Uros Islands

The Uros Islands are floating islands made of totora reeds that grow near the shore of Lake Titicaca near Puno.  The islands are anchored into place with ropes that radiate out from the edge of the islands.  New reeds are continually laid on top as the reeds at the bottom begin to decompose.

 The Uros Islands

The Uros Islands

To get to the Uros Islands it was a two hour ride in a small boat with an outboard motor. 


 Jose and the boat that brought us to the Uros Islands.  Another floating island can be seen in the distance.

Jose and the boat that brought us to the Uros Islands.  Another floating island can be seen in the distance.

The Uros people are thought to descend from some of the earliest settlers of the Altiplano, the Urus.  Over time they intermarried with the ethnic Aymaras on the mainland and adopted the Aymara language.  Today, Aymara is the predominant native language south of the Puno region and well into Bolivia.  To the north, Quechua is more common.

 A typical home on the Uros Islands

A typical home on the Uros Islands

Totora reeds are used for making the islands, the houses and even the boats, known as balsas. The roofs are waterproof because the reeds expand when they come into contact with moisture, the houses need to be rebuilt and repaired regularly.    

 Balsa

Balsa

Today, the balsas are built with empty plastic jugs inside the reeds to help with buoyancy.  The boats typically last a year or two before becoming too waterlogged to float.  

 The totora reeds are in the background with the mountains on the shore even further off in the distance

The totora reeds are in the background with the mountains on the shore even further off in the distance

The Uros people took to the floating islands to put some distance between themselves and a succession of more belligerent neighbors, the Collas, Incas and ultimately the Spanish.  While fishing was the traditional means of subsistence, today tourism is the main livelihood.  There are no shortages of embroidered tapestries or handicrafts made of totora reeds.

 Children playing on rolled up reed mats

Children playing on rolled up reed mats

Many of the smaller islands are home to only one or two families. The children attend school on one of the larger reed islands.

 Children playing on the Uros with the Chucuito Peninsula in the background

Children playing on the Uros with the Chucuito Peninsula in the background