Lake Titicaca

Alpine lake in Peru and Bolivia

Lake Titicaca (Quechua: Titiqaqa Qucha, "Titiqaqa Lake") is a large, deep lake in the Andes mountains. The eastern part is in Bolivia and the western part of it is in Peru. It is the largest lake in South America.[2][3][4] Lake Titicaca is at 3,812 m (12,507 ft) above sea level.[5][6] It is often called the "highest navigable lake" in the world. It means that it is the highest lake that boats use for trade. There are many other lakes in the world that are higher. The lake has 41 islands. Some of the islands are home to many people.

Lake Titicaca
View of the lake from the lake's Isla del Sol
Coordinates15°45′S 69°25′W / 15.750°S 69.417°W / -15.750; -69.417
TypeMountain lake
Primary inflows27 rivers
Primary outflowsDesaguadero River
Catchment area58,000 km2 (22,400 sq mi)[1]
Basin countriesBolivia
Max. length190 km (118 mi)
Max. width80 km (50 mi)
Surface area8,372 km2 (3,232 sq mi)[1]
Average depth107 m (351 ft)[1]
Max. depth281 m (922 ft)[1]
Water volume893 km3 (214 cu mi)[1]
Residence time1343 years[1]
Shore length11,125 km (699 mi)[1]
Surface elevation3,812 m (12,507 ft)[1]
Islands42+ (see article)
SettlementsCopacabana, Bolivia
Puno, Peru
Designated26 August 1998
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.



Lake Titicaca is home to more than 530 species of water animals.[7] Several threatened species such as the huge Titicaca water frog and the Titicaca grebe, a bird which cannot fly, only live in or near the lake.[8][9]

Andean coot among totora reeds
View of Lake Titicaca during sunrise

Since 2000, the water level of Lake Titicaca has gone down. This is because of shorter rainy seasons and the melting of glaciers.[10][11] The Global Nature Fund (GNF) says that the natural life in and around Lake Titicaca is under threat from water pollution and the introduction of new species by humans.[12]

A reed boat on Lake Titicaca


Raft of totora on Lake Titicaca in the Isla del Sol (Bolivia)

The "Floating Islands" are small islands made by the Uros (or Uru) people. They use layers of cut totora, a thick reed that grows in Lake Titicaca.[13] The Uros make the islands by continuously bending over the reeds that grow in the lake.[14]

Legend says that the Uru people came from the Amazon river area, and moved to Lake Titicaca. The local people did not allow them to have their own land.[13] They then built the reed islands, which could be moved into deep water or to different parts of the lake for safety.

The islands are a golden colour. Many are about 15 by 15 m (50 by 50 ft) big. The largest are about half the size of a football field.[13][15] Each island has a few houses. The people living together on an island are usually all related.[13] Some of the islands have watchtowers and other buildings, also made out of reeds.

As of 2011, about 1,200 Uros lived on 60 islands.[13] They are mostly in the west corner of the lake near Puno, a large port town in Peru.[15] The islands have become one of Peru's tourist attractions. This means that the Uros can earn money by bringing visitors to the islands by motorboat and selling crafts.[13][15]


Amantani island as seen from Taquile island

Amantani is another small island on Lake Titicaca. The people living here speak the Quechua language. About 4,000 people live in 10 communities on the nearly circular 15 km2 (6 sq mi) island. It has two mountain peaks, called Pachatata (Father Earth) and Pachamama (Mother Earth). Both peaks have ancient ruins on the top. The hillsides planted with wheat, potatoes, and vegetables. Most of the small fields are worked by hand. Long stone fences divide the fields, and cattle and sheep also graze on the hillsides.


Taquile Island

Taquile is a hilly island located 45 km (28 mi) east of Puno. About 2,200 people live here. It is narrow and long and was used as a prison during the Spanish Colony and into the 20th century. In 1970, it became property of the Taquile people, who have inhabited the island since then. There are pre-Inca ruins on the highest part of the island. Taquile is famous for its weaving and knitting. "Taquile and Its Textile Art" were honoured by UNESCO with the label "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity".

Isla del Sol


Isla del Sol (Spanish for "island of the sun") is one of the largest islands of the lake. It is a rocky, hilly island. There are no cars or paved roads on the island. About 800 families live here. There are over 180 ruins on the island. Most of these are from the Inca period around the 15th century AD. Among the ruins on the island are the Sacred Rock, a labyrinth-like building called Chicana, Kasa Pata, and Pilco Kaima. The island is also mentioned in Inca mythology.

Isla de la Luna

Isla de la Luna and Cordillera Real

Isla de la Luna (Spanish for “island of the moon”) lies east of the bigger Isla del Sol. Legends say that this is where Viracocha told the moon to rise.[16] Archaeological excavations[17] show that the Tiwanaku peoples (around 650–1000 AD) built a large temple on the Island of the Moon.[18] The buildings on the island today were built by the Inca on top of the earlier Tiwanaku ones.



Suriki lies in the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca.[19] Suriki is the last place where they still make reed boats.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 "Data Summary: Lago Titicaca (Lake Titicaca)". International Lake Environment Committee Foundation – ILEC. Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
  2. Grove, M. J., P. A. Baker, S. L. Cross, C. A. Rigsby and G. O. Seltzer 2003 Application of Strontium Isotopes to Understanding the Hydrology and Paleohydrology of the Altiplano, Bolivia-Peru. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 194:281-297.
  3. Rigsby, C., P. A. Baker and M. S. Aldenderfer 2003 Fluvial History of the Rio Ilave Valley, Peru, and Its Relationship to Climate and Human History. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 194:165-185
  4. Questions Unlimited (2003). "Who Wants to Be a Judge at the National Academic Championship?". National Academic Championship. Archived from the original on 6 April 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  5. "The World Factbook". Archived from the original on 5 November 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  6. "Highest Lake Elevations in the World". Education. Archived from the original on 4 August 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  7. Kroll; Hershler; Albrecht; Terrazas; Apaza; Fuentealba; Wolff; and Wilke (2012). The endemic gastropod fauna of Lake Titicaca: correlation between molecular evolution and hydrographic history. Ecol Evol. Jul 2012; 2(7): 1517–1530.
  8. Cossel, Lindquist, Craig, and Luthman (2014). Pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in marbled water frog Telmatobius marmoratus: first record from Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. Dis Aquat Organ. 112(1):83-7. doi: 10.3354/dao02778
  9. Fjeldså, J.; & Krabbe, N. (1990). Birds of the High Andes: A Manual to the Birds of the Temperate Zone of the Andes and Patagonia, South America. ISBN 978-8788757163
  10. Carlos Valdez: Lake Titicaca at dangerously low level – website of the Sydney Morning Herald (accessed 2009-11-28)
  11. Lake Titicaca evaporating away (video) – report by al Jazeera (accessed 2009-11-28)
  12. Weis, Almut. "GNF – Lake Titicaca".
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 Foer, Joshua (February 25, 2011). "The Island People: The seventh hidden wonder of South America". Slate. Archived from the original on October 7, 2016.
  14. "Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca". Awake!. Vol. 75, no. 12. 22 June 1994. p. 25. ISSN 0005-237X. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Istvan, Zoltan (July 3, 2003). "Rough Waters for Peru's Floating Islands". National Geographic Channel. Archived from the original on August 6, 2016.
  16. Bolivia, Lonely Planet 2007, ISBN 1-74104-557-6
  17. Bauer, Brian and Charles Stanish 2001 Ritual and Pilgrimage in the Ancient Andes University of Texas press, Austin
  18. "Collection search: You searched for Tiahuanaco Titicaca earthenware". British Museum.
  19. Box, Ben (1998). South American Handbook. Footprint Handbooks. p. 292. ISBN 978-0-8442-4886-8.

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