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Located on the high plateau shared by Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca forms a natural border between both countries. Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake (3,810 meters above sea level) and South America's largest one, with an area of 8,300 km2. Lake Titicaca became the main witness to the appearance of the Inca Empire, and its waters hide the legend of Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, who founded Inca society on the heights of Cuzco, on orders from their father, the Sun.
Legend has it that after the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century the Indians, desperate to find a hiding place where their treasures would be safe from looting by the conquistadors, decided to hide them at the bottom of the lake; rumors also circulated about ruined cities under the lake waters. In the surroundings of Koa Island, north of Del Sol Island (Sun Island), some artifacts have been found which archaeologists say may provide evidence that there might have been a city that is now underwater. However, this evidence is too meager to state this as a fact. In the year 2,000 an international scientific expedition discovered what might prove to be the remains of an underwater city in the lake. In any case, there is no way of showing if the lake level had been lower in the past, as it is believed to be the remnants of a large inland sea that existed thousands of years ago.
Lake Titicaca dazzles one with its size and the beauty of its clear blue water; its maximum depth is 460 meters (depending on the time of year). Despite its height, the water temperature of the lake varies from around -10º to 12º Celsius, enabling the existence of a rich flora and fauna; native trees such as the queñua may be seen, as well as aquatic fauna such as the ispi, boga, karachi, pejerrey, trout, umanto and giant frogs, highly prized for the quality of their meat.
The Apolobamba Cordillera starts near the border with Peru north of Lake Titicaca, specifically at the snowcapped peak of Chaupi Orci and the three Palomanis, entering Bolivian territory in the northeast of the Department of La Paz, and ending at the Guarayos high plateau. This is one of Bolivia's most beautiful geographical areas. A number of rivers descend from the high snowcapped peaks, becoming tributaries of the main arteries of the Amazonian Basin. As from its highest points that are practically bare of vegetation, the Cordillera at its different levels offers an infinite range of landscapes including natural pastures suitable for cattle grazing and trees with high quality wood. The most important peaks of the Apolobamba Cordillera are: Cololo (5,915 m), Huila Kollo (5,816 m) and Chaupi Orko (6,040 m). Here lies the township of Curva (at 3,800 meters above sea level), considered to be the capital of the Andean ethnos of the Kallawayas, an admirable tribe with the reputation of being traveling physicians with a deep knowledge of the powers of nature and natural remedies. With their herbal medicines and knowledge, they walk many miles to bring medical assistance to the inhabitants of this mountainous "ceiling" of the Americas.
The Apolobamba mountain range was explored for the first time in 1911 by an expedition organized by the Royal Geographic Society. The isolation of the region was the reason it was visited so little, and only in the sixties were some of its peaks climbed. Although this area has a very strong cultural tradition it is unprepared for tourism, and offers few services and facilities for tourists. Its inhabitants continue to maintain their historical lifestyle. Each town celebrates an annual festivity, mostly in the June/September period.
When one should go
All year round
The landscape, the Cordillera, the township of Curva, the ethnos of the Kallawayas
How to get there
Agency organized tours from La Paz.
Trekking, mountaineering, hiking, adventure tourism, photography
Charazani, Charazani Hot Springs, Amarete, Cari
Several cultures are known to have lived many years in the upper regions of the Bolivian Andes. Of these, only two achieved the status of empires: these were the Tiwanaku civilization and the well-known Inca civilization. These two peoples were very religious in outlook, but also advanced for their time. The interesting point they had in common was that in both their mythologies, their leaders emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca.
Tourist services are well developed on Lake Titicaca, with ski-boats, motor launches for visiting the islands and the local craft made from totora reeds, just as they have been during thousands of years. There are also hotels with saunas and restaurants with international cuisine.
Titicaca is a special lake. It is surrounded by mountains, some with snowy peaks; islands emerge from its waters that are merely other submerged peaks of the Cordillera. Legend has it that it is on these islands where magic occurs.
Lake Titicaca is famous for the pre-Columbian civilizations that developed on its shores, its islands containing remains from these civilizations. It is considered to be the world's highest navigable lake.
On the northern shores of Lake Titicaca there are imposing mountains that make a stark contrast with the deep sapphire blue of its waters, surrounded by totorales (reed beds) that are nesting places for ducks and other birds. In the seventies, Jaques Costeau made an underwater expedition to the deepest part of the lake, finding a new variety of giant frogs.
On its islands, the natives maintain their original culture and traditions. One of the most interesting of these is the building of totora reed rafts. These are vessels that are made with bunches of hollow reeds tightly tied together, that are able to stay afloat for six to eight months. The native build their rafts in different shapes and sizes, sometimes sporting on their prows mythological figureheads made with totora reed and painted by hand. Many modern ocean-crossing expeditions used and were inspired by the boat-building techniques of the totora reed raft builders.
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