It doesn’t matter if you are a butt or boobs kind of person, because the highest navigable lake in the world (Lake Titicaca Peru) has a little something for everyone.
Lake Titicaca sits an elevation of 3,812 meters (12,507 ft) on the border of Peru and Bolivia. No matter which country you’re visiting, locals say their side is the “titi” side, and the other side is “caca”. Go figure.
In Aymaran, a language family that calls the central Andes home, “titi” translates to “puma” and “caca” means “gray”, while in Quechua, another local language, it means “rock”. In English, “titi” is not something you should put in a Google image search at work, and definitely not something you can look up in the office in the Philippines (“titi” means “penis” in that part of the world), the actual translation is something closer to “The Gray Puma” or “Rock of the Puma”.
Now in Spanish “caca” means “poop”, but they weren’t speaking Spanish back when they named the lake. In fact, Lake Titicaca is known as the “Birthplace of the Incas”, as well as the “Birthplace of the Sun” – both of which pre-date the arrival of the Spanish by a long shot.
According to Incan mythology, the first Incan King, Manco Capac, was born at the lake. The gods created a wife for this king, and together the pair did what people do in mythology – a great deal of… begetting. So much, in fact, that they officially started the tribe that blossomed into the Incan Empire.
Hard Chunks in the Holy Lake with a Soiled Name
There are more than 40 natural islands sprinkled throughout the largest surface lake in South America – Lake Titicaca. The water that surrounds these islands is supplied by more than 25 rivers and glaciers. However, the lake only drains at one point: Desaguadaro River, which flows into Lake Poopo. Unfortunately, this funny name is pronounced differently than it looks to the native English reader.
The highest of these islands is Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), which houses over 180 ancient Incan ruins. According to one Incan myth, the God Viracocha came out of the 1,000-meter-deep lake to create the sun, stars, and the first people on Earth.
If you find yourself on this majestic island, stay for sunset, which is best appreciated from the lighthouse situated on the highest point on the island, a daunting 4,096 meters (13,441 feet).
Uros: The Floaters on Lake Titicaca Peru
Uros, or The Floating Islands (Las Islas Flotantes), are home to the descendants of the Uros people, who were eventually conquered by the Incas.
At the moment, there are 42 floating islands. Though new islands are constantly being made, as the islands don’t last forever. These islands are technically on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, but bring your passport no matter which country you’re coming from in order to collect your Uros passport stamp.
The island locals live a fairly simple life, but by no means do they reject modern technology. It is not unusual to see a local boat with an outboard motor or an island house with a solar panel to run a TV. The main island is even home to an Uru radio station, which plays music for several hours a day.
The floaters in the lake are made from the same dried totora reeds that the locals use to make their reed boats (balsas). The dense roots of the plants create a platform about one to two meters thick, which support the islands. The bundles of reeds are anchored in place with ropes and sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The bottom of the reeds, getting too much Titicaca wetness, rot fairly quickly. So, every three months, a new layer of reeds is added to the top of the island.
The islands, which last about thirty years, support two to ten families, depending on their size. If you want to experience Uros life, it’s possible to book a bed as a homestay on one of the islands. Even if you don’t want to be completely surrounded by Lake Titicaca, bring some small denomination bills when you head out, as there are a few bars and places to buy souvenirs. The profits of your touristic activities go directly to the Uros people.
Some Say on Titi Shores, Some Say Caca
If you’re planning on getting your feet wet on the shores of this silly sounding lake from the Peru side, you’ll most likely find yourself based in Puno.
The high-altitude, tourist-thick city will take your breath away – mostly because the air is so thin at about 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level. The best way to combat the altitude is by drinking lots of water and the local delicacy: mate de coca, which is made from the same leaves they use to make magic dust nose candy.
After enjoying yourself at Saksaywaman (Because who doesn’t love Saksaywaman?) and Machu Picchu, it might be time for comfort food, which can be easily found in the touristy downtown area. However, there are also nice Peruvian dining options if you want a taste of Lake Titicaca.
Mojsa Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Puno, they serve a variety of dishes and have both vegan and vegetarian options. Specialties include trout, alpaca steak, osso bucco, and guinea pig – yeah, no need to run in circles about that last one; they like their guinea pig in Peru. You can also get more Western-style dishes, but when you’re on the shores of Lake Titicaca eat…
Never mind, just eat the guinea pig. It’s actually pretty good.
If Mojsa Restaurant looks a little too expensive for you, check out the affordable menu at Cafe Bar de la Casa del Corregidor. They have Peruvian staples, craft beer, and a strong WiFi signal.
Now, if you want dinner and a show, Balcones de Puno Restaurant is the place to go. They also serve an excellent selection of guinea pig, alpaca, and trout – though few vegetarian choices. However, the real draw is live performances showcasing Peruvian culture and dancing.
After dinner, there are more than a couple excellent bars to crawl between in the downtown section of Puno. So, keep your eyes open for where the party is and start buying rounds of pisco sours.
Erected Not Far from Lake Titicaca Peru
If you’ve made it as high up as Lake Titicaca, you might as well grab local transportation to the Sillustani tombs, which are about 40 minutes away.
The tower-like structure of the tombs, constructed above ground, are called chullpas. These monuments were burial sites of Colla nobility.
Sleep on a Floater in Lake Titicaca Peru
Lake Titicaca Peru, in good Peruvian company with Saksaywaman, and globally with countless other places with absurd names, is a must-see part of any trip to Peru – or Bolivia. The thing to remember is that no matter what, you’re on the titi-side of the highest navigable lake in the world.
Show the world that Mount Everest isn’t the only place that counts when it comes to hitting the high mark with a Lake Titicaca Tank top.
Here’s the Men’s Lake Titicaca tank top:
Here’s the Women’s Lake Titicaca tank top:
While you’re at it, get yourself a Saksaywaman too!
Here’s the Men’s Saksaywaman tank top:
Here’s the Women’s Saksaywaman tank top:
Get yourself to Saksaywaman and Lake Titicaca Peru! Tweet us (@tanksgetaround) about your favorite things to do in either place, and we’ll share the best insights!
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