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Located on the border of Peru and Bolivia is the largest freshwater lake by volume in South America, Lake Titicaca. With an elevation of 12,507 feet, this million year old lake is also one the world's highest commercially navigable lakes. All along the shores are native villages where traces of their rich Indian past still exist without any interference from the 21st century.
Although the exact meaning or origin of the word Titicaca is not known, it has been translated as meaning "rock puma" because the shape of the lake resembles a puma hunting a rabbit. Incan mythology states Lake Titicaca is the place where the world was created when the Incan god, Viracocha, arose from the lake, created the sun, stars, and first people.
Situated between the mountain ranges of East and West Cordillera in the central Andes Mountains, Lake Titicaca is divided into two basins by the Strait of Tiquina and stays at an almost constant temperature of 51 degrees Fahrenheit. Locals state their home has two climates- chilly and rainy or chilly and dry- with the nights dropping below freezing from June to August. The water levels fluctuate seasonally with the water rising during the rainy season of December to March and gradually receding during the dry winter months of June to August. The land area around the lake is almost treeless but is covered with coarse grasses, fields of potatoes, barley, quinoa, and other local crops. The swampy area that fringes the lake produces totora, a versatile balsa reed that is important to the local way of life of native villages.
The western part of the lake lies within the Puno Region of Peru. The capital of the Puno Region is the town of Puno is which a great place to start your visit of Lake Titicaca. The Spaniards were attracted to the area by its mineral richness and settled in with their own cultural, social, and economic patterns. Priests trying to convert the Inca pagans motivated them to build beautiful churches that you can still tour today. With a wide variety of handicrafts, colorful costumes, holidays, legends, ethnic dances, Puno can be called the folklore center of Peru.
Around Puno, there are over 60 floating villages on the water of Lake Titicaca. The Uros people build islands and houses that float on the water from the totora or reeds that grow around the lake. As the bottom layer of the island decays as it sits in the water, layers are replaced from the top with new reeds. The Uros maintain and live on these man-made islands using the lake and its products for survival. They fish for food from the lake and exchange fish for any products that they need while getting their basic necessities from their environment, even weaving their own clothes from materials from around the area.
In Puno, visitors can rent small motorboats to tour Lake Titicaca for themselves or perhaps spend a day fishing for Karachi, boga, ispi, rainbow trout, brown trout, Orestias, and catfish. Puno also offers vacation rentals from low budget hostels to high end hotels, venues for shopping for native made goods, and eating establishments where one can taste the local cuisine based on fish, potatoes, and quinoa which a popular grain.
The biggest island on Lake Titicaca, Isla de Sol or Island of the Sun, is located on the Bolivian side of the lake and contains over 180 ruins from the Incan period. It is this island that the Incas believe the son and daughter of the sun god Inti lived to improve the lives of their people and founded the Incan Empire.
The eastern side of Lake Titicaca is located in the Bolivian La Paz Department. Copacabana is the main town on this side of the lake and boasts a large 16th century cathedral with its carved wooden figure of the Virgin of Copacabana who is the Christian guardian of the lake. The statue stands facing the lake so she can keep a watchful eye for approaching storms on the lake. Visitors here will find vacation rentals and local eateries in which to enjoy their stay. Tour groups use modern hydrofoils to zip across Lake Titicaca, but for a slower more native trip on the water, try one of the local made reed boats for a lasting memory.
There are many islands to explore while at Lake Titicaca, but the area offers off-water adventures including a world famous ice climbing area. There are many routes for hiking adventures that will give you views of glacial landscapes and mountain ranges, to visiting villages where time has stood still or to a quiet place where you can sit and enjoy nature untouched by man.
Come to one of the highest lakes on the world and stay for the adventure, history, culture, and excitement. Lake Titicaca has been here for over a million years waiting for you to visit. Start planning your trip today.
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