Lake Titicaca: Islands that Float and Islands were Traditional Life Remains Traditional

Lake Titicaca Travel Blog

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The part of Lake Titicaca where the Floating Islands are located and that is close to Puno is quite shallow and has a whole jungle of reeds.
Uros

(I know it says Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, but I wasn't on that side. I stayed on the Peruvian side of the lake.  Wonderful travbuddy wouldn't recognized Lake Titicaca, Peru.)

To reach the floating island Uros and the island Isla Taquile, Kristi and I went to Puno's docks and hopped on one of the many boats heading that way.  It's super easy.  As soon as you near the docks you are flocked by captains all wanting you to ride in their boat.  If you are spending the night on Isla Taquile, be sure to tell the captain and they will write you a return ticket for the next day.
Puno.
  The floating islands of Lake Titicaca are one of the strangest things you'll see in the world.  The Uros people began this unique lifestyle hundreds of years ago, trying to separate themselves from the violent and overbearing Collas and Incas.  According to the Lonely Planet, there are still several hundred people living on the floating islands today. The floating islands are constructed by basically making huge rafts of torora reeds.   The largest of these floating islands can support as many as a dozen reed homes (though don't be fooled by all the reeds, they do have some technology such as solar panels).  The problem with so much reed is you have to watch where you step to make sure you don't put your foot through a rotten section of the island.  The villagers mostly live off fish, reeds (the islands are edible), and things they trade for with the mainland.
Locals using a speed boat to get from their islands back to Puno.
  To go to the bathroom, since there are no restrooms on the islands, the inhabitants had to take boats out to the middle of the lake and go.  "What do you do in the middle of the night we ask?"  We asked.  "We have great night vision.  No problem."  They replied.  When we had fresh caught trout from the lake for our next meal, we thought twice before eating it.  You never know if it had been swimming in the vacinity of the Uros' lu.   A floating island lasts for 30 years, then a new island needs to be made and everyone jumps ship to the new floating reeds.

The islands get a little touristy, all the locals running over to show us their arts and crafts and charge us money for stepping onto their floating universe.  But, even as a tourist hating adventurer, it was worth the over commercialization to see these truly unique islands.
Uros - a Floating island.


Isla Taquile

Next up was Isla Taquile, which is about a 3 hour boat ride from Puno.  The island is VERY rugged, reminding me a lot the Aran Islands.  The inhabitants of Taquile work hard to maintain their traditional ways.  The men, even the little boys, ALL wear the traditional black pants, white shirt with slightly puffy sleeves, tiny black and white vest, brightly colored belt, and floppy night-cap style hat.  The men make their own hats and they are fiercely proud of them.  The women all wear brightly colored skirts and blouses (that sometimes are so bright they border on neon), beige or black leggings, and usually black shawls that drap down from their head over their backs.  The islands small village isn't really a village, just a main square with one or two little shops and only a couple of tiny restaurants all serving the same food.
Uros - a Floating island.
 

I had read in the Lonely Planet and heard from fellow travels that to do a homestay on the island all you have to do is show up at the Taquile dock and a family will adopt you.  Sounds simple enough right?  It was that easy.  Got off the boat and Calixto immediately adopted us and three other French people - for 10 soles a night, and 15 soles for meals.  We had to trudge what seemed like hours across the island to the backside, where his house is located overlooking the lake.  Calixto has 4 rooms with two beds in each room that he rents to guests.   The rooms were lined on the wall and ceiling with reeds.  The floor was dirt with straw on top and the beds consisted of a rock slab with reeds, then a thin mattress then blankets on top of that.
We are STANDING on floating reeds! Uros - a Floating island.
  It gets really cold at night at Lake Titicaca (12,600 feet - temperatures drop fast when the sun goes down), so Kristi and I slept in our down sleeping bags on top of the beds.  After a meal of trout, soup, rice and potatos, Calixto took Kristi and I and our new French friends, Jerome, Karin and Emilie, around the island.  We walked through the tiny town, saw men measuring and laying a new cobblestone road (there are no cars on the island, only people walk on the roads), and sat watching the sun set over the island.  Then it was back to Calixto's house for an unusual dinner of an omelet with rice under it and french fries on top of it. 

After dinner, we went outside to watch the stars.  You are so high up at Lake Titichaca and there is no city light, so the sky is filled with literally a million stars.  You can even see the Milky Way clearly.  Being in the Southern Hemisphere the constellations were also different. 

(Isla Taquile Photos on Next Day)

gene132 says:
Does anybody actually swim in the lake? I saw a video clip on YouTube-some local kids tried it..didn't stay in long!
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012
alyssa_ob says:
How did you like staying on the floating island? We are thinking about doing that as well.
Posted on: Oct 29, 2008
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The part of Lake Titicaca where th…
The part of Lake Titicaca where t…
Puno.
Puno.
Locals using a speed boat to get f…
Locals using a speed boat to get …
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
We are STANDING on floating reeds!…
We are STANDING on floating reeds…
Our boat out into Lake Titicaca.  …
Our boat out into Lake Titicaca. …
Kristi braving the shoddy railing …
Kristi braving the shoddy railing…
Our captain.
Our captain.
Our boat.
Our boat.
We took the boat out with the loca…
We took the boat out with the loc…
The mass of hair at the bottom is …
The mass of hair at the bottom is…
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.  Love th…
Uros - a Floating island. Love t…
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Uros - a Floating island.
Of course, we didnt make it off t…
Of course, we didn't make it off …
Lake Titicaca
photo by: NazfromOz