A Visit to Suasi Island
Following our adventure to Taquile Island in Lake Titicaca, James and I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a relaxing two days at Suasi Island, the only privately owned island on the Peruvian side of the lake. This tiny island is home to Martha Giraldo’s one-of-a-kind Suasi Lodge, where the focus on providing excellent service in a remote location coupled by beautiful and fragrant gardens, swaying hammocks and cozy fireplaces, and a plethora of wildlife make the long journey worthwhile.
Upon our arrival to the island’s private dock, we were greeted by the friendly staff and walked the short distance to the lodge with our luggage safely in tow. As we walked up to the hotel, we couldn’t help but notice the aromatic and lush landscaping, which we would later discover was a nice personal touch of the owner’s. Our guide from the boat, Maria, helped us with check-in and briefed us on the activities that we had planned during our brief stay, including a tour of the facilities, a hike to watch the sunset, as well as a bird-watching boat tour around the island. Despite the secludedness of the island, there were plenty of things to do and places to explore, and the lodge conveniently displayed these options in their main lobby. Before heading to our room, we enjoyed a refreshing beverage from the open bar, which included everything from water and soft drinks, wine, whisky, beer, as well as some snacks.
After getting settled into our comfortable, appealingly-rustic accommodations on the second floor, bright with sunshine from the overhead skylights and with great views of the lake, we ventured outside for a BBQ lunch on the patio overlooking the vast beauty of Lake Titicaca. Lunch consisted of soup, salad, locally-sourced bread, and grilled meats. This also happened to be our first BBQ in Peru and a much welcomed reminder of those familiar summer days of grilling back at home. It was at this time that our waiter also provided us with a list of dinner times and options to choose from.
Satisfyingly full from our tasty meal, we ventured off to meet with the owner of the island and a native of nearby Puno, Martha Giraldo, who originally inherited the island from her grandmother and built a small, solar-powered ecological refuge. In 2003, Martha agreed to allow Casa Andina to manage and expand her humble lodge into what it is today. Martha still lives on the island and between the responsibilities of overseeing the technical aspects of running the lodge, she makes time to engage with her guests and helps them feel at home and appreciate the island that she clearly adores and has graciously chosen to share with anyone who comes. Accompanied by her son, who happened to be staying temporarily, and her friendly and fluffy pup Chumpi, we enjoyed an informative visit to the lodge’s Cultural Center and Library. During this tour, Martha described the vibrant history of the region and island, gave an overview of the island’s flora and fauna, and informed us about their plans to add a boutique store and cafe during the upcoming year.
Where one tour ended, the other began, this time with Suasi Lodge’s General Manager. We began our exploration with the original side of the lodge in which our accommodations were. Unique to the rooms and communal areas on this side were the small personalized details that were integrated into the walls, pillars, and floors and were a delightful reminder of the uniqueness of this hotel. We explored the different room arrangements, some offering private balconies, others with additional beds suitable for families, and all of them equipped with small heaters and amenities with all-natural ingredients. The original side of the lodge also contained a massage room, sauna, several lounging areas, communal balconies, and a game room with foosball, a pool table, and many different games and activities perfect for entertainment on a rainy day or later in the evening. We moved next to the newer side of the lodge. With 12 new rooms added in 2005, each room echoed the same rustic decor as the original rooms, but with higher ceilings and larger windows.
The final destination in our tour, hidden down a long, winding, flower-lined staircase, was the lodge’s most prized accommodation, the Andean Cottage. This 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom suite is nestled into the hillside at the water’s edge where it’s guests are serenaded by the sounds of the waves gently lapping up against the shore. The interior is equipped with its own personal bar and butler service, a living room/dining room area, as well as a luxurious bathtub with a view overlooking the picturesque lake. Outside, the Andean Cottage has its own personal dock and beach area, porch, gardens, and hammocks. The cottage integrates into the natural environment and provides a tranquil secludedness, making this personal refuge perfect for a private family retreat or even a romantic getaway.
After relaxing a bit outside and trying to snap photos of the hummingbirds as they swooped by, we set off with our personal guide to the island’s highest point, Itapilluni, in order to view the sunset that we had heard and read so much about. Along the way, he pointed out several of the island’s diverse flora, including a bright red, trumpet-shaped Cantuta flower that is Peru’s national flower. We continued past a corral, where the island’s herd of alpaca rested each evening, and discovered a youngster that was actually a crossbreed between an alpaca and vicuna, our guide explained. Continuing on our short journey, we stumbled upon the island’s wild herd of rare vicunas and were able to snap some photos before they ran off into the horizon.
The sun began to set as we approached the top of the hill. We reached the lookout point, marked by a cairn, and as we sat and got to know our guide, the sky exploded into a glorious array of reds, yellows, and oranges as if it were on fire. We watched silently as it slowly drifted below the horizon line, an absolutely tranquil experience with panoramic 360 degree views of stunning beauty.
We retreated back to the hotel, enjoyed a drink in front of the wood burning stoves, and were seated for dinner. Dinner consisted of traditional Andean fare with some locally sourced ingredients, and although not the best dinner we’ve ever had, everything was very good. After dinner we had planned to take a night walk and stargaze with our guide pointing out various constellations, but to our dismay, the weather did not agree, and the cloudy skies forced us to change our plans. We opted instead, for a few relaxing, but of course competitive, games of chess before retiring to our room. When we entered, the wood burning stove was lit and heating the room and hot water bottles under the covers of the bed – a nice touch to offset the cool Lake Titicaca air.
We awoke bright and early, eager to spend the most possible time exploring the gorgeous island before returning to Puno. After breakfast, a typical buffet, we walked down to the island’s dock to embark on a trip around the island aboard their inflatable Zodiac boat, a very enjoyable way to check out the wildlife living in and around the cliffs. We cruised around the island, and with the help of our guide who pointed out the various species, we spotted various bird species and even some viscacha, or Andean rabbit, with the provided binoculars. The island itself isn’t very big, only 106 acres in total, and after 45 minutes, we arrived at a dock on the opposite side of the island in order to enjoy a nice leisurely walk back to the lodge, exploring the other side of the island.
Wonderful to this lodge is the emphasis on providing guests with one of the most natural ways to experience Lake Titicaca without disturbing the environment. All 24 rooms and suites provide an incredible view of the lake and gives guests ample opportunity to enjoy the surrounding area, with hammocks, kayaking, star gazing, bird watching amongst other activities and amenities. In order to help guests disconnect with the modern world and become engaged with their surroundings, there are no outlets or TV’s to be found within the rooms, although you may use the outlet at the front desk should you need something charged. Suasi also prides itself in utilizing solar energy.
A perfect conclusion to a visit to Peru, Suasi Lodge provides the means to discover a part of the country that lies tucked away in the waters of Lake Titicaca with access to the rich culture that is scattered throughout the area. It is a place where families and couples can come to unwind and to reconnect, a place where someone traveling solo can sit and read a book, or perhaps even write a book. As Marisol writes about her most recent visit, “It is a haven of peace.”