Lake Titicaca is not only the highest navigable lake in the world, it’s also the place where you’ll discover the incredible Uros islands. These unique islands made of totora reeds hold historical and cultural value.
In this blog post, we’ll learn more about the floating islands of Uros, as well as the locals that live there for more than hundreds of years already. Let’s get started and explore the unique connection between nature and culture in this post.
What are the Uros Islands and How are They Built?
A visit of the Uros Islands is one of the top things to do in Puno. They are not your typical islands, because they are artificially created from totora reeds, a local species that is widely available on Lake Titicaca. These reeds are skillfully woven by the Uros people, who produce floating platforms for their homes, schools and community spaces.
The totora reeds that exist in the lake is used to create and maintain their floating islands. Reeds are placed in layers, anchored to the lakebed, and attached to stop them from moving. Fresh layers of reeds must be added to existing layers on a regular basis to maintain the islands’ stability and durability.
There are around 60 to 70 islands in total. The number might vary yearly, though, due to the possibility of one island disappearing or merging with another island.
History and Culture of the Uros People
Origins of the Uros People
The Uros people, whose history spans thousands of years, are thought to have started close to Lake Titicaca. Historical legend says that they retreated to the lake in search of safety in its great expanse of waters after encountering battles with nearby tribes.
On the floating reed islands, their unique culture was created as a result of this movement.
Lifestyle of the Uros People
On the Uros Islands, a close relationship with nature and a sustainable way are central to daily life. They are very dependent on fishing and traditional crafts made from totora reeds.
The inhabitants have developed complex weaving processes, creating beautiful crafts that serve as both a means of generating money and a way to maintain their cultural legacy.
Nevertheless, you’ll find many fascinating buildings that reflect the unique lifestyle and architectural excellence of the Uros people. Some of the most impressive buildings are:
Champa Houses: Serve as the Uros community’s homes and are located in the center of the Uros Islands.
Community Meeting Halls: On the Uros Islands, important meetings and social events, such as weddings or other celebrations take place in these halls.
Watchtowers: Watchtowers that rise above the floating islands offer breath-taking views of Lake Titicaca and the surrounding area. These tall buildings are used as observation posts to keep an eye on the shifting weather patterns and any dangers
Handicraft Workshops: There are a number of small buildings dedicated to weaving and producing exquisite handicrafts spread out across the Uros Islands. Beautiful baskets, textiles, boats, and other distinctive objects are expertly crafted from totora reeds by Uros artisans.
Next to these unique buildings, you’ll also find schools, hospitals and even a community radio station.
Preservation of Local Traditions
The Uros people have made impressive attempts to maintain their traditional way of life despite the effects of modernity. The Uros communities have successfully preserved their traditions, language, and distinctive attire while some islands have embraced tourism.
During your visit to the islands, you will have the opportunity to participate in and observe local customs, such as their typical weaving or the unique fishing techniques they use to catch trout and other fish, as well as a boat ride on Lake Titicaca.
The tribe of the Uros are an example of adaptability and resilience since they have survived for many years in a strange and difficult environment. Around 2000 Uros still live in Peru today, and 1200 of them do so on floating islands of Lake Titicaca.
The Pukaras (1500 B.C.) were one of the earliest communities in America, and they left behind descendants who now live on the Islands of Uros. Furthermore, very little is known about this mystery society because there are no written records of it. For instance, we are aware that the Pukaras’ mythological “Pukina” language was spoken by the inhabitants of Uros.
But when they started to trade and engage with the Aymara people, residents of the Titicaca lake borders, 500 years ago, they lost this and began to speak another ancient tongue known as Aymara.
The Uros currently speak in their native Aymara tongue. The majority of their original culture is still present, despite the fact that they no longer speak their mother tongue.
Journey to the Uros Islands
How to Get to Lake Titicaca
By plane: You can take a flight from Lima to Juliaca that takes 1:30 hours.
By bus: The bus ride takes 20 to 24 hours, making it a lengthy trip. To make the journey more enjoyable, many bus companies provide cozy seats and onboard extras like meals and entertainment.
By plane: There are only 1-stop flights via Lima that take 3.5 – 6 hours. The direct flights have been suspended for now.
By bus: Depending on the route and rest stops, the bus trip takes about 6-7 hours.
By plane: There only 1-stop flights via Lima that take 4 – 5 hours.
By bus: Depending on the route and rest stops, the bus trip takes about 5 to 6 hours.
For more information, have a read at our ultimate guide to exploring Lake Titicaca and its Islands.
Uros Island Homestay Experience with Exploor Peru
Once you arrive in Puno you’ll take a boat journey across the glimmering waters of Lake Titicaca to the Uros Islands. During your time on the island, you will be able to see firsthand the amazing craftsmanship and determination of the Uros people to build and maintain the island.
The homestay is not luxurious, but includes a level of comfort that you won’t find on any other island. Apart from enjoying the beautifully decorated rooms with a view of Lake Titicaca, you can also try some traditional activities like fishing or canoeing, to truly immerse yourself in the local culture of the Uros.
Before the first day ends, you will enjoy an unforgettable sunset on the highest navigable lake and enjoy regional food. Last but not least, you get to gaze at the sky full of stars at night.
You’ll start your second day quite early to embrace a romantic sunrise before it’s time for breakfast and a tour to various Uros islands. After this adventure, you’ll continue your journey to the breathtaking Taquile Island.
There, you can learn more about the local culture and the customs of the island’s people with the enormous lake in the back. This inaccessible island is one of the reasons to visit Lake Titicaca in Peru.
As you can already see from our tour on Lake Titicaca, you will experience a unique adventure where you will embrace the beauty of the surroundings while learning more about the rich history of the locals.
All of our local guides speak great English and will make your time unforgettable. These two incredible days are part of our 16-day tour through Peru.
Best Time to Visit Uros Islands
Lake Titicaca is a unique destination that is home to several islands and a must-visit during your time in Peru. The best time to visit Uros Islands is during the dry season, which lasts from May to September.
In this season, temperatures range from 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F) in the day and as low as 5°C to 0°C (41°F to 32°F) at night. Around this time, the weather is frequently bright and mild, with clear sky and little chance of rain. However, the temperature can drop at night, so be careful to pack thick clothing.
Due to intense rainfall and regular flooding, traveling during the rainy season, which lasts from October to April, can be more difficult. During the rainy season (October to April), temperatures can drop as low as 0°C to -5°C (32°F to 23°F) at night. Daytime temperatures typically range from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F).
Generally, it’s recommended to visit in the dry season, but the rainy season also has its advantages as there as less people and prices tend to be lower.
Don’t Miss Out on this Must-See Destination
The trip to the Uros Islands is a truly amazing experience that leaves a lasting impression with you.
A privilege that shows the determination, creativity, and rich tradition of this unique group is to set foot on these floating reed islands and to immerse oneself in the lively culture of the Uros people.
We highly recommend our readers to visit the Uros Islands on their own so they can see the breathtaking scenery, interact with the kind locals, and give back to the community.
If you are interested in including this unique place to your itinerary then feel free to contact us.