Philippa has sadly left the Ancient Summit Team and moved back across the Pacific to Australia. We will miss her terribly and thank her for the amazing hard work she did to keep our travelers happy during their personalized travel to Peru.
A while back, we sent her and her husband up to the most wonderful hotel on the shores of Lake Titicaca for a long weekend. Now she knows why our visitors love our suggestions for traveling Peru on an exclusive, private, custom tour with us. She shares her experience with us here…
Lake Titicaca – the world’s highest navigable lake at approximately 3811 metres (12,500 feet) above sea level. I knew I was at risk of the dreaded altitude sickness, locally known as ‘Soroche’ by flying directly from Lima to Puno, but the Lake had been on our “must-do” list for so long, that we decided to just do it!
We were lucky enough to be staying at the luxurious hideaway Titilaka Lodge which is built on a remote private peninsula about one hour outside Puno. We were met at Juliaca airport by a friendly representative, and after a quick check of our oxygen levels, we were off; coca tea in hand, for the journey to Titilaka.
As we passed through Puno I felt a bit relieved we were staying out of the main town, as it seemed a bit hectic. Peace and tranquillity was what I had come out here to find; something I treasure after 2 years living in the bustling city of Lima. Getting these great level of accommodations is a very important part of a personalized itinerary to Peru when travelling with Ancient Summit.
Upon arrival at Titilaka I felt a bit short of breath from the altitude, but walking inside I was calmed by the relaxed atmosphere of the beautifully decorated lobby. Thankfully there was no tedious front desk check in procedure being imposed on me. Instead we were warmly greeted with a welcome drink made from the locally grown Muña plant and were guided to our room where we would complete our check-in in comfort.
The lodge has 18 rooms over 3 levels, offering different privileged viewpoints of the Lake. We were in a dusk room with a large window facing out across the Lake and as the name suggests, this room is the best spot for viewing the sunrise at dusk. The first thing I did was lay myself out on one of the sun-drenched Futons in front of the window. I knew that taking it easy as our first day in altitude would not be difficult in a room like this.
After a rest, we headed downstairs and onto the large terrace to watch the panoramic sunset. This has to be one of the most beautiful places at sundown, with the multi-coloured sky reflecting off the lake waters which stretch for as far as the eye can see.
After a tasty soup dinner (we were still acclimatizing, so tonight we had to skip the tempting 3-course menu options on offer) we booked in our excursion for tomorrow – the must-see Uros Floating Islands and the Island of Taquile.
We set our alarm for 5.30am. We didn’t want to miss the chance to watch the sun rising over the lake from the comfort of our bed. We were not disappointed! The colours from the sun-splashed across the sky and there was a light mist rolling over the water which added to the beauty. Usually, I am not a morning person, but after witnessing this I was wide awake and excited for our day on the Lake.
We boarded the boat with some other guests from Titilaka and made our way across the calm blue waters towards the famous floating islands of Uros. As we neared the islands we switched to a traditional style boat made out of ‘totara’ the plant which the people of Uros use to build their islands. These totara reeds are really important in this culture and are also used for many things, including medicinal purposes. After a quick crash course in Quechua with our guide, we were warmly welcomed by a colourfully dressed Uru family as we stepped foot onto their island.
I could feel the slight motion of the island moving beneath us, as we learned about how they built them by cutting spongey blocks of earth which acted like floating mattresses that they tie together and cover with many layers of totara reed. After the demonstration we had time to meet the families on the island and see their handcrafts, before they farewelled us from their island with a song.
The whole experience was a bit surreal. It was interesting to see a traditional culture which is so different from the way of life that I know.
Next stop was the Island of Taquile. This peaceful island is home to about 2,000 people. The main activity on this island is weaving and we visited some locals to learn about this ancient tradition. The quality of the work was impressive and it was interesting to hear about how important it is in this culture to be a good weaver. Here we enjoyed a lunch of trout and quinoa soup as we got to know our fellow guests.
We did a short hike over to the other side of the island which gave us a fantastic viewing point of the lake. Amongst all that deep bright blue, it was difficult to see where the lake ended and the sky begun.
After a great day on the lake we returned to our boat for the cruise back to the lodge, arriving just before the sun began to set. We stayed out on the main terrace with our new friends from the tour, where we sipped on wine as we once again watched the sky change colour and the stars begin to appear.
For our last day we decided on a leisurely bike ride through the surrounding land, passing locals going about their daily lives. I think this ride was one of my favourite moments of the trip. I felt so privileged to be out here in the land of these people. We were greeted by local farmers, as we pedalled along the dirt road, passing families with their cattle, and watching these hard-working people out in the fields. Out here I felt completely transported from my regular daily life.
In the afternoon we had our last activity which was a visit to Amaru Muru – a large flat stone, with a 6 foot tall door-like archway carved into the face of it. This door has become known by some as “the gateway to the gods”. Local legend speaks of strange things happening around the site and even people disappearing through the door. It was an impressive site to see and as I stood in its shadow my mind began to wonder about the mysteries of it’s past. I am quite pleased that I did not disappear through the door to find out.
After an amazing 3 days, it was time to say goodbye to the shores of Lake Titicaca – a place I will always remember for its bright colours, stunning scenery, rich culture and interesting local traditions.
Text and photos: Philippa Kilkelly, former member of Ancient Summit