An overnight stay on Lake Titicaca's Amantani Island
As I mentioned in my previous post on exploring the Uros islands, we had planned for an overnight stay on the lake. From Uros, we spent about 3 hours on the water going to Amantani Island. On this ride is when you get an appreciation for the size of the lake and the gorgeous water! It was a beautiful morning and (thankfully) the water was not choppy at all – perfect for getting some sun and then a nap before reaching Amantani island for our overnight stay.
Upon landing in Amantani we were greeted by a group of women in colorful skirts and shawls. Each lady picked a group of folks arriving from the boat. Upon meeting our host Philomena, we walked up the island to her home and she showed us our room. Any family who signs up for hosting travelers is required have a few necessities (such as a bathroom and beds), even if they don’t have it for themselves. We had 2 wooden cots in the bed, and a candle for light. No electricity in our home, although it looked like some other homes on the island had basic lights.
She then proceeded to cook lunch for us – quinoa and potato soup, and fried cheese. It was delicious and heart, but we felt terribly that they did not join us, and instead sat on the floor while we ate quietly. Plus, they only spoke Quechua and very few words of Spanish, so that combined with our knowledge of only a few words in Spanish meant we were communicating with lots of pointing and sounds. Kris spotted some sheep in the yard and proceeded to bleat and strike up a conversation about the sheep.
After lunch we took a nap, walked around for a bit, and then headed off with the rest of the group on the island to the temples at the top to catch the sunset. There are two – Pachamama and Pachatata, and the walk up there is not easy! With the altitude, any walking is a breathless climb. But it’s totally worth it once you get up there- the sunset over the lake is magnificent!
The temples are open only once a year in January – when the locals come up to leave offerings. As is tradition, we walked around the Pachatata temple three times and then took photos of the sunset. Nights on the lake are freezing, and after sunset, we quickly hurried back down to the house, stopping only for a cup of hot chocolate and anticuchos (grilled meat skewers).
By the time we got home, it was time for dinner. This time, the entire family was present – Philomena’s son, her mother, and a man who we think is either the husband or a brother. Another simple meal and then we were off to a party hall for some nighttime dancing. The hosts give you the opportunity to dress in traditional wear, but we politely declined thinking it would be too cold to just wear layers of skirts and shawls (not sure how they do it!). When we got to the hall, we realized all the others had just worn it over their clothes – that idea did not strike us at all!
Anyway, the party reminded me of some of my high school dances – everyone just awkwardly standing around the sides and not really knowing what to do. That quickly changed when the live music started! Philomena came and pulled into the dancing! It mostly involved going round and round in circles. And believe me, at 12000 feet that is no easy task.
After an hour or so of dancing (and no drinking!), we were pooped and headed back home to sleep. With no lights on the island, NO motor vehicles, it is pitch dark and eerily quiet. But you look up and see thousands of stars in the night sky! It was absolutely dreamy!
We brushed our teeth outside and hit the bed. The early start, the cold night, the walking – we slept like babies.
Our wakeup call was at 7 am and we woke up to a breakfast of pancakes and hot chocolate. After breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Philomena and her family and headed back down to catch the boat.
Day 2: From Amantani to Taquile
The ride to Taquile island was only about 30 minutes, but the early morning water was incredibly choppy, so I did not enjoy it one bit. Anyway, after reaching Taquile, we had to walk (yes, uphill) to the main town square where we had some time to walk around, get some souvenirs, and then head back ot catch the boat from the other side of the island. Honestly, by the time we got to Taquile, we were exhausted from all the walking in Amantani, and also just coming off the Inca trail a couple of days back, so we didn’t even walk around, but just continued along to catch our boat back.
Another couple of hours and we were back near Uros where we stopped to enjoy lunch in a floating restaurant. After fried fish and a couple of beers, we were taken back to Puno.
Booking a lake experience
We booked an overnight experience with Edgar Adventures but the city of Puno is definitely all about the tours on the lake. You will see this being sold everywhere. You can even do this on your own if you head on down to the docks, there are folks who will help you get on a tour. Tours are not expensive, so if you are a planner, I’d say just go ahead and book a tour with one of the companies before heading there. Many options are available – with day trips to multi day trips.
How to get there
We took a bus from Cuzco to Puno – the journey was about 8 hours with a few different stops along the way. Definitely recommend this as an option if you have time, the buses are very comfortable, and the scenery as you drive is breathtaking. The tourist stops are alright too for a quick break to stretch your legs and get some fresh air.
Other options are to fly into the city of Juliaca from Lima, Cusco, or Arequipa – and then take a short cab or bus to Puno. Many hotels may also offer this pickup service from Juliaca.
I highly recommend a homestay overnight – it truly gives you an appreciation for what life on the lake is like, Peruvian hospitality and kindness, and an overall humbling experience when you see what little they live off.
1. Don’t be fooled by gorgeous weather or clear skies – nights on the lake are FREEZING, so make sure you are prepared. The boat ride can be windy too, so make sure to have enough layers.
2. If you are doing a homestay, I recommend taking some supplies for the family. Something standard like fruit, sugar, rice or jams are recommended – since you won’t know who your host family is, whether they have kids, etc. We were told that the island has no dental facilities, so it’s best not to take candy or chocolate bars.
3. Yes, the whole thing is a bit commercialized, but that does not take away from the beauty of the lake or the experience with the family. It’s absolutely worth it.