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Titilaka was beautiful enough that I could spent our entire three nights there within the walls of the hotel, content never to leave its many stylish rooms. So you can imagine then, that the surroundings were pretty spectacular in order to drag me out of my relaxation coma in order to explore.

Titilaka has two levels of inclusiveness available to guests. The full-board program, which Zoe and I were on, involves all meals and — options include kayaking, walking, bicycling and rowing tours. The comprehensive package includes 1/2 day tours such as visits to the various islands of Lake Titicaca — tours that Zoe and I, and other guests on the full board program, were welcome to join at additional cost.

We did a mix of included and paid tours that gave us a fantastic introduction to this beautiful and fabled high altitude lake straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia.

Visit to the Authentic Taquille

Our first tour, and top of our priority list, was visiting Isla Taquille. This UNESCO-recognized island is one of the great treasures of Titicaca and has the crowds to prove it — its south shores are a popular stop on package tours of the lake. However, those tours follow a set schedule and first arrive in the afternoon, traveling from Puno and stopping at the Uros Islands en route. Β This gives Titilaka guests a locational advantage — only an hour away by boat, we arrived and departed again long before any other tourists would set foot on the island.

Meaning we had every ounce of authentic charm all to ourselves.

Isla Taquille on Lake Titicaca

Isla Taquille on Lake Titicaca

The men and woman of Taquille are renowned for being the most skilled weavers in all of Peru. We were warmly welcomed into the home of a local family who shook our hands and greeted us one by one — a rarity among this kind of tour. Rather than feeling like an intruder, I actually felt like a guest.

Our guide Julio translated and explained the simple and beautiful way of life on the island, and how it differed from his own experiences in the “big city” of Puno. I loved the service-centric priorities of the community, whose Quechua motto translates to today for you, tomorrow for me, a beautiful sentiment that means neighbors never stop helping one another.

After our visit with the family, we walked from the island’s North shore to the South, taking in a dizzying (seriously dizzying, did I mention the altitude?) array of stunning landscapes and tableau. Between the bright blue sky and the mirror-like reflection the lake gave off, I didn’t dare lift my sunglasses, and I struggled to meter my photos correctly in the harshest light we’d seen in Peru.

At one particularly scenic viewpoint our guide Julio offered to take our photo and ran around us, snapping a few. When I flipped through them a moment later I nearly died of laughter at the best unintentional photobomb of the century. And that’s why I love my super wide 15mm lens!

This was a fairly expensive tour for us, ringing in at $51US each. It’s more than we would have paid for a three-island tour out of a cheap travel agency in Puno, but it was undoubtedly worth every penny for the unique and individual experience we had. This island, and its special community of less than 2,000 residents, is not to be missed.

Hike to Titilaka Arch

The afternoon after our boat trip to Taquille we were itching to explore the shore and so we signed up for the short hike to the Titilaka Arch. We chatted to our guide Armando about life in such a remote village as we walked along the shoreline passing houses constructed of mud and angry donkey braying in the fields. The only other guest on the tour was a British woman whose husband had been forced to return to Lima that morning due to altitude sickness — the lake sits at 12,500 feet.

Which was the perfect scapegoat to excuse the fact that I was quite out of breathe for what should have been a fairly simple stroll.

When we reached our destination we were treated to a scene off the cover of a guidebook — a local woman and child in traditional dress, leading a baby lamb through the golden-light kissed arch. The concierge of the hotel couldn’t have ordered a more perfect tableau had he tried.

Biking The Shores of Lake Titicaca

The next day, we signed on for a biking trip that Titilaka happily customized for us to include a final destination of the weaving community at Copamaya. We set off down a dirt road and hugged the coastline as we worked our way through the rural Titicaca countryside.

I think of myself as a reasonably fit person but I really struggled with parts of this ride — again, something I’d love to blame on the altitude. I think my insecurity was heightened by the fact that our new guide kept zooming so far ahead of me — a fact I eventually attributed to his insecurity with English.

Yet this morning remains one of the most scenic and authentic I’ve had in Peru. On Taquille, our guide admitted that the locals mostly dress traditionally in order to maintain their UNESCO status. But here in the dusty forgotten corners of Lake Titicaca, there were no travelers to dress up for and no tour buses to sell to. This was life, unfiltered.

I struggled to share capture the experience as locals were vocally uncomfortable with having their photos taken, so though it pained me I kept a respectful distance.

When we arrived at the weaving “community,” we were surprised, along with our guide, to find only a shy teenage girl in the village. The rest, she explained, had been called to work in the fields. She overcame her clear discomfort at being the center of attention in order to show us how local roots, plants and berries were made into natural wool dies and how animal bones were used at knitting needles.

Regrettably I left souvenir-less, as I do believe that these weavers live up to their reputation. If only I had an apartment to fill with technicolor Titicaca weaving treasures!

Am I gushing? Heck yes. But Lake Titicaca amazed me with its beauty. I had low expectations after reading and hearing some mediocre reviews from fellow travelers of the “it’s just a lake” variety, but I couldn’t disagree more. And had I not already felt that way after these excursions, our adventures the next day would only cement it in my mind…

Which excursion would be top of your list?

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16 Comments...
  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    November 30 2013

    I was so looking forward to reading about this part of your trip…I always wondered if I should have included Lake Titicaca on my trip. Now I regret it! It looks amazing. I can’t believe you did a bike ride at that altitude, there’s no way I would/could have done it.
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 30 2013

      I was really having a rough time with it! I think of biking as a generally fun way to be active, an attitude that I was cursing as I struggled my way across the altiplano. But the scenery was worth every second, even if everyone refused to let me take their photo… sigh.

  • Chris
    November 30 2013

    Some more beautiful places and faces! Love it, and the colour as well!
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 30 2013

      Like I said, it was a technicolor dream! I can’t think of another place I’ve been that was quite so vivid.

  • Gaelyn
    November 30 2013

    I am sure to have left with one of those brilliant weavings. Biking at that altitude, no way.
    Gaelyn recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2013

      The good thing was, I could go as slowly as I needed to πŸ™‚

  • Dad
    November 30 2013

    Well most people on vacation are tourists and they would have called Titicaca ‘just a lake’. But you are an adventurer and a curious person who has to find the real story and the real people. Your faithful readers are the beneficiaries of your curiosity and courage. Keep it up Meihoukai. Love Dad

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2013

      What a complimentary comment! Keep those up too πŸ™‚

  • Rachel of Hippie in heels
    December 1 2013

    SO MUCH COLOR!! i love it! it looks like such an amazing place, thanks for sharing
    Rachel of Hippie in heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2013

      You are so very welcome πŸ™‚ It was a pleasure to be there, and to share!

  • Jade
    December 1 2013

    I was literally just about to type ‘so much colour!’ and then I saw that Rachel (above) said the same thing! But seriously, the colours!
    Titicaca is so far from being ‘just a lake’!

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2013

      Yup, I think it might have something to do with light reflecting from the lake and coming in on all directions but it was like a technicolor dream!

  • Camels & Chocolate
    December 1 2013

    Aargh, so pretty, I want to go now!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 6 2013

      Okay well by now I’ve moved on from here… but let’s meet in north Peru? πŸ˜›

  • Breanna
    December 7 2013

    Wow!! this place looks amazing. Your photographs are quite breathtaking. Its really cool that you got to see the culture when it wasn’t preforming for tourists.

    • Meihoukai
      December 7 2013

      Exactly! It was a privilege to see something just a bit off the tourist trail πŸ™‚