Address: 4 miles (7 km) east of Puno. Ferries leave from the port for Uros at least once an hour from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. The community-owned ferry service visits two islands, on a rotation basis. Ferries to Taquile and Amantaní can also drop you off in the Uros.
Admission: The Uros would ask that they give you a boat ride in exchange for a donation of 10 soles.

The Uros live on floating islands in Lake Titicaca. Pre-dating Incan civilization, the Uros continue to fish in the largest lake in South America. In the past, they spoke their own language, but after trading with the Aymara tribe on the mainland and intermarrying with them, they abandoned their own language. Present-day Uros speak Aymara (and some Spanish, too). The Uros began their unusual floating existence centuries ago in an effort to isolate themselves from the aggressive Collas and Incas.

Even from a distance, I could see the Uros extend their welcoming hands.

What struck me most about the floating islands is that they have been created entirely with the buoyant totora reeds that grow abundantly in the shallows of the lake. See picture below.

The Uros use bundles of dried totora reeds to make their houses, reed boats (called caballitos de totora) and the floating islands themselves.

The Uros have used the reeds to build their caballitos de totora (see picture below) for many years even before they were conquered by the Inca.

The floating islands need maintenance; new reeds have to be added to the top constantly, as the reeds at the bottom of the islands rot away fairly quickly. The ground is soft and springy.

The Uro lady below explained in fairly understandable Spanish that the islands have to be anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. Otherwise, they might wake up finding themselves in Bolivia, not in Peru. The tip of the reeds is edible, as the child in the picture shows. I tasted them, and they taste like nonsweet sugarcane. Actually, I liked them, although I could never imagine eating a cuy (guinea pig).

Back to album