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Amantani Island Peru.
I had never heard of it before arriving in Peru. But Lake Titicaca was a place I had dreamt about visiting. Possibly it was the name. Or perhaps the sheer size. Maybe I had heard that it was the highest navigable lake in the world. Upon reflection, it is most likely the photos of people wearing traditional dress and living a lifestyle so diametrically opposed to mine that drew me to Amantani Island Lake Titicaca. Sheer curiosity.
An Amantani Island homestay, during your South America itinerary, gives you the ability to take part in an orchestrated and yet unforgettable cultural experience living on a remote island floating in Lake Titicaca with the local people of Amantani.
Let’s first of all answer some questions about Lake Titicaca, Peru such as where to stay in Lake Titicaca and how does one arrange an Amantani Island homestay?
FAQ | Lake Titicaca Peru
Where is Lake Titicaca?
Lake Titicaca lies between Peru and Bolivia. You can access Lake Titicaca from both countries.
How high is Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world?
Lake Titicaca sits at 3810 metres (12500 feet) above sea level even higher than La Paz, Bolivia which is the highest capital in the world. In comparison, the altitude of Machu Picchu is 2430 metres (7972 feet) and Cusco is 3399 metres (11200 feet).
When you are boating along the highest lake in the world, be sure to be lathered up in sunblock.
How do I access Lake Titicaca, Peru?
The city of Puno is the best place to access Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side. There are many tour operators that can set you up with a day tour or overnight tour.
How do I register for a homestay on one of the islands?
Tour operators have many choices of how to visit the islands. There are day trips to one or more islands and also overnight stays available.
Can I organize a homestay on Amantani Island independently?
I had read that it was possible to arrange an Amantani Island homestay independently but from afar I couldn’t figure out how. While on Isla Amantani, I asked my tour guide how to do this. You take the regular boats that the locals take from island to island. He assured me that arriving on Isla Amantani on a regular boat, the “mamas,” as the ladies who welcome you to their homes are called, will be waiting at the dock and assign you to a home for the night.
What is the home like on Amantani Island Peru?
The homestay on Isla Amantani is very basic. There is no running water or electricity. The toilet is primitive (but better than I expected) with water to wash your hands from a jug. There are blankets on the bed. Bring hand sanitizer, toilet paper (there was some but it ran out) and a headlamp (so as not to use up your phone battery). It is possible to purchase water in the store in the main plaza.
How long does it take to get to Amantani Island Lake Titicaca?
Isla Amantani is a 3-hour boat ride from Puno, Peru. If you are visiting on the classic two-day tour, it is 2 hours and 30 minutes from Uros, the floating reed islands.
What language is spoken on Amantani Island Peru?
The inhabitants of Isla Amantani are of Quechua origin and that is the language which is spoken.
How much does an Amantani Island homestay cost?
I paid for a 2 day+1-night tour and booked with All Ways Travel which is a local, Peruvian agency. I paid S/113 ($46 Cdn) for the tour and also paid cash directly to my host family S/50 ($20 Cdn). This included 3 meals and one-night of accommodation. If you book with a different agency please insist that you pay directly to the family. It is said that sometimes the families have trouble getting paid for their services.
Bring cash as there are a few extras not included in the overall price.
What should I bring to the Isla Amantani homestay?
It is a lovely gesture to bring some school supplies or food such as rice and cooking oil to the families.
Is there an ATM on Amantani Island?
Bring cash. The local people on all the floating islands in Lake Titicaca have beautiful handmade items for sale such as alpaca scarves, mittens and hats, cushion covers and jewellery.
What do I do with my luggage when I stay overnight on Isla Amantani Peru?
If you are returning to Puno, it is best to leave your larger luggage in Puno and pack an overnight bag for the homestay. I took my daypack and carried my reusable grocery bag with overnight clothing and necessities. I was really unsure if this was a good decision before the trip, but it was. You don’t need much when you are there (except layers for the chilly evenings) and the walk to the homestay is all uphill, so lugging a heavy suitcase is not recommended. The hotels and hostels in Puno are used to keeping luggage secure while tourists experience an Amantani Island homestay.
If you are not returning to Puno then, of course, you would take your luggage with you.
Further information on Lake Titicaca:
Check out the Peru Travel site here.
Read more | Chances are if you are visiting Isla Amantani, then you are also going to Islas Uros and Taquile. Find out what to expect here.
The blue waters of Lake Titicaca Peru stretch out as far as the eye can see. I keep expecting whales or dolphins to appear before me until I remind myself that this is a vast lake and not an ocean. My group is a lively bunch with people from Peru, France, Mexico, Germany and the Netherlands. Our chitchat is interrupted sporadically by our local tour guide speaking in both Spanish and English.
Isla Amantani rises from the water and as we draw nearer, a scattering of houses appears on the hillside. We are welcomed at the dock by the “mamas” and “papas” who will graciously host us in their homes. We are subsequently divided into groups and head off with our roommates. Mine are a young German girl, Moana on her first solo travel expedition, and 2 friends from Mexico.
Like everywhere in Peru, getting to our Amantani Island homestay is an uphill climb. We make our way along little pathways following our “papa” in silence past grazing sheep and women in traditional clothing. I stop momentarily to catch my breath and take in the panoramic vista.
We are given our rooms (a private one for me) which is a simple bed with blankets. We are introduced to our “mama” and her young son as she diligently cooks our lunch over the open flame in her tiny, dirt floor kitchen. With her ruddy cheeks and quick smile, I am immediately in awe. No fancy appliances. No running water. But “mama” has whipped up a tasty quinoa soup, three types of potatoes, fried discs of cheese, a few vegetables and a thermos of tea for lunch. Bienvenidos a la Isla Amantani! It has been a warm welcome.
I have arrived on Isla Amantani knowing very little of this way of life. I know these few facts.
- There are no dogs on the island nor cars.
- The inhabitants of the island are all vegetarians (no meat, nor fish eaten here)
- The local farmers grow potatoes and quinoa.
As we wander to the main square to meet the group for the afternoon hike, signs of authentic life on the island start to build my impressions of Isla Amantani and her people.
The adobe church sits neatly at the side of the main square
and close by is the main store or tienda where it is possible to have a drink and buy your groceries.
A shepherdess ushers her sheep quickly through the main square
and ladies are tasked with carrying burdens up steep hills.
I couldn’t have been more right. Here is a culture existing as it has for hundreds of years with only a few signs of the 21st Century.
Isla Amantani | Hike to the Peaks
The hike to Isla Amantani’s two mountains peaks Pachatata, “Father Earth,” or Pachamama “Mother Earth” is straight-up for 90 minutes. The views are bucolic
and help build a sense of place.
At the summit, we are welcomed by the ancient ruins of temples which open only once a year, in January.
We are told to make a wish and walk counter-clockwise around the temple dedicated to Pachamama. Three times we circle hoping to bring luck to our lives in prosperity, love and health. Thank you, Pachamama.
It’s freezing at the top as we watch the sun setting, look over to Bolivia and see the snowy peaks of the Cordillera Real.
The walk down is capped off with a beer in the local bar.
We are on a timeline, for dinner is served at 7 pm. The kitchen is a buzz of activity when we arrive. Other family members have joined us and “mama” is hard at work with her sister finishing the dinner preparations. Steaming soup, vegetables in a sauce and rice grace our plates. There is very little communication with the “extranjeros” (foreigners) but many friendly, non-verbal exchanges take place during this Amantani Island homestay.
Isla Amantani Homestay | The Evening
Shortly after dinner, there is a knock at my door and “mama” enters with a handful of clothing. She promptly starts dressing me in the traditional costume of her people. Aside from eye contact and a smile, there is no communication except her steady hands adjusting everything to my body shape and height. I am ready to attend the traditional dance show in the town hall.
I study my attire, an intricately embroidered white blouse, a red heavy skirt and a colourful fabric sash that has been wrapped tightly around my waist many times. Over my head and shoulders is carefully placed a black, beautifully embroidered shawl. I am the closest I will ever be to a local “Amantaneño.”
It is dark as we head down to the hall and a little uncomfortable. Papa leads us in silence. As we enter the hall, there is live music and dancing. We stand off to the side but the mamas that are in attendance are quite adept at pulling in the foreign visitors to dance. A small group of Peruvian men sit in the corner drinking beer.
Walking back uphill in the pitch black and silence of the island, the blanket of stars is extraordinary. I wish I could lie in a field and soak up the universe.
The final candle in the bathroom is extinguished, a sign that the day has drawn to a close.
We are back at Amantani Island’s dock by 7:30 am the next day. “Papa” has gone to work and “mama” has fed us (a pancake and coffee) and led us with her son to the idling boat.
We receive our farewell and yet another group of 21 st century foreigners leave the island behind holding a scant, yet sincere, perception of real-life on Isla Amantani.
Guided Tours In The Area
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Wow – your pictures are absolutely stunning. Sounds like a fantastic trip that was fairly off the grid; my favorite kind of place. I love it!
Alison Browne says
Isla Amantani is definitely an off the grid kind of place! Hope you get there sometime!
We did a homestay on Amantani years ago and it was a fantastic experience. Loved the hike to the top of Pachamama. I still think about my host and her family and wonder how their lives have changed. Who knows, her daughter may have been your host! Thanks for the memories 😉
Alison Browne says
I wonder if their lives have indeed changed at all! SO true, my “mama” may very well have been related to yours!
What a great experience! I’d love to do this. I love their traditional colorful clothing – and simple way of life. Thanks for sharing this.
Alison Browne says
You are welcome! It is very thought provoking staying there and seeing their way of life.
Pamela Gilbert says
WOW…. what an experience Alison!! You capture it beautifully….all of it! Thank you!!
Alison Browne says
It was indeed an amazing experience!
We did this a few years ago and loved it and love your article. It brought back very pleasant memories of our visit. Hopefully there’s an emphasis of the host people receiving proper compensation.
Alison Browne says
Glad you also had a wonderful visit to Amantani. I agree – it is so necessary that the payment gets to the families.
John and Susan Pazera says
Great post. We spent a month in Peru. Loved it. Check out our blog.
Alison Browne says
I will! I loved Peru! I left lots of exploring to do so I will just have to return!
Lake Toba says
I like this so much, love your review
Alison Browne says
It was truly an unforgettable experience!
Hi Alison!! I’ve just recently discovered your blog/website and am finding it immensely helpful as I plan my own trip to the South/Central America next year! I’m 23, female and will also be travelling solo, so reading your tips and how you felt travelling alone has been really insightful. I’m very interested in enrolling in a Spanish school/doing a family homestay, either in Colombia or Guatemala – do you have any recommendations for agencies to go through? Thanks! :))
Alison Browne says
Hi Lydia, Oh how exciting to be planning your trip to such a wonderful place in the world. I took Spanish classes at the Spanish Academy Antiguena in Antigua Guatemala and stayed with a family while I studied. I didn’t use an agency but researched Spanish schools, read reviews, and made my decision that way. I remember seeing Spanish schools in Medellin, Colombia but did not go to any. Have fun planning. Doing a homestay is a great way to learn the language!