Lake Titicaca & Titilaka Lodge
Lake Titicaca is regarded as a sacred site to Peruvians. Legend has it, the first humans, Inca’s, mysteriously emerged from the lake and went on to create the Inca Empire.
For today’s visitor, it is an opportunity to explore several indigenous cultures that continue today much as they have for hundreds of years. It is a chance to step back in time to a much simpler way of life.
When researching Lake Titicaca it is one of those places with a lot of things to do, but difficult to plan in advance as distances and information can be hard to find. So this is one of those times when we decided to take the easy route, and book something rather than independent travel and organize it all ourselves.
If you are one of our regular readers, you know we sometimes do short tours or an “all-inclusive” option to give us a break from organizing and planning travel. These also usually correspond with a bit of luxury. In this instance we chose a 4-night all inclusive option at Titilaka Lodge (confusing I know), a locally owned resort right on the shores of Lake Titicaca, some distance outside the town of Puno.
This was an excellent choice and we could not have been happier with our stay. Our room had a magnificent view facing Lake Titicaca (all 18 rooms have a view of the lake). The dining was top notch, including evening drinks before and after dinner. Weather permitting, pre-dinner drinks are served outside with canapés on the lake shore or when inclement inside by the fire.
The interior of the hotel is designed to make the most of the lake views, with all of the public areas, including the restaurant, offering views of the lake. The furnishings feature local textiles and one of the excursions on offer is to a local village where you can meet the family of weavers supplying the hotel’s textiles.
Most of the staff is also local and it is great to see such a luxury hotel be part of the local community. They are proud of their heritage and community and the excursions and food reflect this. It made the experience all the more enjoyable and educational as well. The hotel is part of the Relais & Châteaux group, well known for their hospitality and culinary excellence.
The other guests were a highlight of our stay. It was a very friendly collective of well-traveled people from all over the world. This is where we received the recommendation for the Hoi An Food tour in Vietnam. (You can read all about it in Hoi An A Town Full of Fantastic Delights).
We were assigned a tour guide that went with us each day. On some days, depending on the activity, it was just us, and on a couple of outings we were in a small group. The guide and the outings were all top notch and we were able to really relax and explore Lake Titicaca, including sampling much of the local cuisine at meals.
Exploring the Traditional Cultures of Lake Titicaca
This is a traditional village living on floating islands made of reeds growing in Lake Titicaca. The main industry for the village has always been fishing, and while this is still a large part of their diet, handicrafts and tourism have helped this community to maintain their traditional way of living.
Our visit included a demonstration of how the “island” is built of reeds and maintained. Maintenance is an ongoing necessity occupying much of the time of the men for both the gathering of the reeds and the actual construction of the island. An extended family lives on each island. They also build their boats of the same reeds. The whole experience is very interesting and picturesque, so don’t forget your camera.
This island is governed by the elders on the island. For thousands of years they have used a cooperative governance structure among the families on the island. Early on they figured out that if everyone did their own thing on their individual land holding, their lifestyle on the island would become unsustainable due to a lack of resources to sustain a growing population.
So they work cooperatively in farming, weaving, managing livestock, fishing and tourism. Each family’s duties and the agricultural crops are rotated from year to year to meet the islands needs.
They maintain traditional dress and there are no roads (or cars) on the island. Life here is much as it has been for centuries. It is possible to organize a home stay on the island.
The community is known as an island of weavers. Knitting is performed by the males in the community. Women clean, dye and spin the wool. Chumpis, wide belts worn by the residents, are made by women. One of the duties of the women before marrying is to make their wedding belt. The style of hat worn by the residents and their greetings also denote their social (including marital) status. (This was not uncommon in indigenous communities in Peru.)
We also encountered the Aymara culture in northern Chile, so were very interested to see it had existed for hundreds of years near Lake Titicaca.
On our excursion to explore the local Aymara we visited two very interesting sites. The first stop was to see the Chullpas of Molloco, large circular funeral relics. The second stop was a short hike that led to the doorway of Amaru Muro, believed to be a doorway or portal to another dimension by local shamans. There is an energy force believed to be centered here. The countryside and rock formations were beautiful and it made for a most pleasant trip through the countryside.
In addition to the visiting the traditional communities we had excursions to the weaving community, canoeing on Lake Titicaca (departing from the boat dock at the hotel), and a visit to the local barter market where the locals trade for their essential goods without exchanging money.
One evening at the hotel we also had a fascinating presentation and viewing of the night sky. This included a rather detailed discussion of the beliefs and legends of some of the ancient cultures about the night sky. These stories are part of the oral traditions of the local Andean culture and are passed from father to son. The Incan calendar is closely tied to the stars, and many of the myths and ceremonies are tied to the movement of the stars and the two skies (one for winter and one for summer). The Incas place significant importance on the Orion constellation and the Aymara stories revolve around the Southern Cross constellation. After walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and exploring the Aymara ruins this was fascinating.
We also, of course, had the benefit of our local guide during our entire stay of whom we could ask questions. This provided a lot of insight we would have missed traveling independently.
If you are looking for a little peace and quiet, some luxury, great food, and a chance to explore the local culture, we highly recommend Titilaka.
Interested in more about Peru? Try here:
- The Best of Books, Cookbooks and Movies about Peru
- How to Make a Pisco Sour & What You Need to Know about Pisco
- Secrets of the Sacred Valley
- Peruvian Ceviche How to Make This Classic at Home
- In the Footsteps of The Incas: The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
- Peru’s Most Popular Dish: How to Make Lomo Saltado
My friends and I are planning a trip to Peru in April. This perfect couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I am so excited! Your photos are amazing. Would love to learn more about the Aymara culture.
Renne, Lake Titicaca (I love that name) was fascinating all right from a cultural and natural beauty perspective. It’s a must see if you are going to Peru. Thanks for your comment.
This is amazing! I’d love to see those boats and learn more about the culture in the area. The hotel seems like the perfect base for exploring! 🙂
Natalie, just the name of the lake congers up mysticism. The hotel was spectacular, as was the lake. The reed boats look like something out of a movie. Thanks for your comment.
What a great cultural experience and who says all-inclusives are boring! Love the boat pics as well.
We usually cook so it was a good break from that. Nice to be pampered once in a while. Thanks for your comment.
Lake Titicaca seems like a pocket of the world that, despite travelers being there with cameras and the Lodge being newer, seems just untouched and frozen in time. The islands are so fascinating. And I love that the staff of the lodge is local, as we’ve traveled too many times and met staff that have traveled far to be able to work there…
Rob, you make some pertinent points. I think there is a lot more visibility now about using local staff and suppliers and spreading the wealth a little more around communities. Thanks for your comment.
looks like a great place to visit and an amazing experience. Its great that they work as a community for all their needs
Yes, amazing how that community does not rely on “national” government and they can self-govern their own community. Thanks for your comment.