After what felt like a never-ending bus ride through the pitch black, unfamiliar landscape of southern Peru, I arrived at a ramshackle Puno bus station in the pouring rain, ready for the journey to be over. My sister Ali and I were relieved to find our hotel guide, who quickly wrapped us up in cozy blankets and handed off hot tea for the hour-long ride to Titilaka lodge, a Relais & Chateaux propoerty, our home for the next three nights.
We kept our eyes peeled on the horizon, or at least what we could see of it through bursts of lightening that crackled across the big, open sky. A warm welcome, an easy check-in, and a run-through of our plans for the next day primed us to fall into our sumptuous beds, wondering what surroundings we’d find when we opened our eyes the next morning.
Imagine how it felt to wake up to a sunrise on Lake Titicaca—the world’s highest navigable lake—streaming through our open curtains; we hadn’t even realized our room faced the water before we went to sleep.
The rest of our visit continued to unfold in this manner, with one pleasant surprise after the next. We were delighted to soak in the gorgeous design of the space—sparse and modern with warm, earthy accents and bright textiles made by local weaving communities—made all the more beautiful with the natural backdrop of the sparkling blue lake against brick-red mud. We were pleased as pie to discover the included meals (Titilaka is far enough away from any cities that you won’t want to leave the property to dine) were not only passable, but actually quite good, especially when we stuck to the Peruvian dishes on offer; the service—all locals from the surrounding area—was beyond friendly. We were over the moon for the Peruvian wines served every evening at cocktail hour outside on picnic blankets next to a bonfire, when the weather allowed. We made out like bandits at the gift shop, which featured all the special touches we had been admiring in our room and in the hotel’s common spaces, plus the softest Alpaca blankets and sweaters from high-end Peruvian brands like Sol. The best surprise of all was hotel’s mission: Working with NGO Kusimayo, the lodge supports local development through consumption of products and handcrafts, plus a donation per guest to support efforts that fight malnutrition and poverty in the area.
The highlight of the stay though, by far, was the quality and variety of activities facilitated by the boutique, all-inclusive. Twelve of the 16 excursions offered were already included in our rate, and the guides were the best we encountered during our three-week stay in Peru. On the lake, we visited Taquile Island, a weaving community that is just beginning to open itself up to tourism, and on a separate occasion, we visited the Uros floating islands, made entirely of river reeds; we caught the Sunday morning barter market in Acora, where women trade grains like quinoa for fresh vegetables and fish; we also hiked to Amaru Muro, believed to be an inter-dimensional portal by local shamans. Even just relaxing at the hotel or exploring its immediate surroundings made for an amazing adventure, like when we mountain biked through the potato farmlands in the area, farmers waving to us from the fields as we rode along the edge of the lake. Months later, I’m still dreaming of my time on the Lake, and how to plan a return visit.
Rooms from $400/night (with a two-night minimum); Puno, Perú; 51-1/700-5111; titilaka.com.