Lost Legends and Lake Titicaca 1 June 2012 1 June 2012 • scottdunntravel Sarah Lee from our Latin America team has recently returned from an action packed trip to Peru. The most impressive stop was Titilaka, a very pampering boutique lodge set on a secluded peninsula with incredible vistas overlooking Lake Titicaca, one of the highest lakes in the world at an oxygen-busting 3,800m above sea level. Peru has always been one of my favorite countries in Latin America, not only for its wealth of attractions but also for its incredible scenery (give me the Andes over a beach any day!), fabulous food (…the ceviche!) and utterly mind-blowing remnants to ancient civilizations on such an epic scale such as Machu Picchu (still never ceases to amaze me). The list goes on. After revisting the Amazon, the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Cuzco (one of my favorite cities in the Americas although I still didn’t brave trying the local specialty dish – cuy or guinea pig!), I took the 10 hour Andean Explorer train across the high altiplano to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side. The Lake is also bordered by Bolivia to the east. The journey was so picturesque and on route we passed checkerboard valleys, amazing Inca agricultural terraces (Peru doesn’t import any grains or crops as it produces enough to sustain the whole country itself!), little thatched villages, and storied peaks. For those who feel a 10 hour journey is too much there is of course the option of flying. The great thing about doing Lake Titicaca at the end of your holiday is that you will have already had time to gradually acclimatize to the altitude and it is so relaxing with gorgeous accommodation. On arrival in Puno, I was greeted by a super friendly Titilaka representative and driven away from the hustle and bustle of the town to the most tranquil of locations. As we headed away from the lights of Puno, the sky became illuminated with thousands of stars – just magical and caught a great glimpse of the Southern Cross. According to Andean belief, Lake Titicaca is said to be where the mighty Inca Empire has its origin. Legend has it that Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, the first two children of the Sun, emerged from the depths of the lake to be the first pair in the great Inca dynasty. Our guides Julio and Armando at Titilaka knew the history and geography of the region inside out and really brought the whole mysticism to life. Fabulous excursions are included as part of the Titilaka’s ‘comprehensive experience’ either on foot, by 4×4, kayak or boat. You can explore the Andean communities on the islands of Taquile or Uros; visit the archaeological sites of Chullpas at Sillustani and the splendid colonial churches in the towns of Juli, Pomata and Lampa; or simply kick back and absorb the spirit of the region. During our stay we visited Taquile about an hour away from the lodge, a secluded island of weavers whose textiles have been hailed as heritage masterpieces by UNESCO. Part of the uniqueness of the island’s culture comes from their traditional social structure which is reflected in their dress, traditions and greetings. Rather than hand shaking, they greet each other by the symbolical ritual of exchanging coca leaves. They shy away from modern medicines and are so knowledgeable about their own local flora that they use various herbs and plants to cure all manner of illnesses – they even have a cure for baldness (pictured below)! On arrival we were welcomed by a local weaver called Juan and his family, who taught us about their weavings and shared anecdotes about the island they very proudly call home. The scenery was just stunning with so many great photo opportunities: the amber soils contrast so vividly against the intense navy blue of the lake, while the snowcapped mountains of the Cordillera Real frame the setting perfectly. Once back at the lodge, panoramic views from wrap-around terraces at Titilaka allow guests to fully enjoy the uninterrupted vistas while colourful indigenous artwork reflect the tradition and culture of nearby communities. At Titilaka they really do go the extra mile for guests and the attention to detail is just fantastic. They also served the best food I ate on the whole trip – all locally produced and so fresh. In the daytime the weather was gloriously sunny (be careful as with high altitude the sun is very powerful) however as soon as the sun set it got very chilly however the lodge was so cosy and atmospheric and the staff even put hot water bottles in our beds! To speak with Sarah or one of our Latin America specialists about our tailor-made holidays to Peru call 020 8682 5030.