Lake Titicaca is a treasure trove of preserved Andean traditions and nowhere is more representative of this than the islands of Taquile, Amantaní and, of course, the Uros floating islands. Visiting these islands will give you a glimpse into the past and to a way of life that still continues to this day. Many operators will offer trips and even home-stays on these remarkable islands, but here is a little sneak peak at who lives on the islands in Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side.
The magical reed islands of the Uros people look like something out of a fairytale. Floating on lake Titicaca are the man-made reed islands that are still inhabited today. In the nearby shallow waters reeds grow that the Uros harvest and then use to construct their remarkable islands, which are home to more than 30 people and are completely made from lake reeds. The construction for larger islands can even take upwards of a year and require constant repairs as the reeds slowly rot away. This tradition began as a way for the Uros to avoid hostile enemies and preserve their culture away from foreign rule and discrimination. The Uros people are one of the oldest ethnic groups in the Andes and still practice many traditional ways of life with modern additions like solar panels that were provided by the Peruvian government.
Taquileños are one of the oldest inhabitants of Lake Titicaca and have been undisturbed until recently, when they began allowing tourists to stay on the island and experience their way of life. Taquileños are well known for their expertly made handicrafts, which were awarded by UNSECO, and their unique gender roles, something not found anywhere else in Peru. Walking around on Taquile Isand you’ll notice something slightly different to anywhere else in the Andes: the men, rather than the women, perform all the knitting, a unique wrinkle in their society. Taquileños continue to wear traditional outfits that also reflect their martial status and, for the most, remain undisturbed by modern ideas of living. The island still has no need for police and continues to practice ancient Inca traditions and shamanic beliefs.
This island is one of the more difficult to get to, taking about 3 hours from Puno – but the trip is more than worth your time. Staying with the people on the island you’ll be invited into their home, eat with them at their tables and participate in traditional dances. While they continue to practice their traditional ways – their dress, food and work, mainly farming – the islanders are beginning to send their children to Puno and Cusco for school and to find work. While the island has schools for all the children, many parents and young men and women chose to explore life off the island, sometimes never returning. The highlight of the island itself are the two Inca temples that still remain somewhat intact on the top of the island’s mountains. From the Inca temples you’ll get some of the best views of Lake Titicaca.