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Lake Titicaca – “The Birthplace of the Incas” and the highest navigable lake in the world

Tijana Radeska
Lake Titicaca

Even the Incas couldn’t resist the hypnotizing magic of Lake Titicaca, so they placed it at the heart of their folklore. Every story and fact you hear about the lake sounds mystical, strange, and obscure. For the Inca, this vast, deep, icy blue lake, high up in the Andes, is the birthplace of the sun. Every person on the planet should pay a visit to this lake. Really. If you’re feeling in two minds about it, here are a few interesting facts that might tempt you.

The surface elevation of Lake Titicaca is 3,812 meters (12,507 ft) and as such is considered the highest navigable lake in the world. It is 120 miles (193 km) long and 50 miles (80 km) wide and in total covers an area of 3,232 square miles (8,372 square km) which makes it the biggest lake in South America. The average depth of the lake is 351 feet (107 m) while the maximum depth is 922 feet (281 m).

Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

 

View of Lake Titicaca during sunrise. Photo credit

View of Lake Titicaca during sunrise. Photo credit

 

A view of Lake Titicaca taken from the city of Puno. Photo credit

A view of Lake Titicaca taken from the city of Puno. Photo credit

 

Copacabana, Bolivia. Photo credit

Copacabana, Bolivia. Photo credit

 

Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

 

The stunning blue of Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

The stunning blue of Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

According to the Inca mythology, Lake Titicaca is “The Birthplace of the Incas,” and “The Birthplace of the Sun.” Manco Capac, the first Inca king, was born at the lake, and later, the Gods created a woman for him. Together they started their big family and over time a tribe from which the Inca Empire rose. According to another ancient, Inca myth, the God Viracocha came out of the Titicaca Lake and then created the sun, the stars, and the first people.

The indigenous communities that live around the lake believe that it has the shape of a puma who hunts a rabbit. Hence, the name itself – Titicaca – is derived from the word “Titi Khar’ka” which in the Aymara language means “Rock of the Puma.”

View of the lake from the lake’s Isla del Sol. Photo credit

View of the lake from the lake’s Isla del Sol. Photo credit

 

Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

 

Map of Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

Map of Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

 

View from space, May 1985 (north at right)

View from space, May 1985 (north at right)

 

Taquile Island. Photo credit

Taquile Island. Photo credit

 

Amantani island as seen from Taquile island

Amantani island as seen from Taquile island

 

Isla de la Luna and the Cordillera Real

Isla de la Luna and the Cordillera Real

 

Chelleca island on the Bolivian side. Photo credit

Chelleca island on the Bolivian side. Photo credit

 

Amantani Island – Peru. In the background Capachica Peninsula. Photo credit

Amantani Island – Peru. In the background Capachica Peninsula. Photo credit

 

View from Taquile Island. Photo credit

View from Taquile Island. Photo credit

27 rivers are flowing into the lake while only one, River Desaguadero, is draining five percent of its water. Most of the river flowing into the lake are small, and there are only five major tributaries – Huancane River, Ramis River, Coata River, Suchez River, and Llave River. The remaining 95% of the water that flows into the lake is lost by evaporation into the atmosphere.

There are 41 islands in Lake Titicaca, and the majority are inhabited. The islands are breathtaking, and there are numerous ancient ruins on each one of them. The largest island is the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) which is at the same time the highest point in the Lake – 13,400 feet (4084 meters). On this island alone there are more than 180 ancient Inca ruins. Isla del Sol is the place where many go to watch the sunset. But there is something even more beautiful – the sunrise.

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. Photo credit

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. Photo credit

 

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. Photo credit

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. Photo credit

 

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. Photo credit

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. Photo credit

 

 

Lake Titicaca Reed Islands. Photo credit

Lake Titicaca Reed Islands. Photo credit

 

A reed boat on Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

A reed boat on Lake Titicaca. Photo credit

 

Lake Titicaca Reed Islands. Photo credit

Lake Titicaca Reed Islands. Photo credit

 

Raft of totora on Lake Titicaca, Island of the Sun (Bolivia). Photo credit

Raft of totora on Lake Titicaca, Island of the Sun (Bolivia). Photo credit

 

There are two Telmatobius species in the lake: The smaller, more coastal marbled water frog (pictured, at Isla del Sol) and the larger, more deep-water Titicaca water frog. Photo credit

There are two Telmatobius species in the lake: The smaller, more coastal marbled water frog (pictured, at Isla del Sol) and the larger, more deep-water Titicaca water frog. Photo credit

 

Andean coot among totora reeds. Photo credit

Andean coot among totora reeds. Photo credit

There were the inhabitants of three other different cultures at the Lake before the Incas: the Tiwanaku, Pukara, and the Collas. But the most ancient of the present population are the Uru people who have lived on the islands of Titicaca for so long that they never thought of abandoning their homeland. They still live on the islands where their homes and boats are constructed entirely from the reeds that grow on the shore.

Read another story from us: Saksaywaman was the largest structure built by the Incas and is one of the oldest ancient buildings on the planet

Along with the endangered Titicaca water frog and the Titicaca Grebe, 530 aquatic species live in Lake Titicaca. 

Tijana Radeska

Tijana Radeska is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News