Guide to the Uros Islands: Peru's floating islands

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16 de May de 2023

The country of Peru is full of surprises and unique tourist attractions that only here you will find them, in this article we will talk about the islands of the Uros, inhabited by the Uros people who are owners of one of the oldest cultures in Latin America and are also owners of the waters of Lake Titicaca.

Origin and legend of the Uros Islands

Many researchers scrutinized what was the origin of the Uros and they all point to the fact that its origin dates back to times before the Incas. For the researcher Julio Delgadillo mentions that there is archaeological evidence that its settlers did reside in the place by the years of 1200 BC and other scholars stated that possibly the people originated during the pre-ceramic period of the years 3000 and 2000 BC.

Likewise, between the first and thirteenth centuries those who would have inhabited the area would have been Tiawanaku, besides being the bearers of the Puquina language and was spoken as the native language of the Uros (Bouysse-Cassagne 1887).

After the disappearance of the Tiawanaku, the site was inhabited by the Aymara who conquered the original inhabitants, among them the Uros, displacing them from their lands, so they went to live in the lake, the Desaguadero River and its tributaries, adds Raul Prada, 2008.

Now, many legends are also known about this place, but the best known revolves around the one I will tell you below:

It is said that the inhabitants lived in Lake Titicaca, because this was a fertile valley where the population lived very happily, practically the place was a paradise because they were protected by the Apus (gods of the mountains).

And to continue enjoying that paradise they had a rule, no man could climb to the top of the mountain where the "Sacred Fire" burned, but we know that everywhere there is good and evil; for although the inhabitants were in paradise there was also a demon and it was this character who incited men to climb to the top and so they did.

When they saw that the men were climbing the mountain, the Apus were so enraged that they decided to release the pumas to devour the entire population living in the area, but they had to leave a couple alive.

Faced with all that happened, the Sun God cried for 40 days and 40 nights giving rise to Lake Titicaca, because everything in the place was flooded and some pumas became stone, hence the name of this beautiful place, where: TITI would meanpuma and KAKA would be stoneforming the name Lake Titicaca-the lake of the stone pumas.

What are the Uros islands?

They are floating islands built by men with a typical plant of the area "the totora", on them lived from three to ten families, there are approximately 80 islands built with this plant.

How were the Uros islands built?

As we know, the ancient settlers went to live on the shores of this lake, and they are the only ethnic group to build their own island with totora, a reed that grows on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Well, to build the surface of the island the villagers weave and braid this plant are generally collected in the rainy season, the construction is done by successive layers all of reeds, first goes the root blocks, followed by branches all horizontally.

At the moment of joining the compacted blocks of roots, the piles of branches are confirmed with blocks through trunks and stakes which are tied to the reeds, in this way the reed block of the island of the Uros is made.

But now, how is it that these islands do not sink? Well, the islands stay afloat because the organic matter releases gases as it decomposes underwater, the gas bubbles that are released are trapped in the cattail lattice moving the water. As I said, the blocks are anchored with trunks or blocks of cattail roots that reach to the bottom and remain fixed.

So, it could be said that by displacing the water by gas, its density decreases, making it not only self-sustaining afloat, but also supporting fixed loads such as houses, people on the surface.

Every year, the locals renovate the floating islands, which are 3 meters thick.

Contruccion de las islas de totora 1024x410 - Guide to the Uros Islands: Peru's floating islands

Geographical location of Uros Island

The Floating Islands of the Uros are located to the west of Lake Titicaca and northeast of Puno, 7 km from the city of Puno at an altitude of 3810 m..

How to get there from Cusco?

To get to Uros Island there are three travel options:

First you can go by commercial bus, to take this car you must go to the bus terminal in Cusco to go to Puno, the trip takes approximately 7 hours from there you must go to the port to be driven to the floating islands (Uros Island, Taquile and Amantani).

The second option is to go in a tourist bus, this is responsible for taking you to different places like Andahuaylillas, Raqchi, Pukará will make a stop in Juliaca and then go to Puno and go to the island of the Uros.

The third option is to go by train, traveling by PeruRail offers you a good service because they will take you to different destinations that will take you to Puno, then you must go to the Port of Puno to go to the island of the Uros.

How to get from Puno?

Once you are in Puno, you will realize that there are several agencies that offer a tour that will take you to the Uros Island, the trip lasts about 30 minutes, if you want to do experiential tourism you can stay to do experiential tourism.

Most important characteristics of the Uros floating islands

Now we will learn a little more about the flora, fauna, and climate of the Uros Island.

Flora and Fauna of Uros Island

The floating island is part of the Reserva Nacional del Titicaca, because in the place there are totora reeds or more scientifically known as "Schoenoplectus or sircpus totora" that favor the growth and balance in Lake Titicaca.

Regarding the Fauna it conserves several species of fish that are in the lake like the carachi balco, ispi, mauri, trout, umantu, also we will be able to see birds typical of the place.

Weather

Regarding the climate, Lake Titicaca has a cold and dry climate, and its temperature reaches a maximum of 2 ° C, something curious happens as it is hot during the day, it accumulates at night and emits all the heat accumulated during the day and curiously it is not very cold at night.

Traditions and Customs

Visiting the islands in Lake Titicaca is like entering a magical place, outside of what others always show you. We will briefly know the customs and/or traditions of the three most known islands of this wonderful place.

The island of the Uros, looks like a fairy tale that is on the water, practically floating, because as a tradition the Uros began to make a road that went to the lake in order to prevent their enemies reach them and at the same time preserve their culture.

According to scholars, this ethnic group is the oldest in the Andes and still practices its ancient traditions.

The Taquile Island, this island is known for its craftsmanship being so they were awarded by Unesco, to arrive and live with them you will realize that here only men are responsible for weaving a unique feature of the place, also continue to dress traditionally their attire because it reflects their culture and still practicing the ancient Inca traditions and shamanic beliefs.

The island Amantaní, is perhaps the farthest of all, because to reach the place you must travel about three hours. They traditionally continue to dress in their traditional costumes of the site, their food and work are preserved especially agriculture, and the surprising thing is that the top of its mountains there are two Inca temples that still retain their architecture and from there you can have a better view of Lake Titicaca.

Tours to Uros Island

  • 1 day tour: In this tour you will visit in one day the islands of Uros and Taquile where you will interact with the people who live there and at the same time they will show you their lifestyle, customs and traditions.
  • Tour of 2 days: With this tour you will visit the island of Uros, Taquile and Amantani where you will stay to do experiential tourism with the residents and you can live up close all their experiences, traditions, etc..

Recommendations for visiting Uros Island

Before traveling we recommend that you organize your trip well, for example if you are in another region buy your tickets in advance, always have cash on hand, because in the islands the resident does not have a bank transfer account.

You can also hire the services of a tourist agency, because they have prepared your itinerary, tickets and transportation to get to the different attractions.

What to take to Uros Island

To enjoy your trip to the fullest, keep the following in mind:

Wear comfortable and warm clothing, hat or cap, gloves, sunscreen, bottled water, snacks and medicinal alcohol, always carry your ID or passport, and cash.

Why visit the Uros Island with Illapa?

Visiting with the Tourist Agency Illapa allows us to fully enjoy each destination we go, because we have specialized professionals, if you dare, live a few days in a world made by the aquatic plant "totora" that surrounds the beautiful Lake Titicaca.

Conclusions on Uros Island

In conclusion, the island of the Uros gives us the opportunity to know everything around it and at the same time to be participants in the daily work of its residents, even some integrate us into their family circle to teach us their lifestyle, tradition, customs and language; it is undoubtedly one of the best destinations to visit if you are in Peru and we as the Illapa tourism agency are there to make your trip unique and unforgettable.

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