We flew from Cusco to Puno on Friday and then spent Saturday visiting one of the Uros Islands and Taquile Island on Lake Titicaca (pronounced Titihaha). After we were collected from our hotel we were transferred to a speed boat and taken to the Uros Islands. The Uros people were landless and firstly lived on large reed boats before creating their own reed islands, which they could move around if enemies approached. There are approximately 120 Uros Islands near Puna in Peru that are inhabited by the Uro or Uros. The Uros Islands take it in turns of being visited by tourist boats as this shares the tourist money among the islands which they are totally dependent on as they grow no crops or hunt any foods.
Our boat visited the island, ‘Islamanco Capac’. After stepping afoot on the reed island, which feels somewhat like walking on a waterbed, we were seated in a circle and greeted by the president of the Island. On this island the president was a young man and was supported by his new wife, who spoke excellent English. Each year a new president is elected to govern the island. There are about 5 – 6 families that live on each island. The islands are located very close together. There is also an island which houses the local primary school which the kids attend.
The island leader began by explaining how the islands are constructed, yes they are man made. Basically they cut reeds down to their roots into squares and tie the clumps together where eventually the roots grow and the island squares join together. The island we visited was composed of about 20 metre clumps of reed roots. The clumps are then covered with about ½ metre thick of cut reeds, which they top up every couple of weeks. They grow nothing and now live from what they can make off of tourist visits and selling things they craft.
There are shared kitchens on the island, designed so that the islands won’t catch fire. The toilets are located on another nearby island which the islands share and you have to use a boat to reach. Some islands offer home stays where you have the opportunity to experience Island living.
After the president and his wife demonstrated how they constructed the island and did their cooking, we were free to wander the island and look in the houses and view the different crafts that they sold. The applique work was very reminiscent of what we saw in the San Blas Islands in Panama. They had stalls set up selling their wares a lot of which was made of reeds, like mobiles and boats.
An optional extra was a reed boat ride over to a nearby island. We opted not to do this one.
We continued on in a speed boat to Taquile Island, situated at 4000 metres above sea level, higher than Cusco and Machu Picchu and so made for another breathless hike to the top. What amazed us was the number of islanders, that overtook us, who were carting goods brought in by boats up to their houses at the top of the hill.
The island is famous for its textiles. The men knit and I have never seen knitting like it, it’s so finely done you can’t see the stitches. On the island the women weave and spin the thread. While we were eating our lunch, an older pair of ladies sat nearby spinning thread, weaving and giggling to themselves, they were very cute.
An interesting part of their culture is that a couple will live together for four years to see if they get along, before getting married. Try before you buy approach, the island doesn’t believe in divorce so you have to get it right the first time. When the women marry they cut off their hair and knit it along with wool to make a belt for their husband as a gift, you can see it in the photo below.
We enjoyed a traditional meal with Quinoa soup followed by either an omelet or fish. We had some free time to wander the village and talk to the locals before we caught the speed boat back to Puno. The kids were really friendly and happy to pose for a photo. There were lots of young girls making friendship bracelets from wool and selling them on their own stands along the pathway. The other interesting thing was seeing men of varying ages, sitting around knitting.
I think I preferred this island over Uros as it was more authentic.
There are a lot of companies offering tours to Uros Islands, Taquile Island and trips to the Bolivian Islands, ranging from private to group tours of differing sizes and prices.
We went with Titicaca Travel Peru and did a one day, fast boat tour out to Uros and Taquile Islands for $40 US each including lunch. The guide we had was awesome, switching between English and Spanish to accommodate all guests easily. For more information on the tour we did, use the link below: