The Floating Islands of Uros in Lake Titicaca

Peru’s famous Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, is home to a very unique group of islands – the Uros. What makes them unique is that they are not natural islands, they are large man-made islands constructed of reeds woven together into huge mats that harbor up to a dozen families each. These rafts are built on top of the stalks of the reeds they have just cut down, giving them stability, but a soft feeling underfoot.

The inhabitants of these islands have lived this lifestyle for hundreds of years, and are very adept at being self-sufficient. They are first fishermen, but also hunt birds and their eggs for food as well. The residents trade their fish catch for other food goods with land-living neighbors. The islands are repaired by the residents themselves when needed, and each island contains a house for worshipping and central cooking area.

The lake and the islands can be visited effortlessly by day trip from one of the nearby towns such as Puno. Visitors should be aware, however, that although many of the islands’ natives have accepted and welcome the tourism industries, some among the group are still unwelcoming to it and refuse to allow visitors onto their islands. Local travel guides know the islands well and can tell you where to go and where to avoid.

In the middle of the group of islands is a central island where all of the communal leaders come to engage. The area has become so accepting of tourism that this central island actually includes a shop, restaurant, and small hostel to welcome visitors. The money earned from tourism has been shared out across the island communities to improve sanitation and install solar panels to reduce the need for building fires or lighting candles.

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