Lake Titicaca Islands
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. It has a surface elevation of 3,812 meters or 12,507 ft. Lake Titicaca and its islands play an important role in Inca mythology. It is the birth place of the Inca Empire and it is where the mythic journey to Cusco starts.
The unique Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca are a group of 41 manmade floating islands located just 5km east of Puno’s harbor. They are the top tourist attraction as there is nothing like them to be found anywhere else in the world.
To visit the islands you have to go to the dock in Puno where there are many tour boat operators or you can hire a private boat. Tours usually leave early in the morning from 7am until late afternoon. The standard tour takes about two hours and visits the main island and two others.
These islands are populated by local indigenous people, the Uros who first settled in the shores of the lake thousands of years ago. It was during Inca times when they built the islands as a way to escape the aggressive and powerful Incas and their taxation system. The Uros still live on these islands as many natives choose to follow the island lifestyle continuing the tradition of their ancestors.
The floating islands of Lake Titicaca are made from totora reeds found in the shallows of the lake. The building process starts by cutting large chunks of reed from the root and drag them into position, they anchor it into place using ropes and long sticks. Once it is finished the island reaches up to 2.5 meters thick and is able to support homes and their inhabitants and even villages, as one walks there is a soft bouncy feeling. As the reeds at the bottom of the islands rot they have to be continually replaced by new piles on top which creates a habitat that is always evolving. The construction of the islands represents an enormous workload for the people of the tribe, who not only have to build the islands but also their homes and boats to be able to move between islands and to the shore of the lake.
The Uros’ life is simple; they are happy and healthy people. Their way of life has been impacted by modern civilization which goes against the original idea of isolation. There is a clinic and a school on the main island and even a church. Electricity is provided by solar panels. Buildings are still built with totora reeds but roofs have been replaced by tin. The Uros people used to make a living from fishing but this has been replaced by tourism. The biggest of the islands has several buildings with many souvenir shops where tourists can purchase handcrafted jewelry, paintings, fabric, pottery and other local art.
Isla Taquille is different from the other islands. It is located 35 km east of Puno and inhabited by 2000 people. The population of this island is Quechua speaking and rarely marries non-Taquille people. Their relative isolation gives a feeling of detachment from the rest of the world. The scenery is unspoiled by modern life, surrounded by snow peaks of the Andes and the strong highland sunlight against the lake gives a sense of tranquility.
Island of the Sun
Isla del Sol is the largest island of Lake Titicaca. Its terrain is rocky with many hills and has a population of about 800 families who make a living from agriculture, fishing and tourism. Island of the Sun occupies an important place in Inca mythology, it was the place where Viracocha created the Sun or Inti, the most worshipped god in Inca religion.
Island of the Moon
According to Inca mythology it is in Isla de la Luna where Wiracocha created the moon. It is located east of the much larger Island of the Sun.
Isla Amantani is populated by 800 Quechua families who make a living from terrace agriculture, fishing, alpaca farming and tourism. The island is known for its handicrafts specially its textile and ceramics. The island has a surface of about 10 km2. There are no hotels but some families offer lodging which is overseen by the local tourism office.
Lake Titicaca[/intlink] is a geological wonder formed during the pre-ice age about sixty million years ago.
Interesting facts about the highest navigable lake in the world.
Puno is a small port city where the main industry is tourism, it offers a departure point to the many Inca and Pre-Inca ruins and to Lake Titicaca and its islands.