On our trip from Peru to Bolivia, we decided to make a stop on both sides of Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world that’s navigable by ships. Since it’s believed that the Incas emerged from just this lake, that was yet another reason to take a closer look at it.
Puno – The Peru Side of Lake Titicaca
From Cuzco, we were off again with the Cruz der Sur night bus to Puno. When we arrived early in the morning, we went to our hotel, which we had booked for an extra night ahead of time so that we could really get some sleep. After endless discussions with the Conde de Lemos Inn, we finally got our booked room a half day later and could then start our day in Puno. In my opinion, Puno itself doesn’t have much to offer. But if you want to see something special, be sure to take a look at the floating islands.
The Uros Floating Islands – The People Who Live on the Lake
The floating Islands are a group of several man-made islands that were built to be lived on. These islands are constructed from reeds that grow in the water. Because the reeds contain air, the islands float on the surface. After a while, though, the air is lost because of the moisture, which is why a new layer of reeds has to be placed on top of the old. As a result, some parts of the island are often less thick than others. Because of that, you often feel like you’re on a waterbed. The islands are firmly anchored in place but can be moved whenever you please – if you don’t like your neighbor, for instance.
On one somewhat larger island, there’s a school. The local people earn their living through the revenue from tourists who sell souvenirs made by the local women themselves. So the women take care of the tourists while the men fish or gather reeds to improve the islands. The locals also keep domestic animals on the islands. The one we visited had a flamingo. Other islands had cats or dogs.
Transferring from Peru to Bolivia
We took the bus once again to get from Puno/Peru, to Copacabana/Bolivia. When booking it, make sure that it crosses the border during the daytime, since you first have to “check out” of Peru to be able to enter Bolivia. Along with your passport entry and tourist card, this checking in and out process should always be done electronically. Otherwise, it’s assumed that it’s an illegal entry. The trip takes around three hours, and you can be sure that 30 minutes of that will be spent stopped at the customs and passport checkpoint. With a good bus company, you’ll be informed as well as possible about the border process, and you’ll receive the necessary forms so that you can fill them out in advance. After the border crossing, the trip takes just 15 more minutes, and you’re already in Copacabana, where you immediately have to pay 2 BOB per person (tourist levy). We had already brought along a small amount of Bolivian money from home. You can also exchange currencies at the border, but the exchange rate is obviously not the best.
Copacabana – The Bolivian Side of the Lake
On the way to the floating islands, our guide told us that the “Titi” was in Peru while the “caca” was in Bolivia. This terrible joke gets even worse once you get to Copacabana, because it’s definitely prettier there than in Puno. We got an awesome tip on Instagram for our overnight stay, and we instantly booked a room at Hotel La Cupula. The hotel is a favorite with backpackers, but it also has great rooms for couples and families. From the hotel, you have a beautiful view over Copacabana, and you’re no longer quite so far from the local mountain, which is even somewhat higher. After we’d unpacked at the hotel, we immediately took the boat to the Isla del Sol and tried to climb the mountain in an hour and a half, which proved to be impossible since we also had to return by boat within that time. If you want to enjoy the island a bit more, head over there in the morning and take a later boat back. Copacabana is a very touristy place, but there still aren’t that many good restaurants, so unfortunately we can’t really recommend any. After one night and a cozy breakfast at the hotel, it was off with us to La Paz, probably Bolivia’s most important city – but more on that in a later post. ; )
What we could have done better in hindsight:
- If you arrive in Puno in the morning, it’s possible to take a look at the floating islands and then head over to Copacabana. At the bus terminal, they also sell tours for the area, which you can take advantage of with an earlier arrival. On top of that, the harbor is right next to the bus terminal.
- Visit Isla del Sol in the morning, because the afternoon option allows you too little time on the island.
- Enjoy freshly caught fish on the beach instead of trying to find a good restaurant.