Nestled in the Andean Plateau is the magnificent Lake Titicaca. This stunning landscape features a rich blue lake fringed by yellow grass reeds that are used to construct the traditional boats and homes floating upon it. Titicaca is also one of less than twenty ancient lakes on Earth and is thought to be there million years old. Keep on reading to learn 46 facts about Lake Titicaca.
Fact 1: Lake Titicaca is a large, deep lake in the Andes mountain range on the border of Bolivia and Peru in South America.
Fact 2: It’s often called the “highest navigable lake” in the world.
Fact 3: By volume of water and by surface area, it is the largest lake in South America.
Fact 4: Titicaca is the second largest lake in South America after Maracaibo.
Fact 5: The lake covers a total area of over 8,372 square kilometres. For comparison sake, Lake Superior in North America is nearly 100 times bigger at 82,100 square kilometres.
Fact 6: The lake extends in a northwest-to-southeast direction on it’s longest axis. It is roughly 190 km long and 80 km wide.
Fact 7: The meaning of the name Titicaca is uncertain. However, it has been variously translated as “Rock of the Puma” or “Crag of Lead”.
Fact 8: Titicaca lies between Andean ranges in a vast basin that has an area of over 58,000 square kilometers. It makes up most of the Altiplano (High Plateau) of the central Andes.
Fact 9: The lake has an average depth of 107 m. Though this is deep, its nothing compared to the deepest lake in the world, the Russian Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal has an average depth of 744 meters making it nearly 7 times deeper.
Fact 10: At its deepest point, Lake Titicaca is 281 meters deep. But this is nothing compared to the Deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal in Southern Russia. Lake Baikal is over 5.8 times deeper than Lake Titicaca with a maximum depth of 1,642 meters.
Fact 11: The bottom of the lake suddenly tilts sharply toward the Bolivian shore, reaching its greatest recorded depth of 281 meters just a few hundred meters off Isla Soto in the lake’s northeast corner.
Fact 12: More than 25 rivers empty their waters into Titicaca.
Fact 13: The 5 main rivers that feed into the lake, in order of volume, are Ramis, Coata, Ilave, Huancané, and Suchez.
Fact 14: The lake has a total water volume of approximately 895.8 Cubic Kilometers. That’s enough to fill 358.3 million Olympic size swimming pools.
Fact 15: The largest river that feeds into the lake, the Ramis, drains about two-fifths of the entire Titicaca Basin into the lake as it enters from the northwestern corner of the lake. One small river, the Desaguadero, drains the lake at its southern end.
Fact 16: Lake Titicaca’s fish life consists principally of two species of killifish and a catfish.
Fact 17: In 1939, trout were introduced into Titicaca.
Fact 18: A very large frog (Telmatobius), which may reach a length of nearly 30 centimeters, inhabits the shallower regions of the lake.
Fact 19: There is a collection of man-made islands floating on the surface of Titicaca called the Uros.
Fact 20: The Uros Islands were constructed by, and named after, the Uros, or Uru, people. They made the islands from multiple layers of a very thick and buoyant grass called totora. The islands are often as large as 15 meters in diameter. And the Uros build houses and other dwellings directly on the islands.
Fact 21: In the year 2000, Archeologists discovered ruins of a temple sitting on the lake’s bottom. These ruins are thought to be over 1250 years old and were built by the Tiwanaku people. The ruins have been mapped by radar and submersible and cover an area of 10,000 square meters.
Fact 22: The ruins attest to the previous existence of one of the oldest civilizations known in the Americas. A terrace for crops, a long road, and an 800 meter long wall was also found under the waters of the lake.
Fact 23: The Global Nature Fund voted Lake Titicaca the most “Threatened Lake of the Year” in 2012, due to its declining biodiversity, the introduction of foreign animals to the lake, and pollution by man.
Fact 24: On Titicaca Island ruins of a temple mark the spot where, according to the tradition of the Incas, the legendary founders of the Inca dynasty, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, were sent down to Earth by the Sun.
Fact 25: The Uru and other lake dwellers make their famed balsas from the totora, a thick and Buoyant wild grass that grows along the shore of the lake. Balsas are boats fashioned of bundles of dried reeds lashed together that resemble the crescent-shaped papyrus craft pictured on ancient Egyptian monuments.
Fact 26: There are over 42 islands on the lake. But most of them are very small and uninhabited.
Fact 27: In 1862 the first steamer to ply the lake, the SS Yavari, was prefabricated in England and carried in pieces on muleback up to the lake. However, she didn’t launch for 8 years and hit the water for the first time in 1870
Fact 28: The SS Yavari was designed to carry both cargo and people. She was only 30 meters long but her capacity was more than enough for the region at the time.
Fact 29: Under Peruvian legislation, part of Lake Titicaca is included in the National System of Protected Areas (SINANPE) as a national nature reserve.
Fact 30: In addition, in 1997, all Lake Titicaca was a wetland of international importance. This category gives to Lake Titicaca special protection and conservation responsibilities under the Ramsar Convention.
Fact 31: At 3,812 meters above sea level, the extreme altitude of Lake Titicaca can leave even the fittest of travelers gasping for air. That’s astonishingly 11.8 times higher than the maximum high of France’s Eiffel Tower.
Fact 32: Take it easy at first if you haven’t already acclimatized, and consider taking Diamox or coca tea to mitigate the effects.
Fact 33: Lake Titicaca is sacred to Bolivia. This is partly because the ancient Incas believed it to be the birthplace of the Sun. As a result, a plethora of fascinating archeological sites can be found scattered throughout.
Fact 34: Between the years 2000 and 2020, the lake has receded by over 18 centimeters. This is mostly down to changes in climate both locally and globally which has effected the input of water into the lake.
Fact 35: A distinct lack of shade and the thin mountain air mean that sunburn is a real danger throughout the region. Visitors are encouraged to take adequate precautions to avoid burning to a crisp under the unrelenting sun.
Fact 36: The total shore length of Lake Titicaca is 1,125 km. That’s about 136.6 times less than the total shoreline length of the entire United States of America which a total shoreline length of 153,645.68 Km.
Fact 37: The north section of Isla del Sol is currently off-limits.
Fact 38: A fiery dispute between two neighboring indigenous tribes has meant the entire northern section of the island has been closed to tourism since March 2017.
Fact 39: Numerous small passenger and fishing boats dot the lake.
Fact 40: The largest boat is the Manco Capac car float, owned by PeruRail. The car float Manco Capac operates across Lake Titicaca between PeruRail’s railhead at Puno and the port of Guaqui in Bolivia. The ship is about 80 meters long.
Fact 41: The highest point on the lake is on Isla del Sol at 4084.32 meters above sea level. That makes it 272 meters above the surface of Lake Titicaca.
Fact 42: Isla del Solis the largest of all the islands on Lake Titicaca with total area of 14.3 square km. It was once regarded as the home of the supreme Inca sun god Inti.
Fact 43: More than 530 aquatic species can be found in Lake Titicaca, as well as many species of water birds.
Fact 44: Threatened species than can be found here include the enormous Titicaca water frog and the Titicaca grebe. Approximately 90% of the fish found in the basin are endemic species not found anywhere else.
Fact 45: Local communities believe that the shape of the lake depicts that of a puma hunting a rabbit.
Fact 46: Thus the name, Titicaca, comes from the word “Titi Khar’ka” meaning Rock of the Puma in Aymara (a local indigenous language).