Lake Titicaca also known as “Titiqaqa” in Quechua is a large lake located in the northern end of the endroheic Altiplano, a basin, high in the Andes on the border of Bolivia and Peru (meaning half of the lake belongs to Bolivia and the other half belongs to Peru). Visiting this lake is just one of the many fun things to do in Bolivia. Due to its volume of water its South Americas largest lake, with a surface elevation of 12,507 feet (3,812 m) Titicaca is often referred to as the world’s highest navigable lake.
For many years the SS Ollanta (weighting 2,200 tons and 259 feet long) was the largest vessel to navigate the lake. Around the world, there are about two dozen other bodies of water which are located at higher elevations than Titicaca, but these are all much smaller and shallower.
This lake has over 42 islands; some of these islands are densely populated, here are few names of the islands on the lake.
- Tauile (which is known for its traditional Bolivian high quality handicrafts to such an extent the UNESCO proclaimed “Taquile and its Textile Art” as the “Masterpieces of the Oral and intangible Heritage of Humanity”)
- Isla del Sol (one of the largest islands on the lake)
- Isla de Luna
This lake is an “intermontane lake” (meaning it’s located in between the mountains or mountain ranges of Bolivia and Peru) and lies in the “Tinajani Basin”. It’s main town is Copacabana. It’s also home to over 350 aquatic species, including a large number of water birds, for these reasons on August 26, 1998 the lake was designated as a Ramsar Site. The lake is composed of two (nearly) separate sub basins that are connected by the Strait of Tiquina, which stands at 2,620 feet (800m) across the narrowest point.
Lago Grande or (Big Lake) is the larger sub basin with a depth of 443 feet (135 m) and a maximum depth of 932 feet (284 m). Wiñaymarka or Lago Pequeño (Little Lake) is the smaller sub basin, with a depth of 30 feet (9 m) and a maximum depth of 131 feet (40 m). The five major rivers that empty into the lake are Ramis, Coata, Llave, Huancane, and Suchez. Over twenty other smaller streams also empty into this lake.
With only one season of free circulation, this lake is monomictic, water passes through the Lago Huiñaimarca and flows out to Rio Desaguadero, the single outlet, next it flows south through Bolivia into Lake Poopo. However this only accounts for 10% of the lake’s water balance, since this is nearly a closed lake evapotranspiration, that’s caused by the intense sunlight due to it’s height altitude and strong gusts of wind balances out the remaining 90% of its water loss.
Where the name “Titicaca” came from is still unknown, although the lakes name has been translated as “Rock Puma” because the nearby communities have said that the lake resembles the shape of a “puma hunting a rabbit”, however many people are skeptical of this translation. Locally this lake goes by several different names such as; Lago Chucuito, Wiñay Marka, and Lago Huiñaymarca.
The lake, since 2000 has constantly experienced receding water levels, and in 2009, between April and November the water level had dropped by 32 inches (81 cm), which was the lowest level the lake had reached since 1949. This drop was caused by the melting of the glaciers that used to feed the tributaries of the lake and of course the shorter rainy seasons. In 2012 the Global Nature Fund nominated Titicaca as the “Threatened Lake of the Year”, due to the water pollution concern that threaten the lakes biodiversity.
The lake with temperatures that range from cool to cold for most part of the year has a borderline Subtropical highland/Alpine climate.
The average annual rain fall is about 24 inches (610 mm) and most of the rainfalls occur in the summer thunderstorms, winters on the other hand are dry with very chilly nights and mornings, with warm afternoons.
The average surface temperature of the lake is 50°F – 57 °F (10°C – 14 °C), from June through September (the winter months) mixing occurs with deeper waters, which temperatures are always between 50°F – 52°F (10°C – 11°C)