Los Uros, Lake Titicaca

Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
Trip End Aug 14, 2009

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Los Uros - Lake Titicaca - 11th February 2009

Close to Puno, about 5km into Lake Titicaca, are the 30 to 40 floating islands of Los Uros. There are only a few hundred Uros people living on these islands with up to 10 families living on the larger islands but only 2 families on the smaller ones. These islands are made of thick layers (1m-2 m) of Totora reeds which rot away from the bottom & have to be replenished with new reeds, added to the top, every 3 months.
They live in reed huts, cook on little earthenware stoves (stood on flat stones to protect the reeds) & are nearly self sufficient. Some of the islanders have TVs powered by solar panels & there is even an FM radio station on the main island (playing Wet, Wet, Wet & Handel's Water Music ?). Where do they go to the toilet - I hear you ask ? Well, I guess they pee straight into the lake, but for more substantial jobs, they have tiny 'outhouse' islands, moored downwind from the main islands.

They trade with the mainland for food & other commodities but are increasingly reliant on boat loads of trippers from Puno buying their handcrafts.

We motored out for 20 minutes in a decrepit old motorboat to visit the islands. We were greeted by an imposing woman who dragged our boat alongside, tied up & ushered us onto her island where we were made to sit on reed seats (everything is made of reeds) & were given a talk, in broken Spanish, about their culture by a pretty young girl. We were each given a totora reed to eat - the white fleshy root is quite pleasant to eat & contains dietary supplements like iodine. It must be effective, because since then I haven't had one goitre.

Their living huts are quite small, I'm not sure how many sleep in each - they had some special huts like a trophy room containing an array of stuffed birds. We also saw tiny reed huts for guinea pigs - I don't know whether they were pets or lunch. We were then allowed to walk round the island & (most importantly) buy their hand-made jewellery, dolls & trinkets. Walking on the reed island is weird, all squishy - like walking on a huge water bed. For an additional fee, we went on a reed boat to the next island, paddled by a man who was even older than me. The local kids also piled onto the boat, posed for photos & extorted more money from us. As tourism is a major part of their economy & we were guests on their island, we couldn't really object.

On the trip back we went past an old steamship being re-furbished. This ship is remarkable because it was originally built in England, then broken down into pieces small enough to be transported on the back of a mule. It was then shipped to South America, carried over the Andes & then re-built on Lake Titicaca where it sailed for many years.
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holly08121 on

P Smith
This looks like it was great to visit. Hope I can go there one day!

rodnyc on

Los Uros sounds interesting. Their lives seem so uncomplicated and needs so minimal compared to my every day life. How lovely not to have to hoover and clean your house! That mule must have been a big one to carry a huge ship like that, even if it were broken into little bits!

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