On the breeze, we hear the distant cheers of excited voices followed by a splash. Below us, a boat made ant-like by the distance, sits calmly on the surface of Lake Titicaca. One of its passengers has just disappeared beneath the deep azure waves however it's not long before they erupt back into view and beat a hasty retreat across the water towards warmth and a dry towel.

With this body of water being the world's highest navigable lake at over 3,800m above sea level, it doesn't bear thinking about just how cold that quick dip must have felt. Even from where we are, wrapped in coats and scarves and with the comfort of dry land beneath our feet, there's a definite chill in the air. Luckily, there are other ways to get up close and personal with Lake Titicaca, without taking the plunge in so drastic a measure.

Our boat tour starts from Puno harbour in the cool of dawn. Despite the early hour, the port is already in the full grip of the tourist rush. We are joined by other sleepy travellers from all over the world, from Italy to the USA to China. Once our boat is full, our guide Percy introduces the lake to us and coaches us in the correct pronunciation of its name (the "c" in the Quechua word Titicaca is a throatier sound than would be expected and should be used to avoid calling it by another, ruder name altogether). As we speed off across the lake, we see the Bolivian mountains glimmering on the horizon like a mirage.

Having been head-deep in wedding planning before our trip, the research I have conducted on Lake Titicaca amounts to zero and so I am amazed to discover that the Floating Islands of Uros actually do what it says on the tin. Our boat pulls up to a small island whose surface appears to be heaped in golden straw. A few huts are clustered around in a semi-circle and some women in brightly coloured clothes approach us, their long dark plaits wreathed with pom-poms.

As we step onto the islands, there is that immediate, unmistakeable, intuitive sense that one is not standing on solid land. The ground feels almost hollow beneath our feet. We are taken to sit in a semi-circle whilst our tour guide gives us a demonstration of how the islands are built, the cork-like roots of the reeds being harvested in blocks and tied together once the water levels drop low enough over the summer. These blocks then knit themselves together and from this point onwards, the islanders can begin to build the ground up on top of them, scattering layer after layer of reed in a constant process that must be repeated to evade the damp of the lake that creeps up from the base.

After our lesson, we are free to roam this small place. Instantly, a woman who tells us her name is Miriam invites us to look inside her home. Home for Miriam is one of the small huts scattered over the island, where she tells us she lives with her youngest child. The other two children live in another hut close by. There is a bed, also seemingly built on a base of knotted reeds, and a rail of brightly coloured traditional clothes which she insists we try on. Once we're suitably suited and booted, we go outside into the bright sunshine for a photo. Miriam is laughing uncontrollably at how ridiculous we look. Then we browse the crafts that are being sold; Michele chooses a brightly coloured replica of the boats used to travel between islands and I pick a black cushion cover that has been embroidered in a multitude of shades of blue.

Before we leave, the women gather together once more and sing a chorus of songs, ranging from their own traditional tunes to a string of nursery rhymes in different languages (the English choice is "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"). They are laughing and joyful. Then we all bundle onto the large yellow boat (made with, you guessed it, reeds) which has a viewing platform built into it and is fronted with two fearsome animal heads that resemble the puma from which Titicaca derives half of its name. Two of the women gently paddle us towards another of the Uros Islands, although this time we're told that we're visiting one of the "tourist" islands, rather than the authentic experience we have just had. Some of the women's children come and sing the same songs for us again as we travel across the water and we hand them some more soles for their performance.

The other island is indeed far more obviously touristic. There are big stalls selling crafts, a slightly less rustic construction housing a cafe, and at least 100 people roaming around the small space. I instantly get into the spirit of things and get hold of a pack of Oreos from the cafe - I know we're not supposed to eat much when we're acclimatising but fuck it, vegetarian food has been scarce here and these babies are gold.

Perhaps it is visiting this island that changes our perspective a little but the rest of the tour sees us observing the islands in a more critical light. When we first arrive at Taquile Island, I am sure that it is the most spectacularly mythical landscape I have ever visited. Perhaps it's the altitude sending my senses into overdrive but there is something about this place, where the grass stretches to cover the stony slopes and tall, feather-like trees bend and flex in the breeze whilst all around us the water abounds in every direction, that feels so historical and so pure. You get the sense that the Greek myths could have happened on these shores. We walk up slowly, (or not so slowly if you are Michele trying to prepare for a hardcore hike at altitude) passing a few quiet dwellings and watching the lake fall further and further below us, glittering in the sun.

It is at the island's peak that we see the brave traveller leaping into the lake. The sheep grazing nearby look down disdainfully at the whoops and shrieks. We feel as though we are in the remotest and most peaceful corner of the earth. And then we wind along a path that snakes along the side of the island until we reach a cluster of buildings where we are to stop for lunch. Before the food though, we are educated on the customs and traditions of the people of Taquile Island. Our tour guide tells us how a man's marital status can be deduced from the type of hat he wears, how upon marrying a woman will cut off her long, thick plait and turn it into a woven belt for her husband to wear. A number of people who live on the island sit nearby whilst one man grinds plants together to produce the Taquile version of shampoo. And then they play music and dance a traditional dance for us.

And it is at this point that the slightly tenuous feeling in my stomach shifts over and becomes decidedly cold. As the native people of Taquile Island shuffle and twirl in circles before the group of tourists, it is impossible to not be reminded of animals in a zoo. Except that whilst zoo animals are ripped from their natural homes, these people have had their home and culture turned into a spectacle for others. Their faces can only be described as crestfallen. There is no joy or passion etched into those expressions and you can only begin to wonder how many times they have to repeat this sad ritual, day-in day-out.

Watching this makes me begin to reevaluate the other things we have seen on our trip to Lake Titicaca. I think of the children who sang to us as their mothers rowed the boat between the Uros islands. I think of the women who bundled us from hut to souvenir stall with a great big smile cracked across their faces. I also think of the woman who reprimanded me for taking a photo that she appeared in the background of, back in Colca Canyon. Needless to say, with this memory at the fore of my mind, I don't choose to document the dance.

Later in our trip, we ask a tour guide who has been particularly candid with us about the nature of tourism in Peru and its impact on the people whose homes we are invading. This discussion comes after we have been included in a religious ceremony beneath the glistening peak of the Salkantay mountain. After our experiences in Lake Titicaca, something feels inherently wrong about taking part in something that carries such cultural and social importance for the Quechua people, although it has to be said that the men who lead us through the ritual on the mountainside seem a lot happier, a lot freer than the people we saw dancing on the island. When we ask, our tour guide tells us that tourism is both a blessing and a curse to many Peruvians living in popular destinations - on one hand it brings them an indispensable income, on the other it can quickly tumble out of control when the tourists are allowed unfettered access to the communities and their homes.

They say that travel broadens your horizons both physically and mentally. Perhaps this wasn't the kind of lesson I was hoping to learn during our honeymoon but it is certainly one that will stay with us for a long time. And in the future, when we are travelling through somebody else's home, we will think of the people of Taquile Island, hoping that they can find some privacy amongst the chaos of the travellers who dive into their world on that mystical island in the middle of a lake that seems to stretch on forever.