In the immense Andean highlands is where you can find Lake Titicaca, the largest high-altitude lake in the world. Its waters are home to Lake Titicaca’s mysterious and fantastic floating islands that contain a unique cultural wealth. This is because their predominantly indigenous communities still maintain the traditions of the Pre-Inca and Inca Empires. And among its many legends, it is said that the Andean culture considered Lake Titicaca as the cradle of the Sun and the Inca Empire. In addition, it houses different native cultures such as the Uros. One of the oldest cultures in the region that still decide to live in the same traditional way as their ancestors. For this reason, together with the experts of Machu Travel Peru, we have prepared a small article about the recognized Uros islands. Get to know about these artificial reed islands, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Peru.
Peru is a country of many aspects. You can enjoy from the coast with different and charming beaches to the highlands with a series of beautiful Inca ruins. Or you can also get to know the jungle with the mighty Amazon River and its different lodges. In addition, southern Peru is home to some incredible destinations that you cannot miss. Such as the high Andean city of Puno and its surrounding regions such as Lake Titicaca. The city has a beautiful town square and beautiful mountain scenery. While the Lake is home to ancient cultures such as the Uros. They have been living in the lake for hundreds of years. Being able to enjoy the floating Uros islands is an incredible attraction.
All you need to know on visiting the floating islands of Uros
- About the Uros islands
- Main doubts of the floating islands of Uros
- History of the Uros
- Interesting facts about the Uros Islands
- How to get to the floating islands of Uros
- The tour through the islands
CHARACTERISTICS OF LAKE TITICACA
First of all, where is Lake Titicaca? The Lake is located near the quiet but privileged city of Puno. The city of Puno is considered the Folk Capital of Peru and America for its colorful and varied folklore. It is immensely rich in music, dance, customs, and legends that make this city, without a doubt, the richest and most dazzling place on the entire continent. You can be part of the different Puno boat tours to get to know the Uros islands and the other islands around. Lake Titicaca also spans the neighboring country of Bolivia in the Sierra Andina. The Bolivian part occupies 40% of the lake while the Peruvian part occupies 60%.
Lake Titicaca is a very popular stop before crossing the border. It is considered the largest lake in South America. But without a doubt, the most remarkable things about Lake Titicaca are its floating islands and the cultures that inhabit them. Around 4,000 people are believed to live on the islands in the middle of the lake. The daily life and history of the people who live on the Uros Islands are quite intriguing. You will be able to experience different experiences anywhere in the world. To get to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, we recommend that you plan your tour so that you can enjoy the adventure without problems.
ABOUT THE UROS ISLANDS
Just 30 minutes by boat from the port of Puno, is the home of the ancient Peruvian indigenous tribe, the Uros people. The community has lived on the floating islands for centuries. According to history, the pre-Inca community of the Uros was forced to build their floating houses when the Inca Empire expanded their lands and expelled them. The people of Uros didn’t want to fight, they just wanted to live in peace. So retreating to the lake was a good way to defend themselves against the aggressive Collas and Incas.
Even the people of Uros had their language called “Pukina” but this language was lost to adopt another ancestral language called Aymara over the years. As we mentioned earlier, the floating islands of Lake Titicaca are made of totora. But not only the floating islands of the Uros are made of it, but also furniture, houses, and boats. The boats usually have two figures of pumas in front, to honor the favorite animal of Lake Titicaca. You will also find out the meaning of Lake Titicaca and the translation of the Quechua word. Wich could be considered as “puma stone”. Today, the islands are considered one of the most famous landmarks in Peru.
MAIN DOUBTS OF THE FLOATING ISLANDS OF UROS
The Lake is home to numerous legends and stories. But many times reality is stranger than fiction, and this destination seems to be an example of this. The waters of this mirror-shaped lake contain many mysteries and questions. There are numerous questions about the Uros islands such as “what do the inhabitants of the floating islands do for a living?” or “how is it possible to live on a floating island?“
But there is a particular Lake Titicaca mystery that many people want to figure out: how are the floating islands of Lake Titicaca built? These artificial islands are made of totora (a reed that grows in shallow places) that floats in abundance along the lake. But the reed occasionally disintegrates at the bottom of Lake Titicaca, so the inhabitants have to continually maintain the islands. Every 20 days, they must add a new layer of totora reeds. Also, the floating islands are linked with ropes, stakes, and stones that sink into the lake. The ingenuity of the Uros culture was what kept them alive to this day.
Both their houses and their boats are built with reed cane. Even the furniture in their homes is made from this cane. Their boats are in the shape of a canoe, but with animal decorations on the prow. These are used both for fishing and for taking visitors to the islands. Like the islands, the boats are usually moored at the bottom of the Lake. But they can be moved if necessary.
Each island has a series of simple houses, although the main island has a watchtower. Originally, the islands were moved as a defense mechanism for the different tribes that threatened to invade. Small islands have even been created that function as latrines. Despite the traditional lifestyle that the inhabitants of the Uros islands live, people are not against modern comforts. Some families own motorboats, solar panels, and other amenities. Even the main island is home to a radio station that plays music throughout the day. You can get to the Uros islands from any point, although from Puno it is much easier to access.
HISTORY OF THE UROS
The Uros are believed to be direct descendants of the first inhabitants of Lake Titicaca. They have maintained their lifestyle for hundreds of years. To protect themselves from the invading groups, the Uros built large mobile islands with the reed of Totora. In this way, if a threat arose, they could move their islands to another part of the Lake. While this worked for a time, both the Incas and the conquerors discovered the Uros Islands.
The Uros are descendants of one of the oldest cultures in America. And in the absence of written records, very little is known about its mysterious history. But some legends say that the Uros descended from the speakers of the now-extinct Pukina language. Even the native language was abandoned 500 years ago when they continued to trade and interact with the Aymara. At present, the Uros communicate in the native Aymara language. Despite having lost their mother tongue, they still maintain many other aspects of the original culture.
The Uros Islands are floating on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. Just a few kilometers from Puno. Originally, the islands used to be in the middle of the lake. But they decided to move and rebuild their islands much closer to shore. This was due to a devastating storm that occurred in 1986.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE UROS ISLANDS
The Uros also eat the soft white part of the totora that provides them with nutrients. These even help them avoid some diseases like rheumatism and arthritis. On the other hand, they have lived a self-sufficient lifestyle. Fishing and hunting are their basic sources of food and wealth. Tourism also contributes to its economy due to the large number of tourists visiting the Uros islands. They also sell beautiful and colorful totora handicrafts. In addition to that, the Peruvian government provided them with solar panels for electricity, medical centers, and floating schools. Extra note: If the Lake Titicaca hotels are not for you, you could try to do experiential tourism on your different tours. There is the opportunity to spend a night or more on the floating islands of the Uros, so feel welcome to stay on one of the floating islands of Lake Titicaca.
HOW TO GET TO THE FLOATING ISLANDS OF UROS
First of all, where is Lake Titicaca located? The renowned Lake is located in southern Peru, right on the border with Bolivia. It is located in the Andean highlands of the Central Andes. And to get to the Lake and its floating islands there are several ways. Although the most common route for most travelers is to travel first to Machu Picchu and then visit Puno and the Lake. Most likely, you will arrive in Peru through Lima’s international airport. From Lima, you can choose to get to know the Andean country a bit or travel directly to Puno. For this, you can opt for a flight to Juliaca or a bus trip.
Although if you are traveling from Machu Picchu to Lake Titicaca, you can take a luxurious train in Cusco. The train ride is quite luxurious and scenic, with all the amenities you could wish for. Once you arrive in Puno, you will be able to enjoy everything that the Lake and the city have to offer. As we mentioned earlier, Puno is the gateway to Lake Titicaca. We highly recommend exploring the city and enjoying the many things to do in Puno. In conclusion, you could get there in the following ways:
The closest airport to the city of Puno is the nearby city of Juliaca. The flight will take around 1 hour and once you get there, you have to take a taxi to get to Puno. This road trip will also last around 1 hour.
The PeruRail Titicaca Train is a luxury service that has a bar car, 2 restaurant cars, and an observation car at the rear. This service offers an incredible show with traditional Peruvian singers and dancers. Besides that, the impressive landscapes that you will be able to see will make this tour an unforgettable experience. The journey is estimated to take around 10 hours and only has a 10-minute stop. Being able to enjoy a train trip within the different tours in Peru is an unforgettable and magical experience.
This is the most popular way to get to Puno and see the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. The trip takes about 10 hours and has some extended cultural stops, some of them at 2 temples and a museum. Also, the tourist bus stops for lunch (it is included in the ticket price).
THE TOUR THROUGH THE ISLANDS
You will find that when you arrive in Puno or the Lake, there will be a wide variety of tours to choose from. And the tour to the Uros Islands is one of the most popular in the area. Although it is possible to visit the floating islands of Uros independently, what you will save is practically nothing. In addition, to make the most of your time it is advisable to enjoy an organized tour. Upon landing on one of the islands, locals often introduce themselves and greet tourists. Meanwhile, your guide will show you around and explain part of its history and traditions. During the tour, visitors can choose to try on some of the traditional outfits. And for a small additional fee, you can take a ride on a reed boat!
There are even some tours oriented to experiential tourism. On these tours, you can enjoy one or two nights together with a local family. You will be able to learn in-depth about the customs and traditions that shape the culture of Uros. You can also check our Lake Titicaca travel guide for more information.
“KNOWLEDGE IS AN ISLAND SURROUNDED BY A SEA OF MYSTERY.”
As you will see, the magical destination of Lake Titicaca has much more to offer than just scenic views. The floating islands of the Uros are just one example of everything you can enjoy. The different cultures that you will be able to know will make you marvel at everything there is to know. Take advantage of the wonderful tours and get to know in-depth the cradle of the Inca Empire. We hope together with the travel experts of Machu Travel Peru to have solved your doubts. If you want to know more about our wonderful private tours, you can consult with our qualified team of advisers. They will be happy to help you fulfill your vacations in Peru.