Set in the high plains of the altiplano, with a backdrop of distant mountains, the sapphire blue waters of Lake Titicaca are dotted with beautiful islands. Calm water, clear air and the bright sun of the Andean summer bring long, long views, and a great sense of peace and closeness to the sky.
Lake Titicaca is famously the highest navigable lake in the world, at 3,800m (12,500ft). It straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia on the high plains of the Altiplano.
Andean people call it 'The Sacred Lake' and to this day its shores and islands are home to Aymara, Quechua and Uros communities-a meeting point of peoples and cultures.
The Uros community live on extensive floating islands woven from reeds harvested by the lake shore, topped up with fresh reeds every week or two to stay afloat. Their islands move around in the bay of Puno, especially in the winds of winter.
The Uros build reed houses on their reed islands, schools made of reeds, reed moorings for their reed boats, and even fishponds lined with reeds.
They consider themselves the oldest people on earth. They offer an endearing welcome to visiting newcomers at some of the 40 or so islands in their curious world of reeds: an unforgettable experience.
Taquile is home to a self-contained Quechua-speaking community, world-renowned for their dramatic finely-woven textiles and traditional dress.
Taquile is 2½ hours by boat from Puno. It's a small island-just 6 sq km-rising steeply above the lake. The community is very keen for visitors to come, buy textiles, and ideally stay a few nights in designated homes. The village is close to the top of the island with panoramic views of the lake.
Close to the northern shore, Suasi is beautifully set with wide views over the lake, and has the air of a quiet Mediterranean island. There's a well-tended upscale lodge for visitors, with delightful gardens.
Most travellers arrive at the Lake at Puno, a busy town at the head of a wide bay. It's a lively cosmopolitan place, good for an evening stroll although not a great deal more.
Bolivian Lake Titicaca
A great way to see the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca from Puno is to follow the shore by road to the small town of Copacabana, and then travel by catamaran to the Island of the Sun and then perhaps onwards to La Paz.
The Island of the Sun
'The Island of the Sun', on the Bolivian side, is the most notable island on Lake Titicaca: the lake even owes its own name to the island's early name of Titi Khar'ka ( 'puma rock').
It's a very evocative place. You can see the sacred stone marking the spot where the sun was born, impressive ruins of the palace of Tupac Inca Yupanqui, and many reminders of the pilgrimage route trodden by the Incas and their predecessors.
Copacabana on the lake's southern shore, also in Bolivia, is a place of Catholic pilgrimage. The town's beautiful cathedral is a white Moorish-style building that shines in the bright sun of the lake air. Inside is the shrine to the Virgin of Copacabana - a Black Madonna.
At the weekend, the plaza in front of the Cathedral becomes a jostling riot of colour as vehicles of all shapes and sizes, decorated with ribbons and flower garlands, all come to worship her and be blessed.
Nearby Challapampa is a traditional village that welcomes visitors. It lies close to the labyrinthine temple of Chinkana, an archaeological site to which village fishermen will ferry you.