Lake Titicaca

At 3,812 meters (12,503 ft) above sea level, Lago Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. With a surface area of approximately 8,560 square kilometers (3,305 sq mi), it is also the largest freshwater lake in South America.

Lake Titicaca is divided in two parts: El Lago Mayor, or Lago Chucuito with the Bahía de Puno, and Lago Menor, also called Laguna de Huiñaymarca. The two bodies of water are separated by the Istmo de Yunguyo and united by the Estrecho de Tiquina. It rests on the altiplano between Peru and Bolivia. Over half of the lake is Peruvian territory.

Lago Titicaca is a shallow lake; its deepest point is only 281 meters (922 ft) and average depth is 107 meters (351 ft). About 25 rivers empty into the lake’s waters, and Río Desaguadero drains the water towards the Pacific Ocean.

Forty-two natural islands dot Lake Titicaca, plus the man-made isles (islas flotantes) of the Uros. On the Peruvian side of the lake are the islands Estéves (in the Bahía de Puno), Taquile, Amantaní, Suasi, and Anapia (in Laguna de Huiñaymarca). In Bolivian waters, the most important islands are Isla del Sol, the largest of Lago Titicaca’s islands, and Isla de la Luna.

The islands and shore are home to Quechua and Aymara villages that still follow their age-old traditions. This is a holy lake for them, the cradle of the gods—and according to Inca Mythology, birthplace of Manco Cápac, and Mamo Ocllo, founders of the Inca Empire. Nicknamed the “Folklore Capital of the World,” Lake Titicaca has some of the richest and most vibrant folklore festivals in all of Peru.

Indigenous cultures, ancient stone burial towers (chullpas) and sacred temples, and Spanish colonial churches are all awaiting travelers’ explorations. Nature lovers can birdwatch in Lago Titicaca’s totora reed coast, trek from village to hamlet, or kayak through its teal-blue waters.