It's easy to assume that Machu Picchu sits on one of the highest peaks in Peru. Take a look at any photo, and the ancient city appears shrouded in clouds, dangerously close to toppling over the cliff. Yes, Machu Picchu is over 2,400m above sea level. However, when you consider that Cuzco is 1,000m even higher, trekking up to the 15th century Inca site doesn't seem nearly as daunting anymore. In fact, it pales in comparison to Lake Titicaca in southern Peru. The highest navigable lake in the world sits 3,800m above sea level. Time to get out the oxygen tanks.
Don't be turned away by the altitude though. For those willing to make the trek south, Lake Titicaca offers a peace and calm that's nearly impossible to come by these days. The lake shimmers beautifully below the constant clear, blue sky. The only jarring moment we experienced was on the Uros Islands. Fashioned entirely out of reeds, these tiny floating islands are home to the native Uru people. The "well preserved" islands are in fact tourist traps where you'll undoubtedly be coaxed into shelling out for "traditional" souvenirs. In lieu of the Uros Islands, take a small boat out to Taquile Island. You'll be greeted by friendly residences who offer homemade cooking and give you full access to wander the island's rocky landscape.
For our 3 days in the region, we stayed at Titilaka on the western shore. This tiny boutique lodge was the perfect home base, and to this day, is still one of my favorite hotels in the world. The service is beyond amazing due to a staff that aims to make a truly personal and memorable experience. They noticed my mom admiring the colorful yarn accessories and rugs throughout the hotel, so they offered to take her to the local craftsman where everything was handwoven. That evening, she returned to the hotel for a birthday dinner and was surprised with a gift basket of handmade items. It was these tiny details that made Titilaka such a unforgettable stay.
The highlight of our trip was an impromptu stop at a nearby village. That evening, the village happened to be hosting a festival. Before we knew it, local women and men had taken us by the hand and thrown us into their dance circle. As we twirled around to the tunes of a local marching band, we were offered cups of communal beer and delicious snacks. It was exhilarating being in a place that was so foreign, so remote yet also so warm and inviting.