Isolated in the middle of the highest lake in the world, the islands of Taquille and Amantani are an unbeatable place to engage with indigenous culture, and staying with a welcoming local family is the perfect way to do it.
The communities who live on the islands fled there to escape the Inca conquest of Peru, and little seems to have changed since then. No running water, electricity, and freezing candlelit nights make for an uncomfortable stay! But I'd recommend it because of the awe inspiring setting and shy, but warm, knitting population who have set up their own collective to transport and accommodate guests.
If you can happily eat potatoes three times a day, this homestay is perfect.
Turn up at the docks in Puno before 8 a.m. and be sure to ask for the collective boat, (this way all the proceeds go to the island communities), when you arrive on an island, 4 or 5 hours later, the boat men will arrange a local family for you to stay with, on a rotating system.
Beginning from Puno on the shore of the magical Lake Titicaca, the Orient Express Company's luxurious train works it's way across high Peru to the historical city of Cusco - fine food and wine, an observation car, and a midway stop for local entertainment - magical.
Ten-hour rail journey along the grassy altiplano. The highest point, La Raya pass, is 4321 metres above sea level. An at times bleak but stunning journey that descends along the Vilcanota river to Cuzco. Spoil yourselves and go first class. Memorable train journey among hospitable people.
Train station middle of Puno.
Fruit is prohibitively expensive for islanders, and stationery is a very welcome gift for the children.
If staying overnight, you'll be allocated a family home to stay by the island council or elders. This is to ensure income from tourists gets spread fairly.
You can buy the fruit on the edge of Lake Titicaca, and just give it out to islanders you encounter walking up from the boat and in the town.
If you would like to visit the school, go with your guide to ask to donate stationery for/to the children.
You may find it one of the most rewarding aspects of your trip.
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