If you’re looking for an authentic, cultural experience, in a one of kind environment, look no further than Amantani Island. This unique Lake Titicaca homestay offers visitors a very small window into the real daily life of Amantani’s Quechua residents.
The location way up on the world’s highest altitude navigable lake provides brilliant blue skies, stunning vistas and incredible light. Add in the total serenity of Amantani itself, and it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
In this guide
- 1 Amantani Island
- 2 How to reserve a Lake Titicaca Homestay
- 3 The Lake Titicaca Homestay: What to Expect
- 4 Getting to Amantani Island
- 5 Amantani Island Homestay: Our Experience
- 6 Did you find this post about Amantani Island helpful? PIN IT!
Amantani Island is located approximately 40km away from Puno on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. It’s a circular-shaped island approximately 9.3km² in size, inhabited mainly by people of Quechua origin. It has spectacular terraced hillsides planted with wheat, quinoa, potatoes and various other vegetables. You’ll also find alpaca, sheep, and other livestock grazing around the island, but no cars.
There are 2 mountain peaks rising approximately 4000 metres above sea level on Amantani Island. The local Quechua population refer to them as Pachatata (Father Earth), and Pachamama (Mother Earth). Ancient Incan ruins on top of both peaks are generally only accessible on the 3rd Thursday of January, each year. At this time, the residents of Amantani Island divide in half, with some congregating at Pachatata, and the rest at Pachamama, for their annual Feast Day.
Visit during this event, and you’ll witness an exciting race to a finish line somewhere between the 2 peaks. A win for the Pachamama side predicts a plentiful harvest for the following year.
How to reserve a Lake Titicaca Homestay
If you book a homestay on Lake Titicaca, it will be on Amantani Island. So, you may also find this experience called the “Amantani Homestay”. They’re exactly the same thing, so no need to worry that you’ll end up on a random island in the middle of nowhere. You won’t!
Visiting Amantani on an all-inclusive tour
An Amantani homestay will be part of a tour that starts out of Puno on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. You’ll also make brief stops at the floating reed islands of Uros, and Taquile during the tour. If you’re short on time, booking a tour to visit all 3 islands in a single day, is really your only option due to the distances and coordination involved.
However, if you can swing it, I really do recommend staying overnight on Amantani Island if you can. It was undeniably the highlight of our visit to Lake Titicaca.
If you’re a planner and feel more comfortable reserving a spot in advance, you can book a Lake Titicaca tour that includes transport from Puno, an english-speaking guide, meals, the overnight Amantani homestay, as well as visits to the islands of Uros and Taquile. This will make your experience completely low stress.
RECOMMENDED TOUR: Lake Titicaca 2 Day Tour with Amantani Homestay
Visiting Amantani Island Independently
It’s also totally possible to book your Lake Titicaca homestay independently. There are two ways to do this.
You can walk directly up to the dock in Puno, and make arrangements to visit one or all of the islands there. You’ll definitely save some money by arranging things independently. Keep in mind though that transport to and from your lodging in Puno, and a guide won’t be included. Be sure to carry some cash with you, as you’ll have to pay the “entrance fees” to each of the islands yourself upon arrival. This is how we visited the Lake Titicaca Islands ourselves… and it’s totally doable.
Alternatively, you can book accommodation on Amantani yourself, and stay for as many days as you’d like. Don’t forget to reserve transport from Puno to Amantani and back.
Where we stayed in Puno: Santa Maria Inn– private double with ensuite bathroom, hot shower (not a given in Peru), delicious breakfast (eggs and freshly squeezed juice) and wifi in the lobby. Definitely recommended for a budget stay.
The Lake Titicaca Homestay: What to Expect
The homestay on Amantani Island is the second stop on almost every Lake Titicaca tour. On the way to Amantani, you’ll stop in at Uros. On the way back to Puno, you’ll stop at Taquile.
There are varying degrees of comfort available in each home, but generally speaking, houses are very simple. Toilets are very basic, and there may be no running water or electricity. Odds are your host family will not speak english. They may not even speak spanish. However, they’ll be warm and welcoming and happy that you’ve decided to spend the night. After all, it’s a much needed contribution to their economy.
Each of the families involved in the Amantani homestay must have a special room set aside for tourists to stay in. They’ll provide you with meals, and take you to a dance show in the evening. Feel free to dress up in the traditional clothes provided and join the dance. There will also be handmade alpaca hats and other items available to purchase if you wish. There is no obligation to do so.
If you want to bring a gift for your hosts, it’s much better to bring food staples or school supplies, rather than sweets or sugar. It’s difficult to get dental care on Amantani.
Getting to Amantani Island
It takes about 2 hours via a really slow “speedboat” to reach Amantani Island from the floating reed islands of Uros. It’s a lovely ride though, and a real opportunity to explore the true peace and beauty of Lake Titicaca.
After all, you’re currently 3,800 metres above sea level, making your way across the largest volume lake in South America and the world’s highest navigable body of water. Not many make it here. As you glide across Lake Titicaca’s calm blue waters, revel at the incredibly clarity of the sky above you and the whisper of the long grass reeds around you. Look out for the Andes Mountains, and see if you can still feel the presence of the God Viracocha, who once rose out of the Lake, and created the sun, the stars, and the first people.
Amantani Island Homestay: Our Experience
I see a small group of women waiting by the dock, as our speedboat laboriously makes its way closer to Amantani. There are none of the big smiles and contrived waves we’d just encountered on the Uros Islands. Instead, the women hang back, giving us shy smiles from behind a village elder, while he determines which family will host us for the night.
Agri and I, along with a Peruvian from Lima, follow our Amantani homestay lady to her house. It’s just a short 10 minute walk away from the dock. We’re shown to our rooms, which are rustic, with no electricity and only an outhouse for a bathroom. The beds are large and surprisingly comfortable though, so we settle in for a quick rest before lunch.
We’d been warned that meals would be very simple and starchy, and they are. We’re served a simple vegetable soup to start, followed by the main course, which consists of a plate of many different kinds of boiled potatoes and a slab of fried cheese. The meal is filling, if not wholly satisfying. However, we’re getting a taste of what real life is like on Amantani Island… and if the people of Amantani eat potatoes every day, we certainly can too.
After lunch, our lady walks us to the main square, where we are met by a “tour guide,” from Amantani Island. He explains that there are 2 peaks on the island: Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Pachatata (Father Earth). We can choose to hike to either or both peaks.
We decide to make our way up to the top of Pachamama. It’s 4,100 metres above sea level, and we definitely feel the high altitude and lack of oxygen as we struggle our way up to the peak. It’s worth every breathless step though. At the top, we’re able to see the calm waters of Lake Titicaca stretching out peacefully in every direction, as well as the natural beauty of the island itself. There’s a feeling of serenity and calm at the top that I haven’t felt for a very long time.
We watch the sunset until it becomes too cold to bear, and then make our way back down the mountain for dinner at our homestay. After we eat more potatoes than I’d ever imagined we could eat in a single day, Agri makes his way back to the main square for an evening of dance and music. Ever the introvert, and too cold to contemplate the half hour walk back in the dark, I huddle under the covers, and await his return a few hours later.
The next morning we wake early and have a breakfast of bread and instant coffee, that’s been freshly prepared on the family’s campfire stove kitchen. And with that, our Amantani Island homestay is over. After saying goodbye to our homestay family, we walk back to the dock, with a greater appreciation of what life is like on Lake Titicaca.
What do you think about a homestay? Would you like to participate in one?