No trip to Peru or Bolivia is complete without a trip to the floating islands on Lake Titicaca. We visited an island where the Uros Indians live and we were able to observe their way of life. The lake is the largest in South America at over 8,000 sq, kms, and it's also the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500 feet above sea level. When you walk on the floating islands it's like walking on a trampoline or waterbed, as your feet walk on the reed floor, causing the reeds to sink in to the water. The Uros Indians have around 40 floating islands made completely of reeds that are collected from the shallow waters near the shore. It is a continuous job collecting and replacing the reeds as the ones on the bottom rot. Unfortunately most of the islands are tourist traps now, but some of the smaller ones will not receive visitors. On the larger islands there are schools, and hospitals. Many tours of the lake can be arranged from Puno.
You know are good thing to do when going out on Lake Titicaca and you plan to visit an island or two.!!. Take some fruit with you for the children!!..The diet that the locals have living out on their Islands doesn't include any fruit from what I was lead to beleive. I had a friend who was studying the local languages and he advised me when going to take some fruit with me for the children , which I did.
I purchased a small bag of oranges at the local market in Puno. They were very easy to carry as I was only carrying with me a small day pack. The oranges were a really big hit , and this was just a huge treat for the children. So much so that I was given lots of attention, from the local residents.. As there were very few tourists where I was I was able to obtain without being intrusive and always asking..I was able to get some great photos. So when going out to visit one of these floating Islands...take some fruit with you.The look on the childrens faces says it all.
The Uros are a pre-Incan culture that lives on floating island on Lake Titicaca, not far from Puno, Peru.
Several of these islands are visited by tourists. The reeds that make up the islands are anchored to the bottom of the lake and must be continuously replaced as they slowly rot in the water.
Sillustani was an interesting excursion at only 34 kilometres from Puno.
Situated by the Umayo lagoon, this scenic place was a sacred cemetery built by Kollas.
Kolla Kingdom was an Aymara kingdom that occupied Titicaca’s shores from 1200 until 1450, when the Inca Pachacutec conquered them.
The particularity of this cemetery is its funerary tombs called Chulpas. This conic towers were used only for noble families. The corpse was placed inside the tower in foetal position surrounded by jewels and everyday tools. There was a small entrance always in the East side. In this way the corpse’s spirit could communicate with the rising sun. The highest tower that has arrived until our days is 12 metres high.
When we visited Sillustani there was nobody around so we could wander around the site freely and explore the different Chulpas (picture 3). It was nice to stay there until sunset: the landscape looked even more beautiful with that light (picture 4).
There is no public transport to Sillustani. We took a taxi from Puno to the site and asked him to wait for us.
On the second island that we visited there was a wedding celebration. Again it was weird to land there in the middle of a private ceremony. Bride and groom (Wilber and Deliana) assisted to some traditional dances in their honour sitting on two plastic chairs under their names. That’s why I distinguished them because they did not wear any special dress. I wondered about the use of that pink tent behind them: maybe it would be used later for their honeymoon?
On this island we could also know more about totora houses: they have an only room and women always cook outside, in the open air, to avoid fires (picture 3).
Uros Islands are an ensemble of 9 artificial islands made of totora, a kind of reed that grows in the area (picture 1). Totora is used not only to build the island itself but also to build the houses and local boats. It is a strange feeling to walk on these islands, the soil is fluffy!
Uros Islands was a weird excursion because you land on these small islands like a voyeur that is discovering a new culture and wants to take pictures of everything. It must not be very funny for people’s everyday life but I guess that they are used to because, somehow, they live from it selling gifts and transporting tourists from an island to another one.
We did a half day trip using a modern motor boat, which is faster (and less fluffy, he hee) than a traditional totora boat. There are plenty of options to visit these islands, for sure you will find the excursion that fits you better. As soon as you arrive to the port of Puno, the boat owners will come to you with their proposals.
Puno was our base camp to explore the Peruvian side of Titicaca Lake. From Puno’s port we visited Uros Islands by boat on a half day trip.
I did not have a good impression about this dusty city with many unfinished houses on the way to the port so I did not waste my time exploring it. However, our basic needs (food and drink) took us to an interesting business street with nice restaurants and cafés.
The following day we did not want to go back to Copacabana without visiting the Moon Island. Less frequented by tourists than its sister, this small island -0,76x2,80km- deserves a short stop to visit the Palacio de las Vírgenes del Sol (Sun Virgins Palace). This temple was the house of few chosen virgins and here they learned the different women tasks. The only visitor who could come here was the Inca and the virgins had to pay him their respects. These women could become his secondary wives or –those less fortunate- become object of sacrifice.
Just in front of the temple there is a design on the floor made of stones. It is very beautiful but I don’t know its meaning :-(
We only spent half an hour on this island taking some pictures of the temple. It is like an amphitheatre facing to the sea, a very scenic structure.
Isla del Sol is a hilly island. When you arrive by ship there is a steep walk that takes you to the main archaeological site in the north of the island, Challapampa. Usually people stay there visiting the remains of the labyrinth, the sacred table for sacrifices and the archaeological museum.
After wandering for a while in this area we decided to skip the ship back to Copacabana and take the walk path which crosses the island north – south. This walk, known as the Inca Route, is a 3-4 hours walk with gorgeous views over the lake, the terrasses and other less frequented remains. The highest point on the island is the Cerro Chequesani at 4.075m.
Finally by the end of the day we found a family who had few rooms in their house arranged for lost tourists.
This is the biggest island on the lake and it is considered the birthplace of the first Incas (kings of Inca people) Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo. The Sacred Rock and other archaeological remains still testify today about this sacred past. Nowadays this island is basically inhabited by incas and aymaras indios who live from agriculture, pasture and of course fishing. Some of the cultivated terraces –made to adapt the steep and rocky land to agriculture- still used today by locals are from Inca times.
We arrived to the Sun Island by ship from Copacabana. Usually people do a day trip but we decided to spend the night there to explore the archaeological remains better –there are around 80 remains on the island- and do some hikes. We had nothing planned and did not know if there were “tourist structures” around to eat or sleep. But the landscape was so beautiful and the lake so blue that we did not feel like to leave the island yet.
Copacabana is a quiet city on the Titicaca’s Bolivian shore and we use it as a base camp to explore this side of the lake. Copacabana seems to be also a pilgrimage centre to venerate la Virgen de Copacabana and its basilica, a nice colonial architecture, deserves a visit. From Copacabana leave all the boats to the Islas del Sol and la Luna. Like in Puno, there are many options to visit them and for sure you will find the excursion that fits you better. Apart from this it is nice to walk along the lakeshore and do some people watching.
We had not planned to go to Bolivia but once we were in Puno the border was so close that we could not resist the temptation to cross it! And it would have been a pity to explore only one side of the Titicaca Lake, especially when the history of the Incas begins in Islas del Sol and Luna, situated on the Bolivian side.
We took a public bus from Puno direction to La Paz. The bus stopped only few metres before the border and everybody had to go off the bus. At the beginning we did not understand the purpose but it seems that we had to cross the border by food and before going to the police office to register and put the stamp. Few metres forward the bus was waiting for us to continue the trip. It was a funny way to cross a border!
Lake Titicaca is partly Peruvian territory and partly Bolivian territory. Although we had spent a wonderful 2 days and 1 night exploring the islands on the Peruvian side, we decided to travel to Isla del Sol on the Bolivian side.
Our bus departed from Puno, Peru at 7:30am. We had to cross the border into Bolivia at Yunguyo, getting your passport stamped first in the Peru side and then walked across the border to the Bolivian side. From there it was an 8km trip to Copacabana, Bolivia.
The boat tickets to Isla del Sol cost 15 Bolivianos each and the trip took an hour and a half.
Once we got to the island we had to walk up the "Escaleras del Sol" which are some pretty steep steps. We decided to stay at the Hostal Puerta del Sol on the far left of the island for 25 Bolivianos each.
We took a walk around the island and immediately noticed that it was a lot more touristy than the Peruvian islands we had visited. It is still a very pretty place to watch the sunset.
It took 45 minutes by boat from Amantani Island to Taquille Island. From the place the boat stopped we had a walk of approx 1 hour to get to the town plaza. The island, like Amantani, is completely covered in terraces for agriculture purposes. There are no roads or cars and very few animals visible.
We had lunch at a local restaurant. The lunch was trout which was very tasty.
On the plaza there were local children playing and some stalls of local crafts for sale.
The traditional costume on Taquille island was different again from the islands of Uros and Amantani.
From the Uros Islands we had a 3 hour boatride to Amantani Island. When we arrived there were families waiting for us and they took us back to their homes. The home was made of Adobe. We had two beds which were comfortable. There was no electricity in the house.
We had lunch really late, nearly 3 o'clock, and I was starving! We ate Quinoa and Vegetable soup then boiled potatoes with a kind of white fried cheese and then muña tea.
In the afternoon we took a walk to the Pachatata Temple. The temple sits at 4,150m above sea level so you can imagine how the altitude made it a difficult walk up the hill.
Dinner was more of the same soup plus a dish of rice and potatoes. I was feeling quite tired but we changed into traditional costume and went to the community hall to dance.
Breakfast the next day was pancakes with manjar on top. After breakfast we said our goodbyes. Before we left our host asked us if we would buy the hats that we had worn on our walk the day before. they were 25 soles each. Fi and I didn't really want them but we knew that buying them would benefit the family so we bought them.