Titicaca Lake, Copacabana vs Puno

  Holding the title of the highest navigable lake on the planet, as well as on my list of the most beautiful water basins in the world, tucked away high in the Andes between snow-covered peaks, Lake Titicaca is one of the most popular places to see in South America. Known for its unique panorama during the day and the night time, crystal-clear air and water, combine with mountain range around. Believed to be the birthplace of the first Incas, along with the sun, moon and stars, when creator came out of the lake.

  The main two bases to explore Lake Titicaca (and other sites in the region) are Puno, in Peru, and Copacabana in Bolivia. I did visit these two mentioned towns, and I stayed a minimum of two nights in each, which gave me some time to look around and discover them. If you’re backpacking and having loads of time, you can stop in both to see the Bolivian and Peruvian side of Titicaca, as they are very different. However, if you’re rushing a bit, I would definitely suggest staying just in Copacabana in Bolivia. Why? Well, for few reasons really. From there, most tour operators run a day trips to the Isla del Sol, with a quick stop at the Isla de la Luna. Bolivian town is way smaller and cutter. Very touristic too, which I don’t always like, but can be handy when it comes to accommodation and organized trips. Lake is looking really amazing (way better) from this side as well, you can hike some mountains around to spot the stunning panorama of the pool and surrounded areas. In Puno the lake side can`t be really accessible properly, there is no beach to sit and enjoy, and there’s not so many hills from where you can get a good grip of Titicaca. Having said all that, I loved Puno for its truly Peruvian vibe. There is loads of street food stands around, loads of mercados to grab a very tasty local meal, stand with fresh fruits, vegetables, colorful ladies with coca leafs…everything really. 

This can not be found in Copacabana, I was really struggling there to find a proper local food, and once I even ended up ordering a pizza. Not so cool. However, It’s just a food, and I think exploring the lake is the reason we are there in the first place, so again, that points us towards Copacabana over Puno. There is also loads of hotels by the lake (I was lucky to be in one), when in Puno you can hardly find any so close to the water. So I think we have a winner at the end-Copacabana. However, again on another side, Puno hold a very strong argument of having a famous Floating Islands, a must see while there. Yet, I think the trip can be booked from Copacabana too. The other reason (to cheer you up really, if you cant do both) to stay at just one place is the fact that any route you will take to get there, you will be able to have another good look at the lake, as streets are usually around the lake. If you will come from  La Paz, like myself, to Copacabana, you will even cross Titicaca on the boat.

Verdict:

Just for the lake and islands Copacabana is a winner, but if you want to feel the true vibe, less touristic place, traditional food and real life more than lake, then Puno is definitely for you! 

Either way you will choose, the bottom line is not to skip this place. Trust me, Titicaca will stay in your heart forever.

DIY Machu Picchu as a must choice

 Machu Picchu. We all heard this name before. Most popular place in South America, maybe even in the world, that attracts thousands of visitors every week, and my biggest mistake ever.

 Arriving at Cuzco already gives you the idea on how many travelers, from all around the world really, do come to see this biggest remaining side of ancient Inca town. Streets of this Peruvian town are just packed with many agencies that offer an organized tours to see Machu Picchu, that include everything. Sounds nice and easy, why not? Well, no. As soon as I arrived at Cuzco, I went to the first agency, I spotted, to buy a 2 days trip. I did not plan on doing so, but as soon as I saw the price, I did. I paid only 95$, and in this price I`​ve had a transport, one night in a hotel, ticket to Machu Picchu side, lunch, dinner in the evening and an English-speaking guide. I did some research before on prices, and it was always coming as a 200$ all together, that`​s why as soon as I saw the price of 95$, I just booked a trip. The problem was that we have been given only max of 5 hours at the side. This is not enough! You need a whole full day to properly explore it! I did not hike the mountain, I did not go to see the Sun Gate. I didn`t even see the Aguas Calientes, closest village to Machu Picchu, properly. That is a big hole in my heart, and I just do not want you to experience it. Yes, maybe there are some agencies that do offer a 3-4 days trips, where you can spend the whole day at the side. Not a problem then, just book it. Otherwise never book a 2 days tour. Here, remembering planning on getting there myself, I will share with you how to reach Machu yourself.

 Step one and most important. Please do book your ticket for Machu Picchu side in advance. Thought, I bought a tour just 3 days before going, I`ve read that it is more difficult for solo visitors to purchase one. You can do it online, and you need your passport to process. Here is a link to click. You can also do it in the office in Cuzco and Aguas Calientes.



Option number one (cheap)

  1. Lets start from Cuzco, town in Peru, as a nice and easy option to begin, thought very beautiful itself. So take a bus from Cuzco to Santa Maria (towards Quillabamba) as early in the morning as possible. The bus will take 5-6 hours.
  2. Catch a collective from Santa Maria to Hidroelectrica (an hour of journey).
  3. From Hidroelectrica just walk following the rails to the town called Aguas Calientes. Shouldn’t take longer than 2.5 hours. Of course you can take a train, but the area around is way to beautiful just to do it.
  4. Stay minimum for two nights in Aguas Calientes (loads of dorms available).
  5. Start the scent of Machu Picchu early in the morning. I would say 4-5 am.
  6. Climb the steps to the entrance and wait in a queue to enter (have a passport with you). Climbing should take around 2 hours. You can also take a 20-minute bus ride that operates every 15 minutes starting at 5:30 a.m. (24$ adult round trip, 12$ child round trip, 12$ one way). Side is open from 6 am till 5 pm.
  7. Stay there till they will close the door and return to spend another night in Aguas Calientes.


    Option number two (most expensive)

  1. Take a train from Cusco straight to Aguas Calientes. It is quiet expensive, but if you can spare some money, it will be quickest and most convenient option that will take less than 5 hours (1h to Poroy+3.5h in the train). The so-called Cuzco train station is in the nearby town of Poroy. I will take an hour to get from central Cusco to the train station by taxi. Bus is an option as well.


Option number three (the cheapest)

  1. Take a van/collective from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo (less than an hour of journey).
  2. Take a van to the Kilometre 82 train station, a 30-minute journey from where you will start walking to Aguas Calientes.
  3. Walk 30 km to Aguas Calientes, following the rail line. You can take a rail too from there, but the whole path is just amazing, and it should take just less than 8 hours.