Lake Titicaca: Uros and Taquile Islands from Puno

August, 2011

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?

After visiting another touristy island Isla del Sol from Bolivia’s Copacabana, decided to also see Uros and Taquile Islands, from Puno. Uros, Taquile, Puno, Lakes Titicaca, Peru, South America

Getting there

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 hordes and definitely a bonus.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Same as our transport…

Taquile Island

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.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Timeless Beauty

Marvel at the lake’s elevation of 3,812 metres (12,507ft) and being the “highest navigable lake” for commercial craft, in the world.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Aged terraces

Arriving at one of Titicaca’s few natural islands, Taquile’s aridness is quite striking.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America

As is the island’s steepness with homes dotted on the very top of cliffs.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Too many steps…

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.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Local sounds

The famous welcoming stone arch provides yet another perspective of the glimmering lake…

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America

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.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Town centre

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.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Chumpis – beautiful wide belt

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.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Human mules

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.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America

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.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Boat delivery

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…

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Hire these boats to see some of the island

…but this one…

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America

Relish the couple of hour journey back across the dazzling lake, until reaching Uros Islands.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America

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.

Uros, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Not all boats are made of reed

Three main groups make up the Uros Islands: Uru-Chipaya, Uru-Murato, and Uru-Iruito.

Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Welcoming islanders

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.

Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America

Boats are also made from these reeds.

Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Take a quick trip on a reed boat at a price

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.

Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Maybe a toilet?

Amazement soon succumbs to hordes 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.

Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Relentless haggling

Although fascinating and unique, Uros is very touristy but most travellers know this before booking the tour.

Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America
Love the brightly-coloured clothing

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.

Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru, South America

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.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts Peru at Image Earth Travel.

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.


45 thoughts on “Lake Titicaca: Uros and Taquile Islands from Puno

Add yours

  1. It was a wonderful calm day. Around the afternoon wind can be quite strong and cold… about the dry Earth it is actually plenty of life. The grass that we call ichu is yellow by nature, not that it is dry. It can seem hard to live there but we have evolved to have bigger lungs and to get more oxygen in the thinner atmosphere. In my case to me is actually hard to live at sea level, a lot of humidity and in summer so much heat!
    About the Uros Island centuries ago persons from the North of Chile invaded and destroyed the empire of Aymara culture. These invaders would adopt the Aymara culture and shape kingdoms (something similar happened in Greece) and some or the originary societies had to migrate to other places. There is a theory that Incas could be one of those Aymaras nobility that could stablished in Cusco and founded the Inca society (at least culturally we have many similarities). Happy holidays, Nila. Take care and thank you for share your experiences ^_^

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow Francis, thank you so much for all the insight to your history! It’s definitely fascinating the way in which locals have evolved to live at such high altitude on the islands. And yes, I have heard about the bigger lungs but also eyelids, which apparently are hung over more to protect against the harsh sun at this high altitude.
      Have a wonderful festive season and all the best for 2019! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I think the experience of eating with a local family is probably worth spending a bit extra. I thought the steps in Cosenza’s historic centre were bad…the ones in the town centre of Taquile look painfully dangerous!

    Uros looks so interesting! It’s quite remarkable to see how they lived and continue to live!

    I’ve never heard of either of these places, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Lulu, it could of been if it wasn’t so staged for tourists. At least we got to savour the local cuisine and fish from the lake – your favourite 🙂 – always a bonus.

      As in Cosenza, the steps in Taquile’s main square have probably been there for centuries – it seems that way.

      I’m glad I could introduce you to a couple of places that you’ve never heard of and happy to share any tips and new destinations – thanks for your feedback!


    1. Thank you Brian for your continual support and feedback – means a lot. The photos I removed have gone into another post, to be published next month as the post belongs to Bolivia, still on Lake Titicaca.

      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Gill. You’re right, although I hadn’t thought of that, but I think the texture and colour of the walls may make it seem like a painting.
      Hope life isn’t too chaotic at the moment with you getting ready for your new Spanish chapter. 😉 x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you and yes, perhaps Viracocha’s work 😉
      I’m rejigging this post a little as I’ve just realised a few of the initial photos belong elsewhere, still on Lake Titicaca but from another day, so stay tuned…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Just sat down to lunch in Rovaniemi and read this 😊 wonderful as always! Just our of interest, have you ever had any problems photographing the locals? You truly do capture ‘culture’ so well! It helps that Peru is my favourite place in the world so far 😊

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hi Emma & Nathan, thank you for the kind feedback, which made my day…helps to keep me motivated. 🙂

      Wow, you’re in Finland – beautiful country and wonderful people.

      Typically, I take candid photos, so locals don’t usually know. Although, sometimes locals do spot you with a camera and in this instance I ask permission, then show what I’ve taken.

      I prefer candid photos as it captures a second of an unguarded moment and not contrived. These days however, it’s not ‘appropriate’ to take photos of people without their permission and if you’ve ever entered a photo competition, you’ll know this also, I’m not sure what direction candid photography is heading.

      I’d love to return to Peru, but then again to South America – think it’s time.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Exactly! I still have a few countries to visit there as haven’t finished the continent yet…
      I would love to return to Venezuela, but I’m not sure it’s viable right now with all the problems – although there were also problems back in 2008.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. We were due to fly into Venezuela last year from Ecuador but then we decided against it as everywhere we wanted to go was highlighted red on the foreign office website so we decided not to go there and spent the extra week in Peru 😊 still many places in Venezuela I’d love to go tho!

      Liked by 2 people

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