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“Living on a floating Island”

Uros Floating Islands
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Half-Day Tour to Uros Floating Islands from Puno
Ranked #5 of 53 things to do in Puno
Certificate of Excellence
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Reviewed February 10, 2013

Uros is, in fact, a collection of 78 floating islands, each one made by the people who live on them. Each island has a name; we visited Tata Inti (Father Sun), an island with 5 families that was built 20 years ago. Marta, the local notary, gave us a demonstration of how an island is built and maintained, then talked about living on the lake. The primary activity is fishing but the women make tapestries that they sell to visitors. We visited another island that has two small restaurants, a small grocery store, and several artisan displays.

Day trips to the Uros Islands is possible but it is also bundled with an overnight trip that includes a stay on Amantani Island and a visit to Taquile Island.

The only criticism: we would have liked to visit at least one other, larger island, which may have been possible on a day tour but is impossible when there is a 3-hour boat ride to the next stop: Amantani.

Thank tsmada
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed February 10, 2013

I will share what I experienced and you can decide how you will navigate this.

Uros is a floating island built on cubes of root mass covered with reeds and anchored to shallow bottom. The three hour tour will take you on boat VERY SLOWLY, to kill time. You will arrive at dock where the locals are selling the same tourist items at the dock area. They did not produce these things. There is nothing else there.

I and a few others were invited into a simple one room shack, "to see the culture". We were shown the wool blankets under mattress to keep out moisture. Now we are feeling pity. We are then taken by the hand directly to the wife of owner and her table of tourist trinkets already mentioned. Being a soft hearted fool I thought, okay, I'll give them something. My young daughter picked something she liked and then, the real insult, the wife asks 3 times what might be reasonable. Being the man's "house guest", I was in a bind. Next time, I would just say no thanks and walk away, the entire sentiment smashed, but I just shook my head and gave her the outrageous price. I'm sure they could use it.

Next we are taken to a very untraditional, but actual reed bundled boat, for 3 minute paddle straigh out and straight back to the "second island" which was actually just 50 meters to the side, and we could of walked there on a little board walk.

We dock there, 50 meters from where we just were, to find only a tiny restaurant. And there is nothing else to do there for almost an hour.

It is totally and completely a tourist trap, literally. The houses are mostly one room plywood cabins, but those visible from canal have been wrapped with reed mats to make them look "cultural", though some of those are falling off showing the plywood.

This was the half day trip. The whole day trip includes another actual island, starting with letter A which I didn't go see. The blatant tourist trap made me sick.

Now that you are warned, you might do trip prepared and not surprised.

2  Thank songtree
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 8, 2013

A true wonder these islanders live in what we might consider the most basic of conditions no sanitation, no plumbing, no electricity by choice! They are multi talented and men and women work side by side. Wonderful to see these islands surviving from before the Spanish invasion of Peru a couple of hundred years ago.

1  Thank Sandra James S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 7, 2013

I spent 24 hours on Cristina Suaña´s Khantati island in Uros and it was really a very unique experience. We were picked up in the morning around 10 am from our hotel and were taken to the island via private boat. Victor (Cristina´s husband) gave us a good lesson on the island mechanics and history as well as history about the area. We went out with him to see how he sets his fishing net and also went with him to retrieve the fish in the morning. The food was AMAZING. Three meals of really awesome food and Cristina can cater to vegetarians. There was a fair amount of down time to chill out and explore the island and relax. They also have you dress up in traditional clothing which was actually kind of fun.

They have some stuff to sell you which is very nice, but kind of awkward if you don´t want to buy anything. Also, you will get more out of the experience if you can speak at least a little Spanish.

If you want more than just the one hour stop that the ferries make to Uros, this is the only other way to go. It cost 170 soles (about $65). Well worth it for the experience, pictures, and great nights sleep.

1  Thank TennesseeGypsy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 4, 2013

My trip to the Uros Islands brought back memories of the Hekawe Indians from the 60s comedy "F Troop." For those of you too young to remember, the "Hekawes" were a ficticious tribe that crafted souvenirs for Sgt O'Rourke and Corporal Agarn, who shipped them back east for retail. Similarly, the entrepreneurial Aimara people who inhabitant the Uros Islets craft interesting souvenirs from reeds for the thousands of tourist who come to visit. In addition to handicrafts the Uros, fish and hunt as well to support their families and island communities.

BTW, if you don't know yet, the entire Uros archipelago is in existence due to the ingenuity (and persistence) of the Aimara who use the ever-abundant reeds to construct floating islands on Lake Titicaca. Los Uros are forever maintaining their little islands as the reeds decay quickly, and they replace it with another layer of vegetation. Putting aside the kitschie side of the souvenir trade, a trip to the Uros Islands is facinating and educational. In my book, the people of "Los Uros" are brilliant, and have used what Mother Nature has given them, to become a self-sufficient and thriving community of several thousand.

My wife and I used a tour company to book and coordinate the procurement of entry permits and ground transportation. Our company booked us for an all day tour of Lake Titicaca including visits to the Uros Islands and Taquile Island. Initially, we were fine with this, but when we were told that the trip to Taquile Island was an additional 2 1/2 hour boat ride from Uros, we opted to catch the next water taxi back to the port at Puno. After spending many years at sea while in the Navy, I was not looking forward to spending another 10 hours cruising Lake Titicaca. I also was by the half-hour climb up the side of a cliff on Taquile Island, as well... especially at an altitude of 12,500 feet. LOL. I digress.

We departed the port of Puno at 7:30 am with a dozen and a half other sleepy-eyed tourists from all over the globe aboard a cramped water taxi. Our guide, Rene, spoke fluent Spanish, and beginner-level English, so I listened to him in Spanish. The trip to the first Uros islet took 40 minutes.

As we approached the landing at the floating island, 4 Uros maidens greeted us with open arms. We were escorted to the center of an encampment where Rene, along with the assistance of one of the island ladies, described the daily routine of life on Uros, how the islands were constructed and maintained, and how rugged it was living as a poor native on a floating island. The ladies, in their beautiful, colorful costumes sang a few songs in (what I think) is Quechua. Then all the stops were pulled, and the ladies unleashed their secret weapon : two little girls in colorful "dress uniforms." The little girls were not shy, and delighted in entertaining their worldly audience.

My wife was feeling the effects of a night of poor sleep at high altitude. One of the Uros women offered my wife the use of her reed hut to rest. As we entered the hut, our host hawked handmade handicrafts before my wife sat herself down on the cot. I was offered a miniature replica of a reed barge for 40 soles ($16 US). My wife looked at me painfully, and quipped: "Don't you have enough 'kitsch' in your library already?" I nodded, but I really liked the little boat. My attempts to negotiate the price were in vain. My Aimara amiga would not budge from 40 soles... so the sale went nowhere. (She knew there would be plenty more potential customers arriving in the next few hours... LOL). My wife never did get her promised "rest", and ended up buying a 2 sole trinket to keep the peace with our high-pressure hostess. We left the hut for the sunlight, and noticed that the rest of our group was getting worked over by our native hosts.

The group was invited aboard two reed barges, and the little darlings followed suit. While we marveled at the construction of the hand-woven vessels, the girls entertained with various ditties in Quechua, Spanish, English and French... all the while collecting 1 sol coins from the members of their enchanted audience. I asked one of the little girls if she knew a song in Aleman (German)... before I could say "Ach, Du Liebe"... she broke into a duet with another 3-year old, and sang the Uros version of "Alle Meine Enten Schwimmen auf dem See." I was floored, so I handed over a 1 sol coin to each of them.

The President of the islet, "Rio Wily" came out to the landing, and greeted us in Quechua... and then Spanish. He explained how things like sanitation, education and medical care is something that "you" (meaning us) take for granted. He went on to explain how rheumatism is rampant in island communities like "Rio Wily." He paused, and ask us to contribute an additional 10 soles per person for a barge ride across the channel to the islet, Hananpacha. A group of backpackers topside shouted "No." My wife and I were hostage to the fact that we needed to get to Hananpacha for the next water taxi bound for the mainland, so we agreed to the tribute.

The President of Rio Wily, and his "first lady", paddled us across the channel. We were met on the other side by our guide, Rene, who lent a helping hand to each of the passengers disembarking the barges. He herded the group aboard the water taxi bound for Isla Taquile.

My wife and I found some shade in the "annex" to the islet cafe. A bright young lad of 12, named Cristian, brought us a coffee and herbal tea (at 3 soles a piece). Over at the next table, three Chilenos started chatting with my wife while I befriended Cristian. He wanted to practice his English, so he wanted to chat with me. He actually spoke very good English. I was amazed how bright and savvy young Cristian is. He explained that his uncle, who was overseeing the operation of the island maidens, is the President of the islet community, Hananpacha. He added that someday, he will be the President, but said that was still a long ways off. Young Cristian plied us with more coffee and herbal tea (at 3 soles each) until our water taxi bound for the port arrived. I also let him borrow my binocular so he could do some "bird watching." In the meantime, Cristian's uncle, Luis, asked if I wanted to mail a postcard to my family or friends. I asked, "How much?" He said 10 soles ($4 US). I've done crazier things, so I decided to send a postcard to my dad in New Jersey. Luis carefully placed the stamp on my postcard, and placed an ornate postmark from the community of Hananpacha. (I asked my dad to send me an e-mail when (or if) he received it. LOL.)

Finally, our ship pulled in. I asked Cristian to give me my binoculars back, and we boarded the water taxi for Puno. Luis told Cristian to get back to work, and we said our good-byes.

Would I recommend taking this tour? Yes, indeed! There is much that citizens of the so-called "first world" can learn from those who live and thrive in a so-called "third world environment" like Uros. I take my hat off to the Aimara who live and work on the Uros Islands.

The Uros Islands do not accommodate the needs of the physically-challenged.

3  Thank Eulenspeegel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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