An increasingly popular way of visiting Peru’s Lake Titicaca is skipping the lakeside city of Puno, and instead staying with a local family on the island of Amantani. For some people, a Lake Titicaca homestay sounds like a dream cultural experience; being able to stay with a real family and learn more about their culture and what daily life is like on the Lake. To others — at least at first — it might sound like a daunting way to spend your vacation, not least because of the language and cultural barrier (even Spanish speakers have a hard time here, where the common language is the indigenous Aymara.). To help you decide whether or not this experience is for you, here is some information on what you might expect:
Firstly, it’s worth noting a homestay is the only way of staying overnight on Amantani. There are no hotels on the island, as tourism here is still in its infancy. For some, this makes the destination even more appealing.
Typically your trip will begin with a visit to the floating islands of Uros, before heading to Amantani for an introduction to your host family. Your family will greet you and welcome you inside, showing you around and encouraging you to feel at home. Next you’ll have the chance to take a short hike of the island, which culminates with a jaw-dropping view of the entire lake. When you get back to the family home, a traditional meal is eaten together. After dinner, you will be loaned some indigenous clothing and taken to a dance where you will be free — but not pressured — to join in.
The following day after breakfast bid farewell to your host family and board the boat for the island of Taquile, where a short but scenic hike and delicious lunch await before returning to Puno.
Your room on the island will be clean but basic, without a private bathroom. Think of it as staying in a simple guest room at someone’s home. The families go out of their way and use all their available resources to make sure you feel welcome. For this reason, it’s customary to bring a small gift of a food staple, such as a bag of rice, for your hosts. This lets them know you appreciate their hospitality. As with the rest of Peru, there is no central heating so warm clothes and layers are a must.
Part of the joy of traveling is meeting and getting to know local people who often have an incredibly different way of life to what you’re used to at home; however, when you are trying to see as much as possible in a country as large as Peru, it can be difficult to connect with locals on your own. This experience provides a rare chance to come closer to the local people whose beautiful country you are visiting.
Sure, it might be pushing your comfort zone to spend a night with a local family in their home — especially in a rustic environment with a present language barrier — but if you visit with an open mind and heart you’ll find real, friendly people who genuinely want to share with you the beauty of their native land.