Lake Titicaca is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world, at 3,812 m (12,507 feet) above sea level. Located in the Altiplano high in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia, Titicaca has an average depth of 107 m, and a maximum depth of 281 m. The western part of the lake belongs to the Puno Region of Peru, and the eastern side is located in the Bolivian La Paz Department.
More than 25 rivers empty into Titicaca, and the lake has 41 islands, some of which are densely populated. Titicaca is fed by rainfall and meltwater from glaciers on the sierras that abut the Altiplano. It is drained by the Desaguadero River, which flows south through Bolivia to Lake Poopó. This accounts for less than five percent of the lake’s water loss, however, the rest is caused by evaporation as a result of the strong winds and sunlight at this altitude.
Aside from having greatest name even bestowed upon a lake, Lake Titicaca is a good stopping off point if you are heading west from La Paz into Peru on your way to Cuzco or vice versa. The islands in Titicaca are very interesting. The three main islands are Uros, Amantani and the one that I visited Isla del Sol.
Situated on the Bolivian side of the lake with regular boat links to the Bolivian town of Copacabana, Isla del Sol (“Island of the Sun”) is one of the lake’s largest islands. In Inca mythology it figured as the place of their origin, and several important Inca ruins exist on the island. Its economy is mainly driven by tourism revenues, but subsistence agriculture and fishing are widely practised. An underwater archaeological research project was undertaken off the Island of the Sun during 1989-92. Rare Inca and Tiahuanaco artifacts were recovered, which are currently on display in a site museum in Challapampa.
Titicaca is a nice place to hang out and relax a bit and get used to the altitude. There are a lot of travelers killing time in the small towns and islands. They are staying away from the hassels of the cities and the petty dangers of places like Arequipa in Peru, which are notorious for robberies of tourists.
Three Irish guys that I met in Cuzco were held up at gunpoint in Arequipa and got stuck in Peru for an extra two weeks because of issues with their new passports after they were stolen from them. They had to get up to Lima to get to the Irish Embassy or the US Embassy as an Irish National or a US permanent resident, but they didn’t have any money or ATM cards-so you can imagine what a nightmare that was. It almost cost one of them his job back in Boston.