After our intense morning exercise in the Colca Canyon, we could sit back and relax on a ten-hour bus trip to Puno. Following a spectacular sunrise over Lake Titicaca from our hotel room, we launched our kayaks onto the world’s highest navigable lake.
We booked transport from Cabanaconde to Puno via the Pachamama Hostel. The comfortable bus makes several stops along the way to Puno, including a transfer in Chivay. The first stop after we boarded the bus in Cabanaconde was a a picture-perfect viewpoint of the Colca Valley.
Right after that, we stopped in a small village called Maca. No tourist bus ride would be complete without getting dropped in the middle of fake handbags, sunglasses and souvenirs. My undivided attention went to the Colca Sour stand. Given that we had been up since 4:30 AM, 11 AM seemed like an appropriate cocktail o’clock.
Next up were La Calera hot springs, right outside Chivay. Since most of our bus companions refused to pay the excessive six dollar entrance fee, we had the hot springs practically to ourselves. Our sore feet could highly appreciate this stop.
After a lunch buffet in Chivay, we were transferred to another bus. We climbed up to 4,900 meters above sea level, to the Mirador de los Andes. This is as close as you’ll get to Peru’s active volcanoes without doing an effort.
We held an afternoon tea break in the middle of nowhere. To our big surprise, Belgium’s European Championship game against Wales was airing. We could only see part of it, and that was probably for the best. Last stop before heading to Puno was Laguna Lagunillas. More than the flamingos, it was the beautiful background that drew my attention.
Our stay for the night in Puno was Hotel Libertador. Located right on Lake Titicaca, the hotel offers panoramic views from the rooms and on-site restaurant. Once again, we woke up way too early for being on a holiday. But the spectacular sunrise over Lake Titicaca was more than worth it.
If it wasn’t for our pick-up at 7:00 AM, we would have spent the whole morning munching on the delicious breakfast buffet. But adventure awaited! We started the day with two hours of paddling to Uros Islands. Initially I was looking for a full-day kayak trip, but two hours turned out to be more than satisfying (and exhausting).
Once we set foot on the floating islands, a local inhabitant talked about Uros culture. The Uros Islands have become a major tourist attraction in Peru, so it was to be expected that handicrafts would be waiting around every corner. Nonetheless, the visit was very interesting. The islands are completely man-made out of reeds and new layers need to be added constantly. With a big help from tourism, the Uros people have managed to keep their culture alive.
After our introduction to life on the floating islands, we were invited to take a tour in a reed boat – needless to say, for an additional charge. We let our inner tourists out and went with it.
Next, we exchanged the reed boat for a fast boat to Taquile Island. The blue skies and cool breeze made the journey a very pleasant one.
Taquile Island is recognized for its fine knitwear, made by men only. Their knitted hats are reminiscent of a traffic light party. Red and white means single and ready to mingle, red and blue is engaged, red stands for married. There’s no cars or hotels to be found here; instead, the 2000 residents have developed their own tourism model based on homestays. Our visit was limited to a hike around the island, followed by a local lunch and performance.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in hotel Libertador’s lobby, enjoying the sunset over Lake Titicaca with a fancy cocktail in hand. At 10 PM, we boarded the night bus to Cusco, where two of the highlights of our Peru trip awaited!