At 3,812m, lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake, covering almost 8,400 square kilometres. The lake is home to the floating Uros Islands, 42 stunning man-made islands made completely out of reeds. The Uros people, who existed in this part of South America well before the Incas, initially built the islands as a defence mechanism so when a threat arose they could flee quickly. We visited two of the islands on a half-day speed boat tour from Puno, Peru, because when you are married to a wannabe James Bond, apparently a speed boat is the preferred mode of transport…

uros islands speed boat

Our (relative) speed boat

uros islands

Our first glimpse of the Uros Island and a traditional reed boat

The Uros build the islands, their boats, and their houses out of bundles of dried reeds. When I set my first wobbly step onto one of the floating islands I was a bit nervous, but the islanders were so friendly and welcoming that I soon forgot all of my fears of having to swim 30km back to shore in case the island sunk. The president of the island explained to us how the islands are built and even showed us a little model representing how the thick root network holds everything together. On top of this network, the island is anchored to the bottom of the lake with ropes. Every now an then a new layer of reefs is put on the top, which makes the island float like a cork.

uros islands president

El Presidente

uros islands house model and reed house

A model of the island above and below the surface and a real life reed house on the right

Our very knowledgeable tour guide told us that the Uros people now live mainly off of tourism, but that they also still utilize the breathtakingly beautiful lake Titicaca for food and water. They go fishing on their amazing reed boats and also eat the reed that grows everywhere in the lake. The reed tastes a bit like leek and just like the Andean people in Peru chew coca leaves as a relief from the harsh climate or hunger, the Uros people chew reed to the same end. It also has medicinal powers and can relief you from pain when wrapped around the part of the body that hurts, and even helps to cure hangovers. So quite a versatile plant.

uros islands reed boat

A traditional reed boat

uros islands boat giudeuros islands handicraftsLife on the floating islands is not easy. The damp conditions often cause rheumatism and when cooking the women have to be careful with their fires so as not to burn the whole island down. The children need to be driven all the way to Puno to attend school which takes about an hour in a traditional boat, and as the water is used as drinking water, if you need to answer the call of nature you need to take a boat and ride about 1km away from the islands so as to not pollute the water. But when I asked one of the women on the islands if she could ever imagine living on the mainland she said that she has got everything she needs to be happy where she is, which was a refreshing response.

uros islands woman 3

mother baby and teen uros islandsThe children on the islands are adorable and very playful, particularly a young lady called Cynthia, who was quick to befriend us visitors. She was not only very ticklish, but also had an Oscar winning smile that would warm anybody’s heart on a misty Uros Island day…

uros islands cynthia and tammy

Cynthia and I – best friends forever

uros islands toddleruros islands baby

two girls uros islands

I left the island full of respect for the way the local people maintain their traditions but I couldn’t help thinking the lifestyle might be a little harsh for my pampered disposition. But maybe you are made of sterner stuff and could live on an Island like this for a while?

Disclaimer: I received a small discount for the Uros Island tour from Jumbo Travel Puno in return for a review on my blog. As always, all opinions remain my own. And here comes the exciting part: readers of Tammy & Chris on the move will also receive a 15% of all of Jumbo Travel Puno’s tours. Just quote ‘Tammy & Chris on the move 15%’ when you contact them.

About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

22 Thoughts on “Making little friends on the Uros Islands, lake Titicaca

  1. Fantastic post! What a great glimpse into a fascinating way of life. I hope they manage to keep it that way.
    Michael Huxley recently posted…How to deal with reverse culture shock after your gap year.My Profile

  2. Splendid photos–and what a glorious adventure!
    Christina Rosalie recently posted…37 before 37My Profile

  3. That is so cool, like something out of a dystopian sci-fi novel. However as I tend to pee several times a night the toilet journeys might be a deal breaker 🙂
    Tyrhone recently posted…Just a few more daysMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on February 2, 2014 at 12:20 am said:

      Ha ha, you’d be better of kipping in of the reed boats with your sleeping bag then. That way you’d be quicker to reach the pee area. 😉

  4. I remember, when we were at Lake Titikaka about a year ago, this island was one of our favorite parts! Did you get to sea any other islands on the Peruvian side of the lake?
    Marinela recently posted…Shoes, Shoes, ShoesMy Profile

  5. සෙන්නා on February 2, 2014 at 5:04 am said:

    What is the area of this floating island ? how many people are there ?

    it’s really amazing, first time i heard about this..

    • Tammyonthemove on February 2, 2014 at 5:28 pm said:

      Each island is tiny, maybe 20x20m. There are usually about 3-4 families on an island. Each family lives in a small reed house. It is amazing to see how people live there.

  6. I SO cannot wait to get out there…Lake Titicaca is high on my list for our impending Peruvian adventure!
    Emily recently posted…Guadalajara’s CharmMy Profile

  7. Awww – fun!! We missed Lake Titicaca because of protests and I was really sad – looks like you had a wonderful time with the people there!
    Andrea recently posted…How Languages Can Transform Your Travel Experiences…and Your LifeMy Profile

  8. Watch a great glimpse into a completely different way of life. It’s great to hear that despite their remote location the kids still get to go to school.
    Rob @ Hungry Escapades recently posted…Off the grid housesit in pictures – Xcalak, MexicoMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on February 6, 2014 at 5:20 pm said:

      Yes, I was very pleased about that. In a lot of places remoteness means no school, but the parents on the islands we visited seemed quite eager to send their children to school.

  9. What a cool place! It’s hard to believe the islands are made out of reeds – what a unique place to live. I love that everyone has such colourful clothing – so beautiful.
    Jessica recently posted…What It’s Really Like to Teach English AbroadMy Profile

  10. Really! It’s very nice place i was visited there last week and spend 1 week really it was memorable moments.

  11. Your photos always have such life to them! I havent been here yet but it looks amazing!
    Nicole @ Caribbean Travel Blog recently posted…Five Fun Things to do in Barbados away from the BeachMy Profile

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