At an altitude of 12,506 feet, Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake and also one of the largest. It covers an area of 7,988 square km (3,963 square miles) in the altiplano, shared between Peru and Bolivia. Some of the highest peaks in the Andes rise along the northeastern shore. The lake is actually two bodies of water joined by the narrow Estrecho de Tiquina (Strait of Tiquina). The smaller section, Lago Huiñaymarca, is the easiest to reach from La Paz. To see the much larger Lago Chucuito, you’ll need to travel on to Peru. To visit the islands, which are the highlight of the lake, include Copacabana on your itinerary.
Considered sacred by the Aymara people who live on its shores, Lake Titicaca was also revered by the Tiwanaku and Inca civilizations. Here you’ll find Isla del Sol (Sun Island) and Isla de la Luna (Moon Island), each with ruins in varying states of decay. According to legend, Isla del Sol is where the Inca Empire was founded when Manco Kapac and Mama Ojllo, son and daughter of the Sun God Inti, came down to Earth to improve the life of the altiplano people. This, some might say, is taking some time—tourism has brought few benefits, and life, clawed out of the barren landscape, continues to be hard for the Aymara Indians who inhabit this area.
Major archaeological discoveries continue both around and in the lake, but for the traveler, the real attraction is the beauty of the area, and the undeniable power and energy that emanates from it. Few who visit Titicaca fail to be impressed.