We had two days in Puno, Peru, which is the main large city on Lake Titicaca. It isn't a very unique, exciting, or clean city, and most people travel here for only the lake experience. We woke up early on our second day to meet the guide downstairs at 7:15 and picked up a few other tourists on the way to the dock.
We had prepared for an open boat on the freezing water, but it turned out to be a great enclosed boat and we had a full group of around 25 people onboard.
We paid $55 each for the tour, and this really ended up being a great decision. There is almost no way to get around the lake without being a part of a tour, unless you rent your own private guide, which I imagine is much more expensive.
We started at the Uros floating islands, which are 15 minutes from port, surprisingly close to Puno. It's really incredible to see these structures. The islanders pile up reed cuttings until they have a floating island anchored to the lake bed by wooden posts. The ground is bouncy and the reed clippings have to be constantly replenished. The islands last around 35 years each, until the foundation rots away, then they must build a new one. I don't believe the people actually live on the islands still, but think it's more of a floating museum, although we were assured families still do.
It's a bit of a tourist trap and we declined to take the dragon-shaped " water taxi" ride around the island for S/10 per person. Instead, we were suckered into the "market" on the island (three tables with handcrafted goods) where Brian bought a necklace for S/5. He took pity on the fact that these people probably have few sources of revenue beyond tourism.
It started to rain, so we moved on to the 1.5 hour ride to Isle Taquile. By the time we arrived, many people were thankful for land due to the choppy water from the storm. Luckily, the rain stopped just in time for us to arrive on the island and we made the very steep hike up to the center of town.
This island is incredible. It's beautiful and surrounded by stunning vistas of the lake. The land is nearly entirely terraced for farming and raising cattle and sheep. There are no roads - only stone walking paths - and therefore no vehicles, so the air is very clean. The sky is so blue and the clouds so white. The weather was perfect as well - cool breeze and warm sun.
After wandering the square and the weaving markets, we headed to a local family's home for lunch and to learn about the traditional life on the island. The family, including their toddler son, showed us how they weave belts and hats, did traditional dances, and served us a delicious meal of lake trout (trucha) and quinoa soup.
Following lunch, we strolled along a rocky path to the other end of the island, where our tour boat had relocated. We really enjoyed the walk back in the sunshine and spent the boat ride back on the stern soaking up the sun and calming lake views.
We made two more stops again at the floating islands to learn about the building process of the islands and then to get the touristy "passport" stamp.
Being the highest major lake in the world, we expected it to be dreary and cold, but it was the exact opposite. Rocky mountains surround all sides of the massive lake, the islands are lush, and the water is pristine blue/green. This was the perfect way to spend our final day in Peru.
P.S. - We usually aren't organized tour people, but recommend the one we did. We used the tour company "Jumbo Tours" which was much cheaper than other options, provided quality experiences, and included entry fees and lunch in the tour cost of $55 USD per person.