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Introducing Lake Titicaca

Worlds collide around Lake Titicaca. Here the desolate altiplano (Andean plateau) meets the storied peaks and fertile valleys of the Andes. Green, sun-dazed islands contrast with freezing dirt farms. Ancient agrarian communities live alongside the chaos of the international marketplace.

Campesinas (peasant women) in bowler hats and sandals made from recycled truck tires tend to their llamas as light aircraft full of contraband fly overhead. Coca smugglers count their money in tumbledown towns that rear out of the dust like anthills. On howling cold nights, people huddle together, yet this place parties like nowhere else. In a country known for its riotous religious fiestas, Puno’s Candelaria is one of the greatest shows of all.

Lake Titicaca shimmers with a distinctive navy blue, and its gemlike islands and gentle shores are an agricultural paradise. Crumbling cathedrals, rolling hills, checkerboard valleys and Bolivia’s highest mountains in the background all conspire to make anyone a pro photographer. According to Andean belief, this lake gave birth to the sun, as well as the father and mother of all the Incas, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo. Pre-Inca Pukara, Tiwanaku and Collas all lived here and left monuments scattered across the landscape – from waist-high burial towers for dwarves to comical oversized stone penises. This is the heartland of South America, where priests bless taxis and lawyers sacrifice llamas. Rug up and jump in.