The Uro Islands are floating islands made of reed, situated in Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian Altiplano.
These islands are made from tortora rushes, as are the houses on them and the residents' boats. Part of the tortora can even be eaten! The people of the Uros Islands who predate the Incas speak the Aymara language. It is thought that they may have fled to the islands to escape hostile tribes, including the Incas. The islands can, of course, be moved and have been in fairly recent years because of the Shining Path revolutionary movement in Peru. It was expected that they would be safer nearer to the mainland. Tourism is now important to the islands' economy.
Until recently the only option for visiting the islands were on the daytime with a tour, or independent. But a recent option for accommodation on the islands opens an opportunity to get a better experience of the life on the floating islands and to create better connections with the locals.
Tours are restricted to a subset of the islands, where the people are consequently very used to tourism. Tours tend to be on the tacky side, and some serious selling of 'handicrafts', food & drink and extra boatrides is part of the deal. If you can't or won't handle the theme park atmosphere, you might want to try to get to some other islands.
- Dozens of agencies in Puno will arrange a visit with a guide, often in combination with a daytrip to Isla Taquile (can be arranged to stay overnight on one of the islands and go to Isla Taquile next morning).
- To go independent, boats leave the harbour every hour, charging 10 soles for a return trip. However, tour agents offer the tour for the same price, and you will end up on the same boat. Entry fee to the islands is 10 soles (jan 2017). Boats go to the islands on rotation basis, so if you plan on eating there, go with a boat that goes to an island with a restaurant, otherwise you will be charged a ridiculous 8 soles extra for a 5 minute ride to and island that has a restaurant.
- Reed artesania Artwork built from the reed (totora) - The same plant being used for the houses and the island itself.
- Fishermans at morning Available only if sleeping on one of the islands and with coordinating it with one of the locals ahead. Best time is at dawn (5:30AM) - If the lake is calm, the sunrise will be an unforgettable experience.
- Send a postcard On the island Qananpacha there is a post office. The owners claim it is the only floating post office in the world. Not all the tours get there, you need to ask before booking if there will be a stop there.
- Trucha Available only on the islands that have a restaurant. Because takes time to prepare available only when there is a long stop, or when staying overnight.
- Reed The bottom part of a fresh reed (colored white) is actually edible, and surprisingly not so bad - Worth a try.
- Muña mate A tea made from a herb growing in the environment of Titicaca lake. It is said this herb helps to cope with the high altitude, but even if not it's tasty minty taste is worth it.
- Qananpacha Hospedaje A new option offered is accommodation on one of the islands called Qananpacha. The rooms are equipped with double bed and made all out of reed, also available is a restaurant and a post office. Prices are very affordable - 15 soles for a bed, and 40 soles including a dinner and a breakfast. Not all tour agencies stop at this island, so better contact the hospedaje directly to make reservations: 951-835264, 950-951489 . Also a pickup from puno harbor can be arranged.
- Isla Utama Hospedaje Same as Qananpacha. There are 2 double rooms equipped with double bed and made all out of reed, also available is a restaurant. Prices are very affordable - 15-20 soles per person, or 40 soles including a dinner and a breakfast. This is one of the first islands and boats from Puno normally stop at this island. You can contact the hospedaje directly to make reservations: (+51)969-247197 or [email protected] (ask for Nelson). Also a pickup from Puno (from Isla Estevez, hotel blanco) can be arranged for 5 soles (cheaper than tour operator).
- Uros Khantati (Hotel Cinco Esteras con Camas Flotantes), Lago Titicaca, Puno, Peru, ☎ (051) 951 695121 / 951 472355, . This is one of the only floating reed islands where the money goes directly to the community and not a tour company in Puno. The cost was S/ 165 each a night and this included pickup from our hostel, boat ride to the island, some lessons on the local history and their way of life, cultural events, fishing and 3 meals. Email : [email protected] S/ 165 pp.