These islands are made from a reed, tortora rushes, as are the houses on them and the residents' boats. Part of the reed 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 the main income for the islands' population.
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.
Most of the "population" does not live on these islands anymore, they live in Puno and commute to the islands to show their traditional way of living to tourists. Since it is a very popular tourist destination, expect some tour boat docking on most of the islands. It sounds like some kind of Disney Land and it is - but it is still worth a visit because of its unique nature.
All tours offer an "optional" trip on the traditional boats from the specific island one is visiting to the tourist office's island (the only one with a public, western toilet). Tourists are pressured into accepting this optional, very expensive offer, but if you are one a budget, don't worry to miss much when you don't accept it and instead take the motorized boat that took you to the islands instead.
- 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, be at the harbour around seven and ask around for boats going.
When staying overnight, simply ask someone on your island for a ride. When you are going there as part of a tour, your mobility will be limited to the one island you visit anyway.
- 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 unforgivable one.
- 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.
On all islands one visits as part of a tour, souvenirs are offered.
- 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.
- Uros Khantati (Hotel Cinco Esteras con Camas Flotantes), Lago Titicaca, Puno, Peru, ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. S/ 165 pp.