Visiting the Floating Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca

by Anabel Mota

The Uros floating islands occupy a small corner of the world’s highest altitude navigable lake. It’s fair to say that there is no other place like it on earth.

The people of Uros are believed to be descended from the earliest inhabitants of Lake Titicaca. They’ve preserved a floating lifestyle for many hundreds of years.

Harvested from vast beds that grow on the lake, the humble Totora reed forms the backbone of Uros life. Homes, boats, and the very islands themselves are all made of reeds. As they have for generations, the Uros subsist primarily by fishing, bird hunting, and gathering bird eggs from the reed beds.

These days, the Uros also live by tourism. This has brought a few modern conveniences to the archipelago, including improved sanitary facilities and solar panels which reduce the risk of fires from open flames.

Lake reflects image of reed boat anchored next to Uros floating island

So what’s the best way to scratch a trip to Lake Titicaca off your bucket list while seeing a brilliant example of how humans adapt to the environment in creative ways?

Here’s our breakdown of different ways to visit the Uros floating islands:

Uros Half-Day Tour

Duration: 3-4 hours. Morning, midday, or afternoon departures available.

What to Expect: Departing from the Puno city dock, travel about 20-30 minutes by boat to the main Uros archipelago. You’ll sail through thick reed beds to one of the islands where you can meet the resident families, explore your surroundings, and take tons of photos! You’ll also have the option to ride a reed boat to visit a neighboring island (includes additional cost; payment goes directly to the family that owns the boat).

Group Versus Private Tours: If you’re planning to make Uros the highlight of your trip to Lake Titicaca but don’t have time for a homestay (scroll down for description below), this is one case where it makes sense to spring for a private tour to Uros. With slower pacing, the private tour gives you time to converse with the islanders and learn more about their lifestyle beyond the standard cultural demonstration. Your guide will act as a translator if you can’t speak Spanish. In fact, many islanders speak only Aymara or Quechua. You can also enjoy other activities like bird watching in the surrounding Lake Titicaca National Reserve.

Photos by Alicia Gonzalez Fernandez, Peru for Less

On the other hand, if you’d like to see as many of Lake Titicaca’s islands as possible (they’re all very different!), then an island-hopping tour is a great option.

Island Hopping Tours

Why stop at Uros only? Taquile, Amantani and Suasi islands each represent the wildly contrasting faces of Titicaca’s indigenous cultures. Choose from various tours visiting different combinations of islands. Itineraries range from full-day to 2d/1n or more, with lodging at local homestays or a luxurious Titicaca island retreat. Keep reading to see which one suits you best.

Option 1: The Full-Day Uros & Taquile Tour

Duration: about 10 hours including boat travel time. Morning departure.

What to Expect: Taquile is distinct for its rich cultural heritage and beautiful textile traditions. First stop on the tour is the Uros floating islands, after which your boat sails for about 2 hours to reach Taquile island. 500 steps lead from the shore to the main town plaza. It’s a challenge, but the views are amazing! After enjoying a traditional lunch, you’ll have some time to explore the island and fill your camera with snaps of the gorgeous landscape. Return to Puno before sunset.

Photos by Alicia Gonzalez Fernandez, Peru for Less

Option 2: The Uros & Taquile Tour with Amantani Homestay

Duration: 2 days with 1 night on Amantani

What to Expect: Because of its remote location, Amantani is the most popular choice for a Titicaca homestay. As bookends to this tour, you will visit Uros on Day 1 and Taquile on Day 2.

Tourism on Amantani has been in the hands of indigenous islanders since the beginning. As a result, homestay families are well-prepared to provide fun activities for their guests. You’ll meet your host family on arrival, settle into your comfortable room, and enjoy a day of cultural exchange, perhaps some high-altitude football, free time to hike trails to Inca ruins, and a dance party at night.

Photos by Alicia Gonzalez Fernandez, Peru for Less

Option 3: The Uros Tour with Suasi Eco-Escape

Duration: Various itineraries available.

What to Expect: If blissing out at a luxurious eco-retreat on a private island in the middle of Lake Titicaca sounds like your cup of tea, then combine your trip to Uros with a stay on Suasi island. There’s one scheduled departure from Puno to Suasi every morning, with stops at Uros and Taquile along the way.

Powered by solar panels and built in harmony with the landscape, Suasi was designed as a place for utter relaxation. You can hike from high hills to empty beaches, kayak in the crystalline waters, enjoy the full service spa, or just laze on the hammocks and soak in the tranquil setting.

Rustic rooms are fully equipped, bright, spacious, and all have views of the lake from the terrace or balcony. For a truly magical experience, request a room with a skylight so that you can fall asleep with a view of the twinkling Milky Way galaxy. You can stay as many nights as you wish on Suasi before returning to Puno.

Suasi Island Resort, 2015 Peru's Top Hotel Awards, Peru For Less

Uros Floating Homestay

“Interesting, but touristy,” is the opinion you’ll often hear from people who visit the Uros floating islands on a day trip from Puno. The quality of guided tours varies greatly, and some people come away feeling they were taken to the islands only to buy trinkets and watch staged “cultural demonstrations.”

A homestay on Uros liberates you from the typical experience. Homestay hosts invite their guests to participate in normal daily activities. You can go out on reed canoes and learn to harvest reeds, set out fishing nets in the afternoon and wake at dawn the next morning to bring in the catch. You can try your hand at making crafts or just sit and chat with your host family, sharing stories and perspectives. Any reputable agency can help you arrange accommodation on Uros.

Where Are the Uros Floating Islands?

Locations of Uros, Taquile, Amantani, and Suasi islands on Lake Titicaca map

It’s no wonder Uros is the top attraction in Puno. What will you make of your trip to this man-made marvel? Click Go Discover now.