There is something about visiting an island that gets me hyped up. I adore the islands with a lot of sunshine, happy vibes, colourful buildings, beautiful beaches & swinging music in the Caribbean. I really liked my visit to Jeju Island which is one part culturally beautiful and one part naturally. Should I start raving about my love for Cyprus or did I get my point across? There’s something about islands that make them and the inhabitants special in a way. I found out it holds the same for islands on a lake only then times 10.
I’m well aware my intro is way too lenghty for a post like this, but I’m really trying to convey my point that I love islands but I never considered that the same concept would hold for islands in a lake. Luckily, my ignorance didn’t deter me from visiting Lake Titicaca.
The lake itselfs is impressive. It’s the highest navigable lake in the world (3,812 metres) and geographically it’s in both Peru and Bolivia.
The lake is incredibly deep, and I’m sure it hides a lot of history. There were cultures living here before the Incas arrived. Researchers have even found an underwater temple. What they haven’t found is an immense treasure which is believed to be left here.
There are a total of 40 islands and a lot of them are populated. However, not all islanders welcome tourism. This makes sense because not everyone benefits from tourism. So show respect to the privacy of the islanders. It’s easy to peek into everyone’s house when you’re on an island, but I’m sure you wouldn’t want the same thing to happen in your house.
I visited three islands in total. Two Uros islands and Taquile island.
Let’s start with the Uros Islands. These are the islands closest to Puno. They are also the most touristy of the bunch. You may have heard about the “floating islands” of Lake Titicaca, well you’re looking at them.
These islands have been created by using buoyant reeds that grown in the shallows of the lake. Every now and then the inhabitants of the islands refresh the layers of reed. I forgot the story of how this is done, because the family we visited was quite theatrical and they had me in tears with their “performance”.
The man of the island was running around with props trying to keep up with the narration like no one I’ve ever seen. It was very funny to watch, especially when he made faces to accompany the instructions.
The reeds are edible (but I didn’t try because apparently the untrained belly can get sick), and they are used for the homes and for the ships. These ships can be used to sail to another island, which I have done.
The people living on the island are Uros. Centuries ago they started with the construction of these unusual islands to get away from the aggressive Collas and Incas. Nowadays it’s quite lucrative for the families who are into tourism.
As always you can go by organised tour, but you don’t have to. Ferries leave the port in Puno once an hour from 6am to 4pm.
Taquile island is a whole different ball park. This island is not built on reed and the culture on the island is completely different from Uros. Taquile is 35km east of Puno. It’s a looooong ferry ride, but it’s worth it.
The island has a bit of a Mediterranean vibe. You’ll get it when you go there. The sunlight reflects beautifully on the surrounding lake and there are some gorgeous viewpoints with gates which make for good photo moments.
The islanders speak Quechua, which is different from the surrounding islands because they all speak Aymara. The island is mostly known for its beautiful handicrafts. The men here knit. They wear tightly woven woolen hats which show if they are married (red) or single (white). The suitability of a man is judged by his knitting skills.
This means you can buy handicrafts here, that you can’t buy anywhere else. Don’t forget to check out the shop on the main square! Most of the travellers who visited the island with me were distraught when the discovered the beautiful things I bought there. This island isn’t like the rest of Peru were you can find the same types of souvenirs everywhere. Consider yourself warned 🙂
Again, you can go by organised tour, but you don’t have to. Ferries leave the port in Puno once a day at 6:45am. If you go by ferry I would advise an overnight stay.
As you can see I visited a few of the islands of Lake Titicaca, but many are still on my list. Isla Amantaní is apparently a great place to stay overnight. I would also like to visit some of the Bolivian islands, namely Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna. Isla del Sol is said to be the most beautiful island of them all.
For now, I’ve had a very pleasant day on the islands but I’m sure I’ll return one day. My next post will be about beautiful Cusco.