Andean Explorations – 13: Floating islands of Uros

This post is part of my Peru travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

The Uros is the name of a tribe of pre-Incan people who live on 42 self-fashioned floating man-made islets located in Lake Titicaca off Puno, Peru. The Uros use the Totora plant to make boats of bundled dried reeds as well as to make the islands themselves. Around 3,000 descendants of the Uros are alive today, although only a few hundred still live on and maintain the islands; most have moved to the mainland. More on Wikipedia.

All boats have faces of deities that keep away evil forces.

After a day of relaxation and minor hiking around the hills of Puno (blogged over a month back!), I set out on a two day excursion to lake Titicaca. It was with a tourist group and they made arrangements for overnight stay in a village in one of the islands (next post).

It was almost unbelievable to see habitable islands made from reeds. When you walk on these islands, you can feel the softness of the reeds. It is slightly wobbly at some places and the villagers ask us not to stand at the same spot for over a minute or it might be risky.

Villagers selling souvenirs

The purpose of the island settlements was originally defensive, and if a threat arose they could be moved. The largest island retains a watchtower almost entirely constructed of reeds.

The Uros traded with the Aymara tribe on the mainland, interbreeding with them and eventually abandoning the Uro language for that of the Aymara. About 500 years ago they lost their original language. When this pre-Incan civilization was conquered by the Incans, they had to pay taxes to them, and often were made slaves.

The Uros do not reject modern technology: some boats have motors, some houses have solar panels to run appliances such as TV, and the main island is home to an Uros-run FM radio station. Just as our school buses, we saw some school boats !!

How wonderful the world is, who knew that people could live on islands made of grass!

This post is part of my Peru travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery