The Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca are man-made islands that are built by the local Uros people out of totora reeds that naturally flourish along the west bank of the lake near the modern village of Puno. The Uros people build these islands and live on them exclusively as they live their lives in a basic and traditional fashion.
The Uros people live completely from the lake itself, fishing and collecting eggs for food and building whatever else they need from what the lake gives to them including the reeds, driftwood, sand and rocks and other flotsam. Expert craftsmen, the Uros make a variety of goods from reeds and wood including their homes, boats and the islands themselves.
Reed Dragon Boats of the Uros
As fishing is one of the main toils of the Uros, they take exceptional care in the craftsmanship of their reed boats, often adorning the curled bow and stern with dragon heads that are ornately weaved. Throughout the year, the boats are made part of their dragon boat races — a major draw for tourists to the area.
A Very Tourist-Friendly People and Place
While the locals at some tourist destinations may seem put-out or annoyed by large herds of tourists and travelers, the Uros welcome tourists with open arms and have made tourism a large part of their culture and everyday life. The Uros do not have many goods to buy or sell, and before they accepted tourism, it was becoming difficult for them to sustain their traditional lives. When you visit the floating islands of the Uros, you are welcomed into their family and their lives, which allows visitors to completely absorb the lifestyle and the experience.
A Sustainable Lifestyle
The Uros have been adamant about living their lives just as their ancestors have for hundreds of years. In fact, they can be considered one of the longest self-sustaining communities in history. In recent years, the Uros have adapted to using solar panels to gather small amounts of electricity for themselves. While not a “traditional” practice for the people, solar power offers the people a great benefit and the added safety of electric light. Not only is having solar lights beneficial, but is much safer that keeping fires burning on the highly flammable reed islands.
Visiting the Floating Uros Islands
Again, the Uros welcome all visitors to their community and even build toys, dolls and miniatures for the many tourists that visit them every year. The islands are reachable only by boats, which can be chartered in the nearby lakeside village of Puno on the bank of the lake. Puno itself is fairly easy to reach, but it is recomended to have a guide or join a tour, as the lands surrounding Lake Titicaca are wild and untamed.