Uros Islands (3 hours tour from Puno) Although the Uros Indians of the floating islands have intermarried with Aymara Indians and no pure-blooded Uros exist, many of the inhabitants of the islands still practice the old traditions of fishing, trapping birds and living on the lake plants. The totora reeds which grow abundantly in the shallows of Lake Titicaca are used for their boats, houses and to build the very islands on which they live. The result is a strange springy surface which requires care when walking – it’s easy to put your foot straight through! This strange way of life began over 500 years ago when the Uros built the islands in an effort to isolate themselves from the Collas and the Incas.
Most tours only visit one or two of the largest of the thirty or so ‘Puno Bay’ communities. Many of the other communities still practice a more traditional lifestyle without intrusion from tourism. On the islands visited by the tour groups you will have the opportunity to buy beautiful handmade weavings and collages depicting the life on the islands. The inhabitants on some islands have built small ‘museums’ with stuffed birds inside, or lookout towers to get a better view. For a dollar or so you can usually take a 10 minutes ride on the lake in a traditional reed boat. All in all it makes for an interesting visit since there’s nowhere else quite like it in the world.
Taquile Island (day or 2 day tour including the Uros Islands)
A more interesting island to visit is Taquile, some 45 km from Puno, on which there are numerous pre-Inca and Inca ruins and Inca terracing. The island is narrow, only about 1 km wide, and 6-7 km long. There is a cooperative shop on the island that sells exceptional woollen goods which are not cheap but of very fine quality.
Most tours of the Uros & Taquile Islands depart at 7am and include transport from your hotel to the port, return transport by motor boat to Taquile (stopping at the islands of Uros for 30 minutes on the way), English speaking guide, entrance fees, eventually overnight in a farmers house and transfer from the port back to your hotel, arriving at your hotel at about 5pm.
Amantani Island (normally a 2 day / 1 night tour including the Uros and Taquile Islands) Another island well worth visiting is Amantani. It is very beautiful and peaceful, and in many ways less spoiled than Taquile. There are six villages and ruins on both of the island’s peaks, Pacha Tata and Pacha Mama, from which there are excellent views. There are also temples and on the shore there is a throne carved out of stone. The residents make beautiful textiles and sell them quite cheaply at the Artesania Cooperative.
The tour price usually includes accommodation, lunch and evening meal on the first day and breakfast the following morning. Groups typically leave Amantani at 8am in the morning for the 1 hr 45 min boat ride to Taquile where you will visit the main village and ruins. After lunch you take the boat back to Puno, arriving at approximately 5pm. An English speaking guide, entrance fees and transfer from the port back to your hotel are usually included.
Remember to bring some gifts for your family on Amantani. Items such as pens, pencils, fruit and vegetables (which don’t grow on the Island), batteries or postcards from your home town are all warmly welcomed. Don’t be over generous either since they’ll expect it from all tourists.
Suasi Island More than a place, the Suasi Island is a life experience. The vastness of the Lake Titicaca can be observed from everywhere in the island. The island has 106 acres and is home of the four South American camelids (llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and guanacos).
Very comfortable Casa Andina Private Collection Suasi, the only hotel on the island, lies on a mild and sheltered hill next to magnificent Andean terraces plenty of flowers.
There are two options for getting Suasi Island; travelers can get there by land or by lake.
To reach Suasi island, we recommend to take the route by lake (visiting Uros and Taquile Islands). It takes about 5 hours from the Puno pier to reach the island.
To return to Puno or Juliaca, we recommend to take the route by land that goes round the northern side of the lake, almost out of the beaten path, along a road with amazing lake views and crossing through very interesting Aymara villages, like Moho, settled in an astonishing roses garden valley in the middle of the Altiplano highlands.