Staying in a homestay is unique way to learn about real life on Lake Titicaca. The Capachica Peninsula, Isla Taquile and Isla Amantaní have the most established options. Staying on Islas Uros on a reed island is a whole other experience. Puno has a good selection of budget and midrange options, but check that heating is included.
Eating, and sometimes even cooking, with a local family is an excellent experience. The whole region specialises in trout and quinoa. Puno has the best choice for slightly international choices and chifas (Chinese restaurants).
After Cuzco, Puno is Peru’s most touristed town, as it’s a base for excursions on and around Lake Titicaca. Archaeology and mythology draw tourists here, sure, but what makes them stay is the chance to spend time in a rich and fascinating culture. Since turismo vivencial (homestay tourism) took off around Lake Titicaca, it has become the basis of the local tourism industry.
Ethical Community Tourism
There are dozens of tour agencies in Puno, in many cases offering the same thing at wildly different prices. The main difference for this discrepancy is the amount of money the agency pays to the host families. Nearly all the cheaper agencies (and some of the more expensive ones) pay little more than the cost of the visitors’ meals. While it’s difficult to find out for certain which agencies fairly compensate the host families, the following tips can help you contribute to a better experience.
- Use one of our recommended agencies or one recommended by fellow travelers.
- Check that your guide rotates both homestays and floating-island visits.
- Insist on handing payment for your lodging to the family yourself.
- Expect to pay well for your homestay. Visitors must pay at least US$50 for a typical two-day island excursion for the host family to make a profit from your stay.
- Travel to the islands independently – it’s easy.
- Carry out your trash – islanders have no way of disposing of it.
- Bring gifts of things the islanders can’t grow, such as fresh fruit or school supplies (pens, pencils, notebooks) – not unhealthy snacks.
- Don’t give candy or money to kids, so they don’t learn to beg.
- Support communal enterprises, which benefit all. On Taquile, families take turns to run the Restaurante Comunál, which gives many people their only opportunity to benefit from the tidal wave of tourism that hits their island daily. Luquina Chico and Isla Ticonata run their tourism communally, through rotation of accommodations, profit-sharing, and shared work providing food, transport, guiding and activities.
- Consider visiting one of the communities around the lake. They’re harder to get to than the islands but are far more peaceful and less touristed – here you’ll see a living, agrarian community.