Like all tourists who visit this region, we visited the Uros Floating Islands near Puno in Peru. Along with the floating islands, Lake Titicaca also has several permanent islands which each have their own traditions and history.
The Uru or Uros are an indigenous group of people from this region of Peru and Bolivia and they live on the 120 islands that make up this floating community near Puno on Lake Titicaca. Many of these small floating islands have modern conveniences such as solar panels, television, motor boats and mobile phones. The children attend primary school on the islands and travel to Puno, Peru for high school.
Our visit to Uros Floating Islands took the form of a 4 hour tour. We entered the floating islands through a community ‘checkpoint’. Then our tour boat made its way to the selected family island for our group visit.
On the way across the lagoon we could see women dressed colourfully on nearby islands waving to indicate that they would like us to visit their island. The women all dress very colourfully.
We visited an island that was about 20m x 10m with 5 homes where different generations of one family lived. We were greeted warmly and invited to sit on benches made of reeds, while Pedro our host explained how the islands are constructed, how cooking is done and what foods are eaten by the islanders.
A rain storm meant we were all ushered into various family homes (small reed huts) and invited to buy embroidery, miniature reed boats and small pottery items. As these families rely on tourism for income, they produce a lot of products to sell to tourists in mainland markets and those, like us, who visit their homes. In the low season they may only receive one visit a month from a tour boat. We also had the ‘opportunity’ to dress in traditional islander clothing and have our photo taken too. Sorry, we’re not sharing!
Visiting the Uros Floating Islands was interesting and in some ways uncomfortable. We were warmly welcomed and that was reassuring, but despite the honour of receiving such a welcome, it felt odd squashing ourselves into a family’s little home in such circumstances and we were glad it was a short visit.