco ceramics in a small circular pit. Subsequent studies have shown that Isla Pariti used to be one of the most important ceremonial centers of Tiahuanaco culture.

The objects discovered here, dating to between 900 and 1050 AD, can now be viewed in the small museum on the island. Don’t miss the Señor de los patos (The Lord of Ducks) for it is one of the most remarkable examples of this stunning exhibit which reflects the high artistic achievements of Tiahuanaco potters.

Suriqui Island

Isla Suriqui is a small fishing island whose inhabitants are world famous for being the last remaining community that continues to practice the art of balsa boat construction. They helped Norwegian Thor Heyerdal build his famous Kon Tiki in which he crossed the Pacific Ocean. The islanders also helped build the RA II, Tigris, and Spaniard Quitin Muñoz’ Uru which also attempted the Pacific crossing, to prove the thesis of the colonization of the Americas by early Asian navigators which traveled the oceans till they arrived at the new continents.

All the islands in Wiñaymarka are bordered by lush totora reed swamps from which the islanders build everything from baskets and roofs to boats and handicrafts.

Other pre-Columbian remains in the area include a 4-km cobbled trail and a bridge, ancient terraces, housing and funeral structures. Another small site museum exhibits archaeological material and artifacts found in the area such as weavings, pottery, tools, and even human remains – a chullpa or mummy found in a nearby burial tower. Dozens of stone tower constructions can be seen in the surroundings of the communities. Ruins are not fenced

On another perspective, sailing through totora passages between islands is a humble and fascinating experience. And the highest points offer beautiful scenery of the lake, the mazes of totora, the islands peppered with ceremonial towers and the Bolivian and Peruvian shorelines.

 

How to get there?

Reaching Titicaca islands is easy with Fremen Tours Bolivia. Whether you wish to go alone on a private tour or in a group, on a full day excursion or an overnight adventure, we have a solution to best fit your needs. Depending on your budget, time schedule and interests, we may suggest taking a high speed ship, a romantic cruise vessel, or a traditional wooden motorboat. There are many ways to arrange an itinerary.

Similarly, accommodations in the area include hostels run by community members on the islands as well as a number of more conventional hotels in Copacabana and Wiñaymarka. We provide full board while on the expedition. Check the links on the right, and ask us for details. All our tours can be fully customized according to your preferences; our travel experts are happy to help.

Our adventure tours ALWAYS include community based tourism infrastructure and local services, and we strive to enforce responsible tourism practices in each of our Titicaca trips.

Strengthening Community-based Tourism

As a group of Aymara villagers, ground operators, community-run lodges and other local service providers, we are proud supporters of a number of community-based initiatives in the area.

Our tourism products link 8 Aymara communities and over 30 undertakings around the Bolivian portion of Lake Titicaca – Chucuito and Wiñaymarka. All villages have a communal lifestyle and thus our association benefits several hundreds of people directly or indirectly. Each community specializes in certain services and tourism products such as transport, lodging and meals, guiding... Our organization is such that our tourism itineraries and activities complement each other.

click here to openApthapi - Misterios del Titikaka Project

Deeply rooted in our Aymara and Quechua traditions, Apthapi is a communal event usually done in the open, in which people ritually bring a type of food to share collectively.

In our local communities, we spread our woven aguayos out on the ground and then place our food offerings on top of it. Little by little, the blanket fills up with communal food and people share the ritual meal as a special giving-and-receiving moment.

Much more than a simple Andean meal, Apthapi is a special event—way for community members to come together, share, and celebrate.

We named our project “Apthapi” as a symbol of the Sharing and Reciprocity reflected in both the tourism experiences we offer and our inter-communal based organization.

Our project “Apthapi - Misterios del Titikaka” intends to develop new rural activities based on the sustainable use of natural and cultural resources as tools to reduce poverty in the Bolivian portion of Lake Titicaca – Chucuito and Wiñaymarka.

This is an inter-community project. It aims at starting and encouraging sustainable approaches to manage the natural and cultural resources of the Titicaca islands as means to improve the socio economic conditions of our local people.

We work to reinforce the strategic framework of Community-based Tourism and strengthen pilot initiatives through training, equipment and marketing. (The complete list of project activities is available through the online contact form in this website.)

In particular our project aims at:

1) Strengthening the technical capacities and skills of our community members to monitor, plan and manage the natural and cultural resources of our islands.

2) Making our communities a key actor to foster local people development through sustainable tourism and rational use of local resources.

3) Establishing partnership agreements and programs between our communities and organizations (tour operators, universities, NGOs) working in the field of sustainable tourism and management.

Apthapi - Misterios del Titikaka: Strengthening Rural Community-based Tourism and Commercial Management along the Titicaca Islands

Recent contributions: Refurbishments of Quehuaya lodge, Pata Patani interpretation centre and Tiraska craft workshop were carried out. Our communities participate in awareness raising meetings and training on tour guiding, cooking and business management. We have constituted the inter-community company Apthapi - Misterios del Titikaka and are managing and promoting excursions and tourism-oriented activities in the Bolivian portion of Lake Titicaca – Chucuito and Wiñaymarka – with the support of selected tour operators and institutions.

 

Words from Reynaldo Huanca, vice-president
of the community-based association in Lake Chucuito
(Challapampa - Isla del Sol; Sahuiña - peninsula of Copacabana; Coati - Isla de la Luna):

Reynaldo Huanca, vice-president of the community-based associationOur community-based tourism activities enable you to discover our local environment in terms of habitats, wildlife, ancient heritage..., as well as our present day social and cultural assets. These initiatives promote tourism activities through active participation of our members and are engaged in the respect of our traditional cultures, rituals and wisdom. We are aware of the commercial and social value placed on our natural and cultural heritage through tourism, and we intend to foster community based conservation of these resources.

As well as the cultural draws, our peaceful islands are ideal places to relax, walk and explore across these sapphire-blue waters.

We invite you to come and visit us at our farms and dwellings. A visit to our islands now may be the last opportunity to appreciate their unique ecological beauty. Our villages have no electricity or roads; there are no motorized vehicles of any kind. As a result, the landscape has been untouched by modern heavy construction.

However this situation will not continue, of course, as Bolivia is rapidly developing an industrial infrastructure. As full time residents here, we want the best for ourselves and our children and we are actively seeking electrification of our communities among other projects. As tourism grows, the number of people who visit the lake will increase. The best time to enjoy Titicaca in its entirety is now.

 

Lake Titicaca is located at the northern end of the Altiplano (high plateau), to the northwest of La Paz, on the border of Peru and Bolivia.

click here to openTiticaca, a Geographic and Cultural Exception

Lake Titicaca sits 3 810 metres above sea level and is situated between Peru to the west and Bolivia to the east. A narrow strait, Tiquina, separates the lake into two bodies of water.

It lies between Andean ranges in a vast basin about 58,000 square km in area (22,400 square miles), that comprises most of the Altiplano of the northern Andes. In the snow-covered Cordillera Real on the north-eastern (Bolivian) shore of the lake, some of the highest peaks in the Andes rise to heights of more than 21 000 feet (6 400m).

The lake itself covers 8 300 square km (3 200 square miles) and extends in a northwest-to-southeast direction for a distance of 190 km (120 miles). It is 80 km (50 miles) across at its widest point.

The lake is composed of two nearly separate sub-basins that are connected by the Strait of Tiquina — 800 metres (2,620 ft) across at the narrowest point. The larger basin is called Lake Chucuito, while the smaller, in the southeast, is called Wiñaymarka.

The smaller Lake Wiñaymarka is very close to the Andes and presents outstanding views of the Royal Mountain Range (Cordillera Real). The lakeside and most of its islands are inhabited by rural farmers and fisherman who carry on centuries-old traditions. The coastline is ringed by fields of totora reeds that create habitat for hosts of ducks and other waterfowl and fish. It was on the shores of this lake that the first great South American civilization, the Tiahuanacans built their enormous metropolis Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) as early as 1500 b.c.

Lake Titicaca is fed by rainfall and meltwater from glaciers on the sierras that abut the Altiplano, and more than 20 rivers empty their waters into the lake. However, Titicaca is nearly a closed lake (endorheic basin): only one small river, the Desaguadero, drains the lake at its southern end. This single outlet empties less than 10 percent of the lake's excess water; the rest is lost by evaporation under the fierce sun and strong winds of the dry Altiplano.

There is evidence of the continuous presence of human population in the lake's area: the monumental remains and both tangible an intangible elements talk about different settings, the land-use and its management through specific and outstanding cultural manifestations. This evidence shows the constant relation between man and nature since ancient days and during a long period of time that goes from the birth and development of Andean pre-Hispanic societies until our days.

This long process that began approximately around 10 000 b.c. to 8 000 b.c. and lasted until the first third of the sixteen century with the arrival of the Spaniards was characterized by different and successive Andean societies and ethnic groups. The other period comprises from Colonial times in the sixteenth century up to our days. Overall this process has defined a cultural area where tradition has been preserved showing the permanence of ways of life, of customs and ancestral values.

Archeological architectonic building of great singularity in many sites on both the Peruvian and Bolivian sides (e.g. Tiahuanaco and the Isla del Sol among others) are clear evidence of the existence of societies such as Chiripa, Pukara, Tiahuanaco, Colla Lupaka and Inca.

The agricultural techniques of pre-Hispanic origin such as the amazing terraces that are to be found in different islands of the lake and the totora reed boats and "floating islands" in the middle of the lake are remarkable expressions of sustainable land-use and environmental management.

Similarly, languages, customs, beliefs and artistic works that remain until our days are evidence of ways of life of exceptional value that characterize the inhabitants of the lake. The locals are organized in very strong communities and their lifetstyles and artforms reflect influences from the passing civilizations over the millenia.

Traditions are intermingled in different forms of social organization, cycles of social life, feasts and rituals, music and dances and in the preservation of sacred places, being the lake the most sacred one, since from its waters emerged the founders of the most important civilizations of pre-Columbian South America.

 

 

La Paz

Through our intimate, small-group tours and private expeditions in this area you will be able to visit sites most tourists, even seasoned travelers, never find.

Join us on a discovery of a lifetime in Lake Titicaca.

Check our selected excursions in this area:

ESSENTIAL LA PAZ — 4 days

La Paz & Lake Titicaca
{ short bolivia excursion - fully customizable }

The following packages also include this area
among other destinations.

ESSENTIAL BOLIVIA — 5 days

La Paz / Tiwanaku / Lake Titicaca / La Paz
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

DISCOVER CULTURAL BOLIVIA — 8 days

Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / La Paz
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

BOLIVIA SPECIAL DEPARTURES — 13 days

Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / Uyuni / La Paz
{ special itinerary - small group travel }

Feel free to customize any travel package according to your own personal interests and the specific activities you expect...

Join us on one of our Natural History Tours or a Cultural Exploration into the heart of South America. Our programs are offered throughout the year, on a (very) small group basis and mostly in private.

You may also want to make an enquiry or design your own program of activities in this area.

Plan A Trip

Not the Bolivia Trip you're looking for?

Go back to our Trip Selection Page or design your own special itinerary using our Bolivia Travel Planner.

Bolivia Group Tour & Fixed Departures

Call us to help you plan the best active, outdoor exploration to meet your interests, time, budget and abilities. You will be accompanied by expert local guides specializing in each region.

Skype us now!

Speak to a member of our team. We'll answer your questions, provide advice, help you book your Bolivia Trip, and most of all we'll help you customize your tours for people who don't like tours in Bolivia.

You may also check other Special Interest Travel and unusual tours or expeditions around Bolivia, including:

• La Paz, Tiwanaku, Lake Titicaca
• Uyuni Salt Flats & Sud Lípez Red & Green Lagoons
• Colonial Cities of Sucre and Potosí
• Central, Inter-Andean Valleys of Cochabamba
• Santa Cruz - the Lowlands & Jesuit Missions
• Bolivian Rainforests & Amazon Basin
• Cuzco & Machu Picchu Extensions

Fremen Tours Bolivia - Destination Management Company

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