Puno & Lake Titicaca Tours - Visiting Uros and Taquile Islands

Monday, 2 April 2018


Puno is the main tourist hub for visiting the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. It’s not pretty and there’s little to do in the town itself, but that said you’d be mad to leave it out of your Peru / South American itinerary because the day trips out onto the Uros floating islands and to Taquile Island are unique and wonderful. Having already visited the world’s highest lake on the Bolivian side, we kind of felt that we’d seen all there was to see, especially having spent a couple of nights on Isla del Sol. It’s fair to say we were very wrong. Copacabana (Bolivia’s Puno) may be a whole lot prettier but in our opinion there’s so much more weird and wonderful culture to discover heading out onto the lake from Puno. From the Aymara speaking people of Uros, who live their whole lives on islands they’ve made out of reeds, to the knitting men of Taquile, described by UNESCO as being the best in their trade in the world, we feel like we’ve explored so much of this amazing lake and have enjoyed every inch of it. 

So, rather than writing the usual city/town guide this post will be more about what to expect of Lake Titicaca tours from Puno. Enjoy!

Uros Floating Islands

We had a few preconceptions of the Floating Islands, as the way they’d been advertised to us and talked about by other travellers it seemed like it could have been one of those slightly upsetting activities where you can’t help but think that tourism has destroyed the old traditions and cultures of the people who live there. We didn’t want to feel like intruders, but we did want to see how these people live about their daily lives on Islands made of reeds.

Luckily the experience was much more of the latter. The Uros people have embraced tourism as a way of selling their knitted and woven products to provide funds for their children to be educated properly. However it still seemed that they lived peacefully and were not overly disturbed by tourism as due to the number of different Floating Islands, there was a rotation meaning each island only had visitors around once a week. 

When we arrived we were given a brief explanation of how the islands are made and maintained, before splitting off into groups to go into the houses of those who lived there. This was such a lovely experience. ‘Jonny’ (named after his favourite actor Jonny Depp) the assumed ‘president’ of the island, told us all about his family and how he met his wife out on one of the boats he helped made. 



After talking for about 20 minutes all about life on the island, traditions and Uros culture they naturally asked whether we’d like to buy any of their products. Now  your instant reaction might be that their products are overpriced compared to back in Puno, but everything is made by hand by the locals and takes a long time. Even if this weren’t to be true, these people are relying on tourists buying something every week to be able to continue living their lives the way the currently are - embracing modernisation, encouraging education, but not forgetting their tradition and culture. For this reason we felt it important to buy some things, even if it were only small due to budget restrictions. 

Later on, we went on a small boat ride on their ‘Mercedes Bens’ across to a different island where you can get a tourist passport stamp, a snack and a hot drink!


This took us to about 11:30am, baring in mind we were picked up from the hostel at 6:30am and so if you decided to visit the Uros Floating Islands and nothing else, it would be a half day tour, getting back into Puno for around lunchtime. However on our tour a visit to the island of Taquile was also included...

Taquile Island

Back on the speedboat, we headed for Taquile Island, about an hour and a half further from Uros. The island instantly struck us as very similar to Isla del Sol in its size, landscape and unforgettable backdrop of the Andes. 

Once off the boat we started a gradual ascent towards the local restaurant where we’d be eating our lunch. Lunch was included in the tour and was much better than the usual tour lunch, with fresh trout as the main. Whilst sat down we were given a talk all about the people living on the island and how their traditions differed from those on mainland Peru or on the Uros Islands. 






So it turns out that the men on Taquile Island knit as much as the woman and in fact, according to our guide, their knitting has been recognised by UNESCO as the best in the world of that kind. All of the men wear the most ridiculous hats, white bottomed for the single men and colourful for the married! Even more amusing was the old tradition where women on the island would choose their partner by putting water in the man’s hat, waiting a few minutes and seeing whether the knitting was tight enough for it to not pass through. The idea being, good knitter, good husband.


We kept learning more and more about the people who live on Taquile as we went along which was genuinely really fascinating. The island was beautiful to walk around and the terrain wasn’t too challenging despite the altitude - definitely much easier than the first ascent on Isla del Sol (you’ll know what we mean if you’ve done it!) 

Taquile Island really did seem like a great alternative to visiting the popular Sun and Moon islands on the Bolivian side of the lake, especially considering the current situation on Isla del Sol.

We both agreed that Taquile Island was just as worth visiting as the Floating Islands and we’d really recommend taking the tour if you have the time for a full day trip. We arrived back in Puno in the evening in time to go out and look for some dinner.

Where to eat in Puno?

We weren’t in Puno long, only going out to eat twice. The first place really isn’t worth mentioning, but the second was brilliant. Mojsa serves up Peruvian based dishes with a twist. The Alapaca Ragout Canalone, steaks and fish were all excellent, including the Ceviche starter (Peru’s raw fish speciality). 
Don’t be put off my the prices, which at a glance may be over your budget because the meal sizes are huge! Either order a starter as a main or a main to share and you’ll be full of great food at a cost of only 20 soles.

How much was the tour?

We paid $17us pp for the tour which we felt was a great price for everything included (great lunch, English and Spanish speaking guide, boat transport etc). The company we used was called, ‘Great Trip Titicaca EIRL', click here for a list of their tours.

Accommodation 

We normally like to put where we stayed but we wouldn’t particularly recommend the hostel, ‘Homecentre Puno’ and so are not going to write much about it here! 

However Booking.com is an absolute dream for finding cheap and reliable accommodations and checking reviews. Click here and use the code LISSAW65 when booking to get £15 off your first stay using Booking.com!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading and maybe even found it a little bit useful!

Thanks,

Will & Melissa

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