Titicaca, Peru, Bolivia
GPS: -15.800433757559, -69.384819103171
A natural border between Peru and Bolivia at very high altitude, Lake Titicaca (or Titiqaqa in Quechua) is located at some 3,800 metres above sea level. Surrounded by the high peaks of the Andes Mountains, this mysterious place means “lead-colored puma” in the Aymara language (ancient official language of the Incas). Titicaca is a freshwater lake considered to be the cradle of the Inca civilization and one of the highest navigable lakes in the world.
190 kilometres long and 80 kilometres wide, Lake Titicaca covers an area of nearly 8,500 km², making it the second largest lake on the South American continent after Lake Maracaibo (Venezuela). This inland sea gives rise to ancient local legends and beliefs. With its morning mists and sacred peaks, Lake Titicaca is said to be the home of the god Viracocha, who was once worshipped under the Inca Empire. This high altitude lake has always been associated with the origin of the world, the cult of gold and the creation of the sun. It is the place of a hundred or so ancient sites dating back to pre-Columbian times. Ceramic fragments, censers in the shape of puma heads, lama bones and gold leaf have recently been discovered during scientific explorations and underwater research carried out in the waters of the lake. These remains could be offerings deposited as part of ritual ceremonies. They are attributed to the Tiwanaku civilization, which is believed to have settled on the shores of Lake Titicaca more than 10,000 years ago. Prior to the Incas, the Tiwanaku people would have prospered between the 5th and 11th centuries AD. The site subsequently became a major centre of Inca mythology. To this day, Lake Titicaca remains a central element in the culture of the ancient Aymara, Quechua and Qulla Indian tribes who originated from the region.
Divided into two sub-basins by the Strait of Tiquina, Lake Titicaca has around forty different islands and is home to wetlands of global importance. Its ecological balance is seriously threatened by the pollution of the lakeside towns (untreated waste water) and gold mining. A large-scale sanitation operation is being carried out in both countries to eradicate the problem by 2030. Numerous archaeological remains still lie in the depths of the lake, further enhancing the fascination of visitors for this legendary place.