Sparkling oceans, towering mountains and never-ending deserts; our big wide world is home to an abundance of beautiful destinations. But where to go to feel humble and small? Where to experience a divine setting that dates back centuries? Legends, fables and sacred tales are waiting to be told – you just have to visit.
Lake Titicaca, Peru
Its status as the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest in South America are enough to make Peru’s Lake Titicaca famous, but the legends surrounding it have made it a particular must-visit for those with a penchant for spiritual exploration. With Peru to the west and Bolivia to the east, Lake Titicaca stands 4,000 metres above sea level and covers a vast expanse of 3,200 square miles.
Cosmological mythology tells how the Andean god of Viracocha rose from the lake to create the sun, moon, universe and all civilisation. The same site is hailed as the birthplace of the fabled Incas who recount their origins as being from the rocks on the lake’s Island of the Sun. Countless highland communities grew from the Incas, all of which revered the sacred lake as the place where all Incan spirits return to after death. As well as handing down their stories through the generations, they also left behind remarkable ancient sites of archaeological interest. Atop the rolling hills and towering Andean peaks, the crumbling cathedrals that dot the landscape surrounding the lake create a scenic amalgamation of natural and historic splendour.
Other tales have long since swirled around a crystal city lost in the depths of Lake Titicaca. It’s a legend that came about after the Incas claimed they had witnessed extraterrestrial beings emerging from the water. While renowned French explorer Jacques Cousteau attempted to find evidence of it with no success, in recent years divers discovered the 1,500-year-old ruins of an underwater temple predating the Incas. Despite not being made of crystal, or possessing any signs of extraterrestrial activity, the discovery gave new life to the Incan stories of the underwater city.
It’s no surprise then that visitors so often remark on the region’s mystical and ethereal vibe. With the lunar light shimmering off the lake’s deep-blue surface, it makes you shiver to imagine the sunken city and Andean god rising from its depths – a mystical tale that sparked decades of worshipping rituals from some of Peru’s farthest-flung communities. As well as there always being another side of the lake to discover, the spiritual legends make you realise there is truly something magical about this place.
Close to the Inca’s much-loved Island of the Sun on the Bolivian side of the lake, a short scramble down one of the many steep inclines that surrounds it will afford a view of the Floating Islands of Uros. It’s here that the indigenous Uros people (who pre-date the Incas) live on 50 self-fashioned islands in the middle of Lake Titicaca. They’re known for their vibrant, hospitable yet traditional ways, and for buoyant reeds that they weave carefully to produce their boats and houses.
The modest yet impeccable reed bungalows that occupy almost half of the tiny Isla Khantati have earned one entrepreneurial couple international accolades. The shady decks are the perfect place from which to observe the splendour of the lake, but also cats, flamingos and other unexpected wildlife. Your hosts will tell all you wish to hear about the area’s history and culture, allow you to participate in the Uros’ daily activities and provide gourmet local cuisine. The pure simplicity and natural beauty is humbling and can lend a startling new perspective on life. Keep in mind however that this stunning locale sits at high altitude, meaning you may need to acclimatise before signing up for a long stay.
If you’d rather admire the immense lake from the land, opt to reside in Titilaka Lodge. A hotel in symbiosis with its unique natural setting, it sits on the shore of the lake atop its own secluded peninsula. A pristine and expansive lake view awaits from your suite, while the over-water deck and numerous wrap-around terraces provide a fantastic vantage point from which to admire the hotel’s four-acre grounds and private beaches. Gazing upwards, the night sky is as star-speckled as you can imagine, yet another natural feat to gaze at in wonder.