Homestay on Amantani Island Lake Titicaca was one of my highlights of my time in Peru, and it will be yours too! I went on a 2 day 1 night home stay sleeping on Amantani Island in April 2022. My trip included visiting the magical floating islands of Uros, Taquile island and Amantani island. The homestay trip back in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Here I walk you through what my trip entailed, how I organised it and what I did that made it fantastic.
About Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world, it is also enormous! Lake Titicaca is so big that sometimes you get the impression it is the sea because it goes on for so long. It is both in Peru and Bolivia and is surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains making it stunning. Lake Titicaca is also home to many islands each with their own culture. It is also home to the world-famous man-made floating islands of Uros.
How to get Puno
Puno is accessible by road and by bus from Lima, Cusco and Arequipa. The journey can be long and often the buses are overnight. I personally took a transfer to Puno after a 2 day trek in the Colca Canyon that took 7 hours.
Why do a Homestay on Amantani Island?
A homestay on Lake Titicaca means you must get a boat to the islands, this means you get a beautiful view of both the lake and the surroundings. But more importantly, you get to appreciate the cultures of the islands you visit. The islands are so remote meaning the cultures of each islands have been very well maintained. The local people are very happy to explain their cultures to visitors and it is very interesting learning how each of the islands differ in culture.
Is a homestay ethical?
I was really unsure if I would like to go on a homestay on Lake Titicaca. In general, I don’t really like doing tourist activities where the people are the attraction as I find it uncomfortable. This wasn’t the case with the 2 day homestay I did. It was an exchange of culture. Tourism is also one of the main ways the communities earn money.
Booking a tour for Homestay on Amantani Island
I organised the tour through the hostel I stayed in. I booked the tour the day before it began and this wasn’t a problem at all. The tour cost 130soles (plus 60soles for kayaks) in total. This includes everything I go through in this post. There are people that offer homestays independently, but it ends up being more expensive because entrance fees and boat transfers are not included when doing it independently. As well as this, the tour companies work closely with the village chiefs meaning each family has an equal share of visitors.
What to pack for a Homestay on Amantani Island
During your Homestay on Amantani Island there is some walking to the hosts house as well as changing boats at some points. Try to take as little as possible to make this easier. Take a day bag and leave your check in bag in Puno with your accommodation. Here are the essentials you need:
- Suncream and sunhat
- Walking boots not necessary, trainers are fine
- Swimming clothes in case you want to swim in lake
- Warm clothes for the evening, 1 jumper and coat plus a hat as can get cold
- Change of clothes for day 2
- Cash, cards are not an option on the islands. Cash for snacks, drinks and any handicrafts you want to buy
- Chargers (there is minimal phone signal if you have a local sim and expect no wifi).
- Book/something to keep yourself entertained during the long boat rides
Gifts for the host family
By staying in a homestay, a family is opening their doors to strangers. It is of course, very kind to buy them gifts for their hospitality. I spoke to the manager at the hostel I stayed at (Kantaya), the lovely Saida. She grew up on Amantani so I asked what a family would appreciate. She told me that before Covid, families appreciated items they can’t get access to easlily on the island such as rice and certain fresh fruits and vegetables. However, since covid and the families hadn’t had income in such a long time, money is a better gift to make up for the lack of income during covid.
Tips for the altitude
Lake Titicaca is at an elevation of 3810m and is possibly one of the highest places you will stay on your trip to Peru. It is a great idea to stay here before Cusco if you plan to do any treks to Macchu Picchu. This gives your body a chance to adapt to the altitude before you do any strenuous exercise. Here are some tips to prevent getting altitude sickness:
- Walk slower and don’t do any exercise too tiring. Slow exercise is a lot better for adjustment than resting all the time.
- Drink lots of water, a lot more than you usually drink!
- Don’t drink too much alcohol cause this could make any symptoms you have worse
Homestay on Amantani Island Day 1: Uros and Amantani Islands
Travel to Uros Islands Via Kayak or Motor Boat
The Homestay on Amantani Island tour starts early with a taxi from the hostel in Puno at 7.15am. This taxi is a short 15 minute ride that takes to the kayaking point. If you choose not to do Kayaking, the taxi leaves at 7.45am and you get a motor boat to the Uros Islands.
I chose the option that includes the morning Kayak to the Uros islands so the taxi took us straight to the kayaks. I would really recommend this option it was a really special way to see Lake Titicaca. The Kayaking itself was 4km and took 1 hour. The kayaking takes you through the reeds that lead up to the Uros Islands, this was really fun as it felt a bit like a Kayak slalom!
The Floating Uros Islands
After the Kayaking, you arrive at the incredible Uros islands. These islands are floating and are made from the surrounding reeds to create the islands. They are anchored to make sure they don’t float away! A family creates and shares an island, there are approximately 60 islands.
Fun story: if a family has an argument such as a couple wishing to divorce, they cut the island in half giving them 2 different homes instead of 1. A simple solution to an argument!
In the Uros islands, the islanders explain how they make the islands and their way of life. We were served a lovely cup of coffee and this was a lovely time to chill out and to appreciate the surroundings. If you are courageous enough, you can swim in the Lake from the Uros Islands!
From the Uros islands, take a 2 hour boat ride to Amantani island where you will sleep for the night. A guide for the whole 2 days meets you on the boat and stays with the group until you end the tour. The boat ride is slow going but a nice way to appreciate the surroundings.
Arrive in Amantani Island and your home for the night
There are 5000 people on Amantani island, the villages and which families offering homestays rotates and is decided by head of village. This means each family shares the opportunity of the financial reward as well as the effort of hosting.
From the moment you leave the boat, you are introduced to the host family that will spedn the night with. Some families have space for 2, 4, 6 or even 8. We were a group of 4 and put with another 2 people so were 6 people in the family home.
The walk to the host family home was about 10 minutes. Their home was comfy and we were hosted by a very lovely couple Sylvia and Mario. They had a garden of different vegetables, a terrace with a view overlooking Lake Titicaca and even a donkey called Carla.
After arriving at the family home, we were shown to our rooms and had a chance to appreciate the view from their balcony before a home cooked lunch at their home. Lunch was starter of vegetable soup, followed by fried cheese and rice and vegetables. Then we were served the local tradition of Muna tea after dinner. Muna is a local herb that is almost minty.
Walk The Hills of Amantani Island
After lunch, we walked to the town square to meet our group guide at 3.30 for the optional walk. From here, the guide explained a bit more about the village and their customs. Our host family walked us to the square so we didn’t get lost. The guide then starts the walk to Pachamama and Pachatata. These are the 2 peaks of the island, Pachamama is the tallest at an elevation of 4150m.
At the top of Pachamama and Pachatata, there are temples that are only open for 1 week of the year. This is during the full island festival in January when everyone on the island dances up to Pachamama and Pachatata. Pachamama translates as mother earth and Pachatata as father earth. The festivals is to respect and thank mother and father earth.
Take in The Sunset over Lake Titicaca
We arrived just in time for the view of sunset at the top of both of the peaks. The view was simply stunning. There are sellers selling handicrafts along the path of the way up to the top if you want to buy any local products. The path is paved all the way to the top so trainers are fine. It is not a hard walk although the altitude makes it harder than normal so take it slow. There are motorbikes and horses available to rent if you find the walk and altitude tricky.
After the hike, we walked down back to the village for a drink in the village pub. This is the place with the most range of alcohol including local alochol. I had hot chocolate to warm up which was yummy. Our hosts then met us at the pub to walk us back home in time for dinner.
We had a dinner of quinoa and vegetable soup followed by a vegetable casserole and rice. The cooking was all home-made and really tasty.
Then we got ready for the (optional) fiesta! For this, we were given local clothes by our hosts. Women were given a flower embroidered shirt, colourful skirt, big patterned belt (some might even call it a cummerbund? fancyyy) and a warm embroidered scarf. Men were given ponchos and woollen hats from alpaca wool. We all looked great and it was so fun to be in their traditional clothing.
The fiesta was in the village hall which was a 5 min walk from the house we were staying in. There are a small amount of drinks sold at the fiesta including beers coca-cola and water. The fiesta had a live band with traditional music from the island, it was great. We then did dancing which involved dancing in circles and partner dancing with out hosts, it was so much fun. The fiesta finishes at 10pm and we ready for bed after such an exciting day. The beds were very comfy and cosy.
Homestay on Amantani Island Day 2: Amantani and Taquile Islands
Breakfast was served at 6.45 on day 2. We had a breakfast of pancakes and bread with jam and butter. There was also coffee and tea to wake us up. We left our family soon after breakfast as the boat was waiting to collect us and leave at 7.30am. We then had a 1 hour boat journey to Taquile Island.
Travel to Taquile Island
After the boat to Taquile, there is a 45-minute walk to the main square of the island. It is a mix of uphill and flat but is easier than the walks on Amatani island. In the main square, there is a café with nice fresh coffee that you can drink with a view, I was very happy with this. There is also 1 shop to buy crafts from the village.
Appreciate the Culture of Taquile Island
In the main square, there is a dancing performance by the local community. They have lovely colourful dancing clothes and rainbow feathered hats. They encourage tourists to join in, which I did, it was brill.
From the main square, there is a quick walk to a restaurant for an early lunch. The restaurants that each group visits are decided by the village chiefs so each family gets the financial benefits. The families that run the restaurants also rotate for this reason.
While waiting for the lunch to be cooked, our guide gave us an explanation of clothes of the local people and what they mean. The colours, shapes and even the way in which you wear an item means lots of different things. For lunch we had quinoa and vegetable soup, followed by fresh fish, rice, chips and vegetables (the veggie option was an omelette).
A little info about the culture of Taquile
The culture of Taquile Island is traditional and you have to respect it to live on the island. For example, to live on the island you must observe traditional dress at all times. The island is ‘governed’ by 17 married couples. They change every year and resolve all issues on the island. To get married on Taquile you must live together for a minimum of 3 years before committing to marriage and divorce is not a possibility. Weddings are only possible one day a year on the first Sunday in May when each couple will marry on the same day.
The colours of the outfits including hats have different meanings and states if you are married or not, if they are one of the 17 couples that are chiefs of the village or even if you are related to the chiefs. Women have scarves that have pom poms of different colours on them. And which colour they display means either yes or not when at a dance. If the man puts his hat to the side, that means that the man also wants to dance. Then the couple will start dancing without even talking to each other!
The island of Taquile is very community focused and the philosophy if you help today, you will be helped tomorrow is number one. This is shown when building houses as the whole community helps build each house for every island member.
Walk across Taquile and Swim in Lake Titicaca
After lunch, we walked from down to the boat port, this wasn’t the same place that it dropped us. The walk is down 600 steps and there no options of horse or motobike rides on Taquile so make sure you are able to do this before committing to the walk. Before the boat leaves, you have an opportunity to swim in the water, it is crystal clear but I chickened out….
The boat left for Puno at about 12.30 and it was a 2.5 hour journey so it took a while. Spend the boat ride chilling out and taking in some sun on the top deck. I used the time to write this post, efficient eh??
That’s all you need to know about a Homestay on Amantani Island!
Now you are ready to go for an adventure on Amantani Island! Hope you have the best time and let me know how it goes in the comments.