Puno & Lake Titicaca
Oh boy, Lake Titicaca was absolutely beautiful but altitude sickness hit me HARD in Puno (a town on the side of the lake). Lake Titicaca sits at 12,500 feet above sea level and is the biggest lake in South America and the highest navigable body of water in the world. The lake straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains and it was absolutely stunning. The lake is surrounded by many towns and ancient Incan ruins. Some claim that Lake Titicaca is the birthplace of the Incas. One of the biggest tourist attractions at Lake Titicaca (in Peru) are the floating islands. The floating islands are small manmade islands constructed by the Uru people by using layers and layers of totora (a thick, buoyant reed that grows in the lake). Most of the islands are fairly small and they are constantly being built on as the bottom layers of the reeds rot away. All the structures on the islands are made from the reeds as well. Now the islands are mainly a tourist attraction but when they were first built they were made so they could move to deep water or to different parts of the lake to avoid attacks and danger.
Some tips for visiting Lake Titicaca/Puno:
- If you visit the floating island bring money and support the community. If you take pictures of the people, offer to pay them and make sure you buy a few things (it’s cheap).
- The islands are unfortunately, super touristy. Keep this in mind before going. Some people felt visiting was a waste of time and they didn’t like how they were constantly being sold things. Some people loved seeing and being on floating islands made out of reeds.
- The lake is at a high altitude so there is a chance you will experience altitude sickness. I had such bad altitude sickness I could barely open my eyes for part of the day.
Should you go to Lake Titicaca/Puno?
In my opinion, it was really cool to see Lake Titicaca but I wasn’t super impressed with Puno. In fact, Puno was the city we felt the least safe in because someone followed us from the lake and into the city as we were walking back to our hostel. A few blocks before our hostel I quickly instructed Michael to sit down at a bench and when the guy sat down right across the fountain from us, I gave him some SERIOUS "I FUCKING SEE YOU" eye contact and after that he left us alone. I was still unnerved and irritated that we dealt with it. The city is absolutely bustling and there streets are insanely narrow. We walked through a huge market on our way to the lake which was really cool too. So, should you go? Yes. Go at least once but bring altitude sickness medication and keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. Go down and see the lake, take a tour out to the floating islands if they sound cool to you (we didn’t go to them but had friends in our little group that did) and try to find some local markets happening. However with that being said, since I’ve been once I probably won’t be going back again.