As we reshuffled our idea of descending into Arequipa’s canyons due to lack of time, our exit from Peru suddenly included visiting the famous Lake Titicaca. Sitting astride Peru’s and Bolivia’s border, the local joke goes something along the lines of “Peru got the titi and Bolivia got the caca” but our trip around the lake was equally enjoyable on both sides.

There is no immigration control on the far side of the lake, so from Lampa, we travelled by bus to get our passports stamped in Puno (more details at the end of this post) before visiting the Capachica peninsula and then riding the eastern side of the lake on quieter roads to the border at Tilali.

Sarah & James

A basic map of the Capachica Peninsula, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Our “high tech” map of the Capachica Peninsula (with our route marked in pink) which reaches out into the lake just to the east of Juliaca. We spend a few days here before heading towards Bolivia…

Sarah riding alongside a rubbish dump on the road from Juliaca to Capachica, Peru

…but to get there, first we have to ride past this. Stretching out of Juliaca on the windswept altiplano is 15-20km of rubbish. Some brave souls sift through it for treasures to keep and sell but mostly it’s broken tvs and used nappies.

Sarah riding through a gate shaped as an indigenous hat at the beginning of the road to the Capachica Peninsula, Lake Titicaca, Peru

After riding through the town of Capachica, we reach a gate shaped as the hat typical to this region and we know we have arrived at the lake… 

View of Lake Titicaca and a reed bed, Capachica Peninsula, Peru

…and get a first glimpse of its calm waters and totora (reed) beds.

View over our cycle campsite alongside Lake Titicaca on the Capachica Peninsula, Peru

A rest day is prescribed and we pitch the tent at Kawai homestay near Llachón, overlooking the lake and back towards Puno…

Yellow crysanthemums alongside Lake Titicaca on the Capachica Peninsula, Peru

…and spend the day drinking coffee and admiring the flowers…

Three photos of Mari at the Kawai homestay near Llachón, Capachica Peninsula, Lake Titicaca, Peru

…all in the company of the owner’s daughter, adorable three year old Mari.

Magno and family at Kawai homestay near Llachón, Capachica Peninsula, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Kawai homestay: Magno and his family provide accomodation and tasty local meals overlooking the lake, just outside of the village of Llachón.

Four photos of the sunrise over Lake Titicaca, Cacpachica Peninsula, Peru

We drag ourselves out of the tent at 0430 and up to the highest point of the peninsula to see the sun rise over the lake. The magnificent views are more than enough reward for the effort – thanks for the tip Alfie!

Bowl of breakfast doughnuts at Kawai homestay near Llachón, Capachica Peninsula, Lake Titicaca, Peru

And we still make it back to the homestay in time for delicious fresh doughnuts and jam for breakfast. 

Sarah and the bikes on the beach at Chifrón, Capachica Peninsula, Lake Titicaca, Peru

A leisurely ride around the rest of the peninsula and we are at Playa Chifrón just in time for lunch on the beach… 

Poster of the Miss Playa Chifrón 2013 competition, Capachica Peninsula, Lake Titicaca, Peru

…but unfortunately a day too early to witness the annual “Miss Chifrón Beach” beauty competition.

Sarah cycling around the edge of a cliff near Escallani, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Riding away from the peninsula towards Escallani, we follow a wonderful dirt road that hugs the coastline…

Sarah cycling along the coast of Lake Titicaca, Peru

…and makes us feel like we are cycling in the Mediterranean. 

Man driving a tractor near Pusi, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Lakeside life goes on as normal: tractor drivers wave hello… 

Cows outside a typical house on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Peru

…cows graze in front of political propganda…

Two people in a boat near Pusi, Lake Titicaca, Peru

…and the boats are out collecting totora; the prolific reed that grows on the shore is used for everything from eating to weaving to animal fodder.

Boat covered in reeds near Huancané, Lake Titicaca, Peru

There’s enough totora for everyone.

Sarah cycling past a protestor's roadblock of stones and branches near Huancané, Lake Titicaca, Peru

The people of Huancané, upset with their corrupt mayor, lay a road block in protest. Thankfully cyclists are allowed through…

A view of Lake Titicaca from outside of Huancané, Peru

…and we reach the “other” side of the lake. Little traffic and beautiful views make it the perfect way to leave Peru.

James stands with his bike looking over the cliff's edge near Moho, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Overlooking the drop, James dreams of a nice cold swim…

View of a bay near Moho, Lake Titicaca, Peru

…and soon we find the perfect bay…

Sarah swimming in Lake Titicaca, Peru

…nothing for it but to get stuck in. It freezes my brain! I am really not a fan of jumping into cold water but I can’t just sit on the beach and observe; this is Lake Titicaca after all.

James swimming in Lake Titicaca, Peru

James on the other hand loves a chilly swim…

Close up of James after swimming in Lake Titicaca, Peru

…even if he does come out of the water looking like a half-frozen shipwreck survivor. 

Picture of a granadilla near Lake Titicaca, Peru

We warm back up in the sun and enjoy sweet granadillas; this kind of tropical fruit will be harder to come by in Bolivia, we are told, so we eat as much as we can in our last few days in Peru.

Sarah cycling up the dirt road between the borders of Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca, Peru

After passing the police checkpoint at Tilali, Peru has one tough climb left for us. I grumble all the way up and vow to make a case to the Office of International Border Crossings (there must be one, right?) that they do not always have to choose difficult dirt climbs to mark the territories between countries…or perhaps it’s just the particular borders we choose to cross at?

The base of the obelisk marking the border between Peru and Bolivia at Lake Titicaca, near Tilali, Peru

We finally reach the obelisk overlooking the lake that marks the line, and we are into Bolivia. 

View of some of the contraband lock-ups on the border between Peru and Bolivia, near Tilali, Lake Titicaca, Peru

There’s no one else up here, just hundreds of empty buildings that are used on Wednesdays and Saturdays for a huge contraband market. 

Sarah cycling through the no-man's land area between the Peruvian and Bolivian Borders near Tilali, Lake Titicaca, Peru

No-man’s land (and the climbing) continues much further than I anticipate; it’s an 18km slog from Tilali to Puerto Acosta, the first town on the Bolivian side. We arrive shattered and seek out dinner… 

Lady cooking dinner in a kiosk at Puerto Acosta, Bolivia

…which we find at a kiosko in a deserted square. First food impressions are positive: hot hearty soup followed by a heaped plate of rice, potatoes and minced beef for just over US$1. Exactly what is needed. 

View of Puerto Acosta, Bolivia

Our first impressions of Puerto Acosta on the otherhand are pretty bleak – we arrive as it’s getting dark and there is a bitter wind blowing around a town where seemingly no one lives. The following morning both the people and the sun emerge and it’s a much nicer place to be. 

A bunch of bananas bought in Bolivia

And our first impressions of bananas – the crucial staple food of cyclists – they’re cheap, really cheap. In Escoma, 4 bananas costs us 1 Boliviano…in sterling, that’s 44 bananas for £1! 

A lady running past a group of houses, near Escoma, Bolivia

We continue to follow the lake on the Bolivian side, through peaceful villages where running is a rarity… 

A group of kids on bikes heading to school in Ancoraimes, Bolivia

…on to Ancoraimes, now truly on the altiplano, where bicycles are the most common form of transport. We get swallowed up in the school commute. 

A roadside village sign featuring the Bolivian flag and Ché Guevara near Achacachi, Bolivia

Ché propoganda reappears reminding us of our month in Cuba, nearly two years ago. His final guerilla campaign took place in Bolivia before he was captured and shot by the Bolivian army and CIA at Villagrande; his iconic face can be found everywhere here. 

A view of the Cordillera Real near Achacachi, Bolivia

We ride alongside the stunning Cordillera Reál on the way into La Paz…

Indigineous lady in a bowler hat with her bicycle in Achacachi, Bolivia

…and encounter more locals who opt for cycle transport. This cholita with trademark bowler hat balanced precariously and pleated skirt flowing, does her shopping by bike.

James shows a crowd of local people our mini-globe in Achacachi, Bolivia

In Achacachi, a curious crowd gathers around our bikes and James fields a mountain of questions. 

View of La Paz and Illimani from El Alto, Bolivia

We make it to El Alto (the city above La Paz) in no time, practically free-wheeling along the pancake-flat altiplano. At the border between El Alto and La Paz known as La Ceja (“The Eyebrow”) we are treated to an unforgettable first view of the city with the snow capped peak of Illimani in the background. Time for a few days off to gather ourselves before we head back out onto the altiplano


Route notes:

We followed the excellent information on Bicycle Nomad and from Harriet and Neil on the Andes by Bike blogs – here are a few additions and updates:

Lampa (35km NW of Juliaca on the secondary routes to and from Cusco) is undoubtedly a more pleasant base than Juliaca for the immigration trip to Puno. It’s 1½ hours each way in combi from Lampa – Puno with a change in Juliaca.

Peruvian immigration:
In Puno we were given our Peru exit stamp dated for that day. According to the immigration agreements between Peru and Bolivia, we were then told that we had to present ourselves to Bolivian immigration within 7 days. This was plenty of time to get to Puerto Acosta, even with our Capachica Peninsula detour.

Capachica Peninsula:
To access Capachica, ask in Juliaca for the road to Coata. The most spectacular section of the loop was the cliff-top ride from Chillora to Escallani on the eastern side, en-route to the main Juliaca-Huancané road at Taraco.

To take the coastal road from Moho (highly recommended), ask for the paved road to Tilani via Conima (38km total Moho-Tilali). Leaving Tilali, you pass through a final police checkpoint, and then climb up to the border line by the smugglers’ market. From here it’s a rough climb and descent into P.Acosta (18km total Tilali-P.Acosta).

Bolivian Immigration:
We were given a 30 day tourist visa in P.Acosta. We tried to get this extended to 90 days (apparently this is easy at more major crossings), but were told we had to go to La Paz to do this – which we did, free of charge and with no hassle.

Our total distance from Lampa-La Paz was 502km (it would have been 386km without the Capachica detour), and took us 6 days riding.



8 Responses to “Lake Titicaca – and Bolivia by the back door”

  1. Jorge Iván Says:

    Alegría, alegría, alegría. Uepa jeeee compadres. Saludos y la mejor buena vibra.



  2. Gayle and Mark Says:

    Wow amazing views of Titicaca! Awesome! Great blog guys as usual, have a great next leg. Love from all of us xxx

    Ps Thank goodness James saved ALL our blushes and covered up his granadillas in that hilarious photo!


  3. Neil Says:

    That looks like a far more fun way than we took! Far more lake views…
    Great to see some photos of Juliaca/surroundings. Reminds me never to go to that place again. Ugh.
    Fewer naked pics of James next time please!


    Sarah Reply:

    Oops, sorry Neil, I’ll take care to edit out all the naked James shots in the future (I know how disturbing they can be)…not sure how that one crept in! See you in Uyuni we hope…keep us up to date with your plans. Sxxx
    PS – a FROG smoothie? How could you?!?!?!?!?!


  4. Ma and Pa Says:

    James was lucky not to lose the crown jewels in the icy water!! Well done – another lovely blog and some superb views of a famous lake that most of the people who are reading about it will never see. If you do nothing else when you get back I am sure you will inspire many to at least follow their dream to do something different! Love you millions and we are always glad to hear that yoiu are back on the road and parasite free!


  5. Margy Says:

    What a place that Lake is, I am still shivering after watching James coming out of It after his swim!!!!!!!!
    Pictures are super, looks so peaceful and calm!
    Glad you both OK again,ride safely,

    Love Margy xxxxxxx


  6. mario kausel Says:

    It´s incredible how sceneries change from country to country.Amazing lake Titicaca and by the way James,you were born naked so why couldn´t or shouldn´t you be able to swim the same way?? I myself love to swim in cold water!!


  7. Family Pedaleros Says:

    Hey friends,
    we couldn’t find a contact, so we just thought to write a comment on your last blog.
    We thought of you quite often the last weeks and hope everything went well for you? Where are you? We are in Argentina, Salta and enjoy wine, fresh pasta and campgrounds :)
    Hope to see you on the roads!
    Lea, Greg and Ronja


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