By Becca Hensley
Sacred to its native cultures, South America’s largest—and highest navigable—lake sprawls along the border of southern Peru and western Bolivia. More than 25 rivers empty into its reed-fringed shores, and the ruins of centuries-old temples
and dwellings occupy many of its mountain-marked islands.
Though hydrofoils, barges, steamships, and wooden rowboats cruise its waters, Titicaca’s immensity means the lake radiates peace and solitude
. Framed by jagged Andean peaks, its limpid surface reflects low-hanging clouds by day and a glittering, star-studded canvas by night. With many of the lake’s 41 islands considered sacred, descendants of the Incas still pay homage at spots such as the Island of the Sun, which is said to house a deity known as Inti. Drawn by its bevy of birds, ornithologists enthuse over Titicaca’s shores, and sightseers make cultural visits to Isla Suriqui, where the art of reed-boat construction still survives. A visit to the “floating islands,” an archipelago made entirely from totora
reeds by the pre-Incan Uros people, is also a must.
Legend Has It
When the Spanish conquistadors took Cuzco, the Incas tossed a two-ton gold braid into the lake. It may still be there today.
Head to the Island of the Sun’s highest point, a lighthouse set at 13,441 feet.
“With its excellent hiking, biking, and kayaking, a visit to Titilaka is all about getting out and enjoying the beautiful surroundings, so you don’t want to arrive and find out your body disagrees with the 12,500-foot elevation! The trick is to ease your way in
; make this a later stop on your Peruvian itinerary.” —Jessica Ourisman, Baltimore
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Originally appeared in Virtuoso Traveler magazine, June 2014.