Lake Titicaca Peru has a few impressive records to its name. It’s the lake with the most amount of water in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world. The actual Lake Titicaca Altitude is 3812 meters above sea level and the lake is located on the border between Peru and Bolivia. So Lake Titicaca is actually part of both countries. The main reason for tourists to visit the lake is to do the Uros Floating Islands Tour, which is booked daily by hundreds of visitors.
The Uros Floating Islands Tour can be done from Puno in Peru, but the other villages and towns surrounding the lake have a charm of their own. We recommend visiting Puno in Peru and Copacabana in Bolivia. In this guide, we will explain how to do the Uros Floating Islands Tour and how to get from Puno to Copacabana. Traveling from Puno to Copacabana isn’t difficult and it can either be done by yourself or with a tour.
Lake Titicaca can be discovered independently. If you rather join a group to travel to Lake Titicaca Peru, we recommend this G Adventures tour which covers all important stops in the area. Keep reading to discover more interesting facts about Lake Titicaca and how to get from Puno to Copacabana.
Puno – Lake Titicaca Peru
The student town of Puno in Peru is the main hub for visiting Lake Titicaca and for doing the Uros Floating Islands Tour. Puno is a charming student town and we end up staying there for much longer than anticipated. Central and South Americans love festivities and we’re lucky to be able to witness a local festivity them once more. Students and youngsters are marching through the streets, dressed up in crazy costumes and accompanied by loud music.
Puno is the main traveler hub by Lake Titicaca Peru for a good reason. Since the city is still in Peru, it can easily be a part of your Peru itinerary and the town is lively enough to keep travelers amused for a few days. From the Puno docks, you can easily book boat tours to the floating islands of Uros or you can book your tour with your hostel. Traveling on from Peru to Bolivia is easy when traveling from Puno to Copacabana, which we will explain further in a bit!
When streets turn into rivers - Puno Climate
A little information about rapidly changing weather in the steep streets of Puno. As soon as the rain starts to fall down onto the cozy streets of this town, streets instantly turn into fast-flowing rivers. It happened to us the day before we were supposed to leave, on our way back to the hostel. Within a few minutes, cascade style rivers flooded the streets and there was no way of crossing the street without shoveling a few liters of water into your shoes. So our shoes ended up in front of a small stove all night and they were still soaked in the morning. Beach slippers had been a better idea for wading through rivers.
Indigenous people – Uros Floating Islands Tour
The floating islands of Uros are the main tourist attraction on the lake and each day, hundreds of people book a Uros Floating Island Tour in order to visit the reed islands on Lake Titicaca. Indigenous people have built the handmade islands decades ago to hide from Spanish conquerors. Since they’re floating among the reed of the lake, they’re hidden from sight for people on the shore. The islands are made of reed and floating plants tied neatly together. A lot of thought was put into creating the islands, enhancing their techniques over the years. Reed houses were built on top of the islands and entire families live on the surface of the lake.
Doing the Uros Floating Islands Tour
A day-trip with a tour is the only way to visit the floating islands of Uros and it will take you through the entire tourist activity ritual. Locals dress up in their native clothing, showing you how life could have been without tourism. Fishing and maintaining the floating islands used to be their main concern. Now their day job consists of showing tourists around. It’s a fun activity to do, but I did feel like I was invading the precious lives of these families. At the end of the tour, you get an opportunity to buy handmade goods from the families on one of the islands and you get a cool boat ride on one of the impressive reed boats.
The Uros Floating Islands Tour starts from the Puno docks and it takes about half a day to finish. You’ll visit one of the islands that accept tourists since there are also families who don’t want their life being invaded by tourists… understandable. The families who let tourists come to their island, make big money in doing so, but the authenticity somehow disappears. Once you reach the island, you’ll be introduced to the family and they will entertain you for a while with questions about the depth of the lake and information on how they build and maintain the floating islands. After that, you’ll be invited onto one of the majestic reed boats and a short boat ride will take you to a larger island where you can climb a tower for scenic views and buy souvenirs in a somewhat larger store.
Crossing the border from Peru to Bolivia – Puno to Copacabana
For travelers who want to travel onward to Bolivia to visit La Paz or maybe visit the Uyuni Salt Flats, it’s not too difficult to get from Puno to Copacabana by bus. At the bus terminal in Puno Peru, you can get your tickets to go straight to Copacabana Bolivia, border crossing included. Different companies offer similar looking buses at similar prices. You don’t actually get to see the bus when you buy the bus ticket, but the ticket vendor will show you pictures of the bus. Isn’t that pretty much the same? Not always! We’ve experienced places where the picture we were showed was a photo from decades ago. This time we’re happy with our bus.
The bus from Puno to the border is nice, luxurious, and the stunning views over Lake Titicaca we get from our seat on the bus are awesome. We reach the Bolivian border in no time and our trip from Puno to Copacabana seems to go flawlessly. The border crossing into Bolivia is easy and straightforward. It only takes us a few minutes to get our stamps and be granted access into a new country. Bolivia has a lot of interesting places to visit, we’re very happy to enter the new territory. We have to carry our own luggage while crossing the border and report our bags to the customs service. The officials just nod, ask why we came here and finish up stamping our passports.
After getting our stamps, we want to return to our pretty, luxurious bus, only to discover it’s gone. It has been replaced by an older, rustier type to continue the trip from Puno to Copacabana into a new country. The nice bus only served for a few kilometers and now we’re continuing our journey in a cramped and sweaty bus. We don’t really mind, but we’re laughing about the fact that the ticket vendor made it look like we paid for an awesome bus for the entire trip. Learning about bus travel in South America before you start traveling, is always a good idea!
Puno, as well as Copacabana, are located on the stunning Lake Titicaca. While Puno is more visited for the floating islands of Uros, Copacabana has much nicer views over Lake Titicaca.
Copacabana Lake Titicaca Bolivia
Copacabana is a small town on the banks of Lake Titicaca. Locals visit this village once a year to pray to the Lady of Copacabana, who can make your every wish come true. Luckily we didn’t witness this pilgrimage because it gets extremely crowded. During our visit, Copacabana Bolivia is quiet and chill. The view from the shores of Lake Titicaca is spectacular, especially at sunset. We didn’t book a hostel in advance and haggled to get a good price and a fancy hotel on the shore. The hotel is very expensive and upon hearing the price, we turn around and make our way to the exit. It’s our lucky day when we get called back and offered a spectacular price for a luxurious room with private bathroom, magnificent view and balcony. We’re thrilled and get our eyes on the best sunset views ever!
Puno or Copacabana
Other travelers have asked us about which of these two locations they should visit because they didn’t have much time. I could only answer ‘both!’ But if you’re really short on time and you have to choose between Puno or Copacabana, you should ask yourself to choose between these two things.
Do you want to go on the Uros Floating Islands tour? Then go to Puno!
Do you want to see the best sunset views you’ve ever seen? Then go to Copacabana!
But if you have 2 extra days, visit both towns! After visiting Copacabana, you can easily continue your journey into Bolivia to La Paz or the Uyuni Salt Flats. But you could also travel in the other direction and get a great tour as well. After visiting Puno, you can travel to Cusco and Machu Picchu in a day.