Lake Titicaca (South America)

Lake Titicaca (South America)

Thu, 04/04/2019 - 18:18

Lake Titicaca is a large, deep lake located at the northern end of the endorheic Altiplano basin high in the Andes, on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Ruins on the lake’s bottom, on its shore, and on the islands attest to the previous existence of one of the oldest civilizations known in the Americas.

Lake Titicaca is a large, deep lake located at the northern end of the endorheic Altiplano basin high in the Andes, on the border of Peru and Bolivia. The western part of the lake lies within the Puno Region of Peru, and the eastern side is located in the Bolivian La Paz Department. Ruins on the lake’s bottom (where the remains of a temple were discovered in 2000), on its shore, and on the islands attest to the previous existence of one of the oldest civilizations known in the Americas.

Lying at 12,500 ft (3,810 m) in the Andes, it is the world's highest lake navigable to large vessels. By volume of water and by surface area, it is the largest lake in South America. Lake Maracaibo, which is connected to the Gulf of Venezuela, has a larger surface area but it is technically a tidal bay. The lake averages between 460 and 600 ft (140 and 180 m) in depth.

Five major river systems feed into Lake Titicaca. In order of their relative flow volumes these are Ramis, Coata, Ilave, Huancané, and Suchez. More than 20 other smaller streams empty into Titicaca. The lake has 41 islands, some of which are densely populated.

Lake Titicaca is home to more than 530 aquatic species. The lake holds large populations of water birds and was designated as a Ramsar Site on August 26, 1998. Reeds and other aquatic vegetation is widespread in Lake Titicaca.

Lake Titicaca has a borderline subtropical highland/alpine climate with cool to cold temperatures for most of the year. The average annual precipitation is 610 mm (24 in) mostly falling in summer thunderstorms. Winters are dry with very cold nights and mornings and warm afternoons.

The "Floating Islands" are small, man-made islands constructed by the Uros (or Uru) people from layers of cut totora, a thick, buoyant reed that grows abundantly in the shallows of Lake Titicaca. The Uros harvest the reeds that naturally grow on the lake's banks to make the islands by continuously adding reeds to the surface. As of 2011, about 1,200 Uros lived on an archipelago of 60 artificial islands, clustering in the western corner of the lake near Puno, Titicaca's major Peruvian port town. The islands have become one of Peru's tourist attractions, allowing the Uros to supplement their hunting and fishing by conveying visitors to the islands by motorboat and selling handicrafts.

Amantani is another small island on Lake Titicaca populated by Quechua speakers. About 4,000 people live in 10 communities on the roughly circular 15 sq km (6 sq mi) island. Two mountain peaks, called Pachatata (Father Earth) and Pachamama (Mother Earth) and ancient ruins are on the top of both peaks. The hillsides that rise up from the lake are terraced and planted with wheat, potatoes, and vegetables. Most of the small fields are worked by hand. Some of the families on Amantani open their homes to tourists for overnight stays and provide cooked meals, arranged through tour guides.

Taquile is a hilly island located 45 km (28 mi) east of Puno. It is narrow and long and was used as a prison during the Spanish Colony and into the 20th century. In 1970, it became property of the Taquile people, who have inhabited the island since then (current population around 2,200).

Situated on the Bolivian side of the lake with regular boat links to the Bolivian town of Copacabana, Isla del Sol ("Island of the Sun") is one of the largest islands of the lake. Geographically, the terrain is harsh; it is a rocky, hilly island. No motor vehicles or paved roads are on the island. The main economic activity of the approximately 800 families on the island is farming, with fishing and tourism augmenting the subsistence economy. Oover 180 ruins remain on the island. Most of these date to the Inca period around the 15th century AD.

Isla de la Luna is situated east from the bigger Isla del Sol. Both islands belong to the La Paz Department of Bolivia. According to legends that refer to Inca mythology Isla de la Luna (Spanish for "island of the moon") is where Viracocha commanded the rising of the moon. Ruins of a supposed Inca nunnery (Mamakuna) occupy the oriental shore.

Suriki lies in the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca (in the southeastern part also known as lake Wiñaymarka). Suriki is thought to be the last place where the art of reed boat construction survives, at least as late as 1998. Craftsmen from Suriqui helped Thor Heyerdahl in the construction of several of his projects, such as the reed boats Ra II and Tigris.