Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake and creates a border between Bolivia and Peru. Situated at 3,812 metres (12,507 feet) above sea level was the location of the Tiwanaku civilization that lived there as early as 1500 BC before the Incas.
I visited the lake as part of a day tour leaving from Copacabana by boat to Isla del Sol. Our tour guide had great passion in telling us about the myths and mysteries of Lake Titicaca and I became fascinated! Throughout the day I got to learn why the lake is seen as sacred still today by the Bolivian culture.
The lake was considered sacred as it was believed to be the center of the cosmos and origin of the sun, moon, stars, and humankind. The myths have different approaches depending of the vision of each civilization that have lived there. Still today, many tell different stories and I can tell you that they take it seriously and with respect.
The most accepted on Bolivia side and told by our guide was the one from the Inca civilization in which Apus the god of the mountains put people in a fertile valley, where they had protection and happiness. But, there was one rule – never escalate the mountain where the sacred fire was. Off course like in many other stories, humans were greedy and were challenged by the devil to see who would be the first to get the fire. Apus found out, killed them and then sent pumas to eat everyone in the valley.
With this tragedy, the Sun God, Inti, cried so much that inundated the valley with tears. Only one couple survived the flood in a reed boat (nowadays is still the typical boat) and the pumas were transformed in stone statues with the couple calling the lake Titicaca that in their language means “lake of the stone pumas”.
Interesting that the name of the lake combines words from the Aymara and Quechua languages, which are still spoken today by Bolivians. The Aymara word Titi means Puma and Caca is a Quechua word meaning rock.
Along with the stories from the origin of Lake Titicaca there were rumors and tales of ancient palaces seen by fishermen and divers.
In 1967, the Bolivian government authorized an expedition to explore the depths of the lake. Surprise came when divers found high walls and 30 paved paths all set with great precision into the ground. Then in 2000, another expedition discovered the ruins of a mysterious underwater temple almost twice the size of a football pitch. No conclusions have been made of who made the temple but is thought to be between 1500 years old, before the Incas.
Researchers think that these ruins belong to the Tiwanaku people and the temples were at sea level, predicting that and earthquake could have destroyed the population and the city lifting the lake to where is now, but there is no proof for this.