Whilst in Peru’s Puno, why not take a day trip on the spectacular Andean Lake Titicaca, to the intriguing but touristy Uros floating reed islands and tranquil Taquile island?
Booking a day tour from Puno is your best option as many travel companies and hostels offer the same deals.
The tour includes pick-up at 7am and drop-off at your hotel at around 6pm, all boat transportation to Uros and Taquile islands, and entrance fees. Lunch at Taquile is extra.
Typically, the day starts from Puno to Uros Islands then on to Taquile Island. Luckily, today’s tour started in reverse, which means we sight-see against the tourist hoards and definitely a bonus.
Relax and settle in for a stunning almost three-hour boat ride across gorgeous Lake Titicaca with a breathtaking backdrop of the spectacular Andes Mountains – truly memorable.
Marvel at the lake’s elevation of 3,812 metres (12,507ft) and being the “highest navigable lake” for commercial craft, in the world.
Arriving at one of Titicaca’s few natural islands, Taquile’s aridness is quite striking.
As is the island’s steepness with homes dotted on the very top of cliffs.
You are free to roam around the island and do a hike, until meeting up for lunch at one of the family homes (at an extra cost), where musicians play and sing traditional songs whilst you eat.
Found out later that you can eat in the town’s centre for half the cost, but then again, you won’t be serenaded.
The famous welcoming stone arch provides yet another perspective of the glimmering lake…
The sparse town of Taquile caters for tourists with souvenir shops surrounding the central plaza, which looks a little rundown, but understandably so in these very harsh conditions. Locals are friendly and used to tourists.
Taquileños speak Quechua and are renown globally for their colourful fine clothing and handwoven textiles. Men exclusively do all the knitting on the island, which is learnt from childhood and an ancient tradition.
The women of Taquile weave instead including the Chumpis – intricate patterned wide belts – and also look after sheep on the island.
Traditional clothing is still worn by locals and the colour of a man’s woven woollen hat (Chullos), depicts his marital status.
The top layer of a woman’s skirt is black and worn over may layers of woollen skirts. A red sweater is worn by a married woman and all women wear black woollen shawls with four brightly-coloured pompoms on each corner, over their heads. So the way in which locals dress is a form of language without words but instant recognition.
Locals also fish and farm on the island. I can’t imagine how difficult and back-breaking farming would be on this dry earth.
Regardless of age, locals race up and down stairs and hills carrying a load on their backs, just as if taking a stroll along a simple flat terrain.
Following a customary and delicious lunch of soup and Trucha (trout) fresh from the lake with rice, accompanied with a tomato and onion salad, you need to make your way down to the ferry dock once more, to catch the boat to Uros Islands. Not this one…
…but this one…
Relish the couple of hour journey back across the dazzling lake, until reaching Uros Islands.
Uros Floating Reed Islands
On reaching Uros, a guide meets you to provide a quick run-down of the history of the islands, of which the original purpose was defensive – floating islands could be moved, if any threat arose.
Three main groups make up the Uros Islands: Uru-Chipaya, Uru-Murato, and Uru-Iruito.
The Uru (Uros) were a pre-Incan people forced to the lake by the Incas and over centuries have become the Aymara, which now live on around 120 self-made floating reed islands. These rare islands are made from bundles of buoyant Totora reed, harvested from the shallows of Lake Titicaca.
Boats are also made from these reeds.
It’s quite amazing when you first arrive on one of the island’s doorsteps and step foot on the spongy, moving raft-like platform. The islands are anchored with ropes that are attached to sticks, then driven into the lake’s bottom.
As the reeds below the surface rot, the top is continually replenished with new dried reeds. During the wet season the reeds rot faster but on top and so, replacement is a weekly job.
I dare not ask the obvious question of where the sewerage goes – I don’t see any sort of plumbing on the floating platforms.
Amazement soon succumbs to hoards of Uros locals vying for you to buy their very colourful handy crafts.
I defy anyone to leave this island without buying some sort of souvenir. Be prepared for a hard sell, which is exhausting but remember, this is the way in which these people make their living.
Although fascinating and unique, Uros is very touristy but most travellers know this before booking the tour.
You really only visit the tourist island and although our guide mentioned that a couple of families live here, I have my doubts. This particular island seems more as a ‘show and shop’ island, which involves all locals regardless of age.
Still, it is very interesting to glimpse the indigenous lifestyle of perhaps what it is like on the other floating islands.
This way of life has existed here for centuries – actually, over 500 years. And legend has it that the Uru had ‘black blood’ as they did not feel the cold, and called themselves: Lupihaques “Sons of the Sun”.
Other tours from Puno
Apart from the many half-day and full-day tours from Puno, you can do a tour for a couple of days on the lake, which incorporates an overnight in a floating homestay on one of the Uros Islands. As long as there isn’t the hard sell like today’s island, then this would be a great cultural experience, as maybe you will see the more genuine side of the people. Taquile and Amantani Islands also offer homestay accommodation on a two-day tour.
From Puno, the next day tour is to a pre-Incan cemetery, the Sillustani Tombs.
A 2017 video by Inca World of what to expect on the one-day tour of Uros and Taquile Islands – changed slightly since 2011, but think I recognised one of the Ura locals.