We thought for sure we were on the wrong road. We had been contouring around Lake Titicaca's jagged shoreline, watching its blue expanse fade into the horizon. After following our directions to the right we were now driving through potato farmland, herds of sheep, and the occasional pig on a leash. The houses were traditional Titicaca style and the people waved as we drove past. There was no way we were approaching a luxury lodge. Amused by our drive, we kept following the directions and suddenly, we saw it. Whitewashed walls make up the main form of the lodge which sits on a rocky peninsula jutting out into Titicaca itself. Reflections of the lake shimmer across the floor to ceiling windows and offer guests a 270 degree view from the lodge. There was no avoiding the fact that we had arrived at a luxury lodge but I was already in love with the subdued grandeur of the building and the approach to get there. Titilaka was not built to stand out, it was built to complement the lake and the people who live there.
Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake, boasts hundreds of miles of shoreline, dozens of inhabited islands and is home to an astonishing collection of indigenous customs, festivals and languages that are all rooted in the immediate environs of the lake. Titilaka is located an hour east of Puno on a remote portion of the lake shore but don't let the understated exterior or the remote location fool you - Titilaka is unmistakably five star. It was created to provide an alternative for visitors seeking an authentic, intimate, and comfortable encounter with the cultural nuances and and natural splendor of Lake Titicaca. Titilaka houses just 18 suites, categorized as 'sunrise' or 'sunset.' Each suite is replete with radiant floor heating, extra large soaking tubs and sumptuous daybeds beneath panoramic windows overlooking the lake.
We arrived as the sun was about to set. We had the option of going to our room or joining the sunset bonfire happy hour at the lake shore. It seemed like an easy decision so we dropped our bags and headed back out to join the crowd of happy people watching the sun set over the lake. A glass of wine, tapas, and a roaring bonfire were the perfect complement to the crisp air that swept across the lake as the sun began its fiery descent to the horizon. Titilaka is located at 12,500ft so as soon as the sun went down, the temperature dropped and we all retreated into the lodge.
The lodge itself is decorated with local artwork and textiles and has an endless number of nooks and crannies to explore. The overstuffed pillows located on the decks over the lake are a personal favorite. The common areas feature floor to ceiling windows so you never feel far from the lake. The rooms are similarly designed, massive windows overlooking the lake are the main feature of each room which are expansive and tastefully decorated. Meals are served in the dining room and, as is true of every Relais Chateax property, the food is divine. The contemporary menu offers a unique take on Peruvian cuisine, with a special emphasis on Andean ingredients, and food that is nutritious and filling but also light. The lodge focuses on local products, including Peruvian wine. Wine from Peru is an up and coming industry and it's pretty good! Don't knock it until you try it
In the end, you don't visit Titilaka for the lodge, you're there for the lake. The lodge has a team of trained guides and a menu of excursions to choose from – birding, hiking, mountain biking, boat trips, and even excursions to Bolivia. They have their own boats, built in traditional style, which offer a comfortable way to explore the lake as it should be explored – by water! Their excursion to the Uros Islands (floating reed islands) and Taquile – one of the world's most beautiful islands according to National Geographic – is really well done and a beautiful way to explore the lake. The lodge works with a specific family that has been living in, amongst, and on the reeds for generations. You have the chance to visit their island, learn about their construction, and see what daily life is like. A percentage of each guests stay goes directly towards supporting the local communities that Titilaka works with. After the visit, you continue across the lake to Taquile where you have the chance to hike the island's trails before having lunch at a local home. Taquile is home to a truly vibrant and unique culture and you have the opportunity to learn more about their traditions and customs – even how to recognize if a man is married, single, or ready to mingle.
This was not my first time to Lake Titicaca and it won't be my last. Lake Titicaca is a special and unique place within our world. It's not every day you have the chance to explore a high altitude lake ringed by glaciated mountains that supports a vibrant local population and endemic wildlife. After a visit to the bustling Sacred Valley or the humid Amazon, a stay at Titilaka on the shores of Titicaca is the perfect way to cap off a trip to Peru. More so than just the contemporary luxury of the property, Titilaka allows guests to interact with the local indigenous populations in authentic ways that really sets it apart. The magic begins when exploring the neighboring communities and landscape around the hotel itself, which are virtually exclusive experiences for guests.