Puno’s floating islands are a draw for many travelers to Peru. Numbering at around 62 floating reed islands, this man-made archipelago in Lake Titicaca is brimming with thousand-year-old history and a fascinating culture. The strange experience of stepping off the boat and onto one of these inhabited reed-cushioned islands is one that will stick with you long past the moment your holiday in Peru comes to an end. Trust us on that one. How did Puno’s floating islands come to be and what’s it like to visit them on your adventure tour? Read on.
History of Puno’s Floating Islands
Like many of the attractions you’ll come to visit on a Peru holiday, the artificial Uros floating islands are the result of the Incas. Unlike those attractions however, the floating islands were not built by the Incas. When the Incas rose to power, the pre-existing Uros culture had been living on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The eventual threat of being conquered by the Incas drove the Uros to look to the lake for refuge. They hoped that a mobile floating city would be just the thing to evade their enemies. Unfortunately, it didn’t. The Incas came and conquered the Uros, putting them to work as slaves in their empire.
How the Uros Islands are Made
Puno’s floating islands are made of layered totora reeds, a buoyant material that’s abundant on Lake Titicaca. The Uros weave the reed’s roots together, then anchor them to the lake bed below using sharp sticks and rope. Over time, the base of the roots eventually rot away and disintegrate altogether, meaning the islands require constant upkeep to live out their projected 30-year life span. On the most visited islands, the reeds must be swapped out every three months or so, as walking on the islands tends to speed up their decay.
Touring the Floating Islands of the Uros
Located just three miles (5 km) from Puno’s shore, the floating islands of the Uros are easy to get to by boat. Most tours depart in the morning for a full- or half-day visit to one or a few of the floating islands. Upon arrival, the island’s inhabitants will greet you, give you a tour of their humble home, and show you exactly how they built and maintain their floating islands. They’ll also introduce you to some of their handicrafts, age-old customs, and lifestyle, giving you a glimpse into their still thriving 3,000-year-old culture.
Follow up your visit to the Uros Floating Islands with a visit and/or homestay on the nearby Taquile Island. Taquileños are renowned for their intricate hand-woven textiles and their community-focused style of governance that still operates by the Inca’s moral code.
Book your tour of Puno’s Floating Uros Islands with Explorandes, one of the leading adventure travel tour operators in Peru. Contact us today to begin planning your dream Peru holiday.