After Cusco I continued my personal gringo (or in this case, gringa) trail through some of the most popular places in Peru to visit by the tourists, hence the name given to their usual route. My next stop was the city of Puno by lake Titicaca. The city doesn’t offer anything of much interest, except possibly the buzzing market on the main road. It’s almost completely locals buying and selling local goods, with an occasional tourist like me in the mix looking for a cheap snack, authentic photo ops, or both. Some will find it enjoyable for a good half an hour, many will find even that too overwhelming as it’s chaotic and rough around the edges, pretty far from your likely experience of serene, polished hipster farmers’ markets.
This somewhat uninteresting city is located by a lake, however, that is probably one of the most interesting lakes in the world. It’s because of its inhabitants and their curious way of living: the indigenous Uru people build and inhabit floating islands made of reed. Those are the Uros islands on Lake Titicaca.
Almost everything here is made of totora reed: the islands, houses, boats. Today the Uru also have motor boats, solar panels and a few other modern commodities, but otherwise still live pretty much like they did centuries ago. Only now they also have boatloads of tourists visiting daily.
Stepping foot on these wobbly islands first feels exciting. You’ll notice soon that they’re very firm and you don’t need to fear them coming apart under your feet. Most of the islands have unique decorative structures that make for nice photo ops (maybe made just for this purpose), but so do just the regular reed houses. The locals invite you to sit down with them inside their homes. They’ll talk about their ways of living and showcase their handicrafts that are, of course, for sale.
The tours to the islands are very affordable and available to buy from the Puno marina by just showing up in the morning for the same day. Day tours last a few hours and usually take you to at least a couple of different islands, with a ride on one of the traditional boats offered to the next island for a small extra cost. Overnight stays on some of the islands are also possible if you’re up for a step further experience. This gringa happened to be there in the winter so the weather wasn’t tempting for an elongated excursion, so the trail was to be continued without trying out the Uru life for a night.