Last updated on: Apr 26, 2020
A scenic 30-minute boat ride from Puno, Peru, over deep azure waters brings you to the floating islands for a unique glamping experience at an Uros Titicaca Lodge on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.
For hundreds of years, the Uros people, an indigenous people who pre-date Incan civilization, have relied upon the buoyant, maize-colored totora reeds growing near Lake Titicaca.
Originally borne out of necessity against foreigners, historically, the floating islands were located several miles from shore, where the Uros lived a subsistence lifestyle dependent on fishing. However, a storm in 1986 resulted in extensive damage and caused many to move closer to the shore. The newly relocated communities discovered a new means to survive: tourism.
Now, the floating islands are a place where foreigners are welcome. And one amazing place to experience the islands is Titicaca Lodge Peru, a six-unit property Uros Titicaca lodge offering a luxury glamping experience for under $200 per night.
Villas at Titicaca Lodge Peru are built from tortora reeds and local wood and equipped with king-sized beds, compost toilets, and floor-to-ceiling windows that let in abundant natural light and make the villas warm and cozy!
Since there’s no HVAC system, staff turn on “patio” heaters inside each villa for a few hours at night and place several containers of hot water in each bed to combat the frigid temps on the lake overnight.
Walking on the a floating island took some getting used to, because it felt like walking on a giant, crackling sponge. My feet would sink a little with each step.
I didn’t want to get out of the bed, not even when the morning came, and gazing at calming views of the lake made me want to stay in bed at my Uros Titicaca Lodge even more.
Meals at Titicaca Lodge Peru are included and consist of the usual staples of grains, eggs, fruit, fresh juice, and teas for breakfast. I began each day with a cup of coca tea to help ward off altitude sickness, since Lake Titicaca sits at 12,500 ft (3,800 m) above sea level.
Read more about how to deal with altitude when visiting South America.
To my surprise, I had some of the most delicious fruit ever in this part of South America. I’m not sure if the altitude has something to do with it, but I was more than content to have a meal of fruit.
For dinner, there was usually fish or chicken, quinoa, and potatoes. Given that Peru has nearly 4,000 varieties of potatoes, the potatoes ranged in variety, with most having a very ‘root-y’ taste.
During my stay, I visited a floating island inhabited by a local family, where I learned more about how local people still use techniques passed down from their ancestors to hand weave the reeds to create islands, homes, and canoe-like boats often crafted with heads shaped like animals.
These living foundations are at least 2 meters (6.5 feet) thick, and the base is made from totora roots that are interwoven and tied together with ropes and tortora leaves. They are anchored by eucalyptus poles driven into the bottom of Lake Titicaca and are in constant need of replenishment from the top, as the reeds rot from the bottom.
I also saw firsthand the importance of fishing and how families dig fishing holes in the reed foundation to fish from the lake. Since fishing has been important to the indigenous people of the lake for centuries, I was surprised to learn that many of the endemic species of the lake may become extinct.
One reason that endemic species are vanishing is that the governments of Bolivia and Peru, with encouragement from the US, made the decision to introduce larger fish, like North American trout, to the lake in the 1930s. That’s why you’ll see trout on practically every restaurant menu in both Bolivia and Peru.
Getting to the floating islands offers a bit of adventure itself. I arrived via the Tiquina Strait, a small passage on Lake Titicaca, where cars transfer on wooden rafts, because there is no road between the two Bolivian land masses. The Tiquina Strait is about three hours driving from La Paz, Bolivia, which I had visited previously.
After crossing at Tiquina, I arrived at Copacabana, Bolivia, a small border town town with several shops and restaurants where tourists come to take boat tours to Sun Island and other Inca sites. I spent a few hours in Copacabana having lunch and doing a little shopping.
A short drive from Copacabana brought me to the border between Bolivia and Peru, where I walked across. After clearing immigration on both sides of the border, I was driven about two hours to the edge of the lake, just outside Puno, where I boarded a small boat that docked right in front of the lodge.
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A scenic boat ride on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. The Uros, an indigenous people of Peru and Bolivia, live on more than 100 floating, manmade islands on Lake Titicaca, which were built from the yellow reeds that surround the lake. The Uros are a very friendly people, and I often saw them celebrating and enjoying life!
The journey to the lodge was nothing short of breathtaking with beautiful views at seemingly every turn. From the views above the lake to the views on the lake, the beautiful scenery will stay with me forever.
Have you stayed at Titicaca Lodge Peru before? How was your experience?
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