A day trip to Puno to visit the islands on Lake Titicaca

It’s been a fast-paced two weeks, but it’s already almost time to say goodbye to Peru. The final stop before we cross over the border was Puno, a city which sits on the edge of Lake Titicaca in southern Peru.

We arrived into Puno at roughly 7am having travelled overnight from Cusco. Thankfully we managed to get seats downstairs on the bus, which are bigger and more comfortable than the ones on the first floor. That meant we got a much better nights sleep than usual, though sleeping overnight on a bus is never as good as a real bed.

When we reached our hostel we were hoping to store our bags while we took a boat onto Lake Titicaca, but they did one better than that and let us have the room when we arrived. We quickly got changed and I had a shower to wash off whatever smells of the night bus were lingering on me. While we waited to be picked up by our minibus, we snuck some items from the breakfast buffet to tide us over until lunch.

The tour we’d booked was a one-day tour which included a visit to the floating islands on Lake Titicaca and a stop at Taquile Island for lunch. In retrospect I probably would have been happy with a two hour visit to just the floating islands, but we did make some friends in Taquile and we might not have otherwise.

The first part of the tour was really interesting as we got to see the floating islands where people live and have lived for hundreds of years. It seems crazy that they would choose to live on reeds which they have to constantly maintain in order to stay afloat, but tradition and tax-free living seem to be enough to keep them there. Although it was fascinating to visit the islands, it also felt far too touristic with a large number of boats arriving and departing while we were there. It’s hard to imagine life could be normal for the people on the islands having to entertain nosey tourists every few hours, but maybe the people who don’t want to be disturbed have their homes a little further into the lake.

We bought a cushion cover while we were there and Mark tried on some traditional clothing, but we were the only people to not pay for the taxi boat over to a nearby island. When everyone else in our tour slowly left, we hovered around awkwardly and got a glimpse of the islanders returning to normal as they prepared for the next boat load of gawkers.

Once off the islands we had a two hour journey over Lake Titicaca to Taquile Island. Having spent the previous night trying to sleep in a somewhat awkward sitting position, I found myself drifting off to sleep on the way. Mark spent his time chatting on the roof of the boat and taking photos, while I snoozed away in another uncomfortable sitting position.

In Peru it seems people expect you to be a lot fitter and physically able than other countries. The description of the tour had no indication that we would be doing any walking, but just before we arrived to Taquile the guide surprised us with the information. I’ve already mentioned in other posts that I struggle with just climbing a few stairs in high altitudes, so this mini hike at 3,812m was going to be interesting. I can’t wait to be able to breathe again.

Our walk to the home where we would be eating lunch was roughly 20 minutes uphill. Somehow I ended up at the front of the group and was amazed I managed to keep a faster pace than half the group. That also meant when I reached the point we were supposed to stop I was able to sit on a wall and get my breath back. Once everyone had caught up, there was another short climb before we were finally able to sit down.

Lunch was pretty good, though Mark’s fish looked a lot tastier than my vegetable omelette. We were also shown a few traditions from the family after we’d finished eating, such as the belts they weave for their husbands before they marry, the tiny knitting the men are expected to master, plus some traditional wedding dances. Again it felt weird making people break from their normal lives to perform for us. I would have been a lot more comfortable with just a description from our guide of the traditions, rather than asking people to dance around and weave in front of us hoping for tips.

After lunch we were shown the town square, followed by a 40 minute walk around the island to return to our boat. I’m not sure why we had to walk for so long, but it was good to be getting some exercise. Thankfully the walk didn’t involve an incline or I might have cried.

Once we were back on the boat it was the end of our tour, with just the 2 hour journey back to Puno standing in the way of me going to bed.

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