There is something thrilling about the thought of Lake Titicaca – a vast body of water, 200 miles across, 900ft deep, wreathed in legends of sunken Inca gold and perched at an unimaginable altitude in the Andes mountains. And with its stark, near-hallucinatory beauty, it lives up to the reverie, says Paul Richardson in the FT. Even getting there can be a delightful adventure: on the PeruRail train from Cusco, guests dine to the strains of a cocktail piano as they’re transported across the “bleak” plains of the Altiplano. And while the terminus – the city of Puno – is “charmless”, it is not far from there to a hotel that offers “mind-expanding” views of the lake.
Set on a lonely promontory, Titilaka is an angular structure made of glass and concrete, with eclectic interiors and a fine restaurant. Activities include cycling trips and tours of Baroque churches – but most exciting is the chance to kayak around the lake’s coastline of low, “bare-faced” granite hills and visit its “curious” islands. The air at this altitude – 12,507ft above sea level – is “diamond bright”, the water is “gin clear”, and the sky is simply “enormous”. First stop is Amanecer, one of 50 or so floating islands inhabited by the Uros ethnic group. Made from blocks of totora root covered with a thick layer of cut reed, it yields beneath your feet like a mattress – but it is strong enough to carry a stove, a vegetable patch, and five huts, whose inhabitants will tell you of the dangers they face, from drowning (“common”) to fires. The larger, natural island of Taquile has “Through the Looking Glass” charm, with its complex dress code (which includes black Homburg hats and colourful pom-poms), slopes of pinkish rock, sapphire-blue bays, knee-high garden walls, “gaudy” flowers and dwarf sheep. It is an excellent place to stop for a lunch of lake trout and uchucuta sauce with a friendly local family. Scott Dunn (scottdunn.com) has a nine-night trip from £8,935pp, including flights.