Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America. It straddles both Bolivia to the East and Peru to the West and, at 3811 m (12,500 ft) above sea level, is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world.
Located on the lake are several floating islands (or Islas Flotantes as they’re known in Spanish). You can arrange a tour around these islands with either your guest house in Puno in Peru or via one of the boats at the dock in Puno.
The day’s tour kicks off via a half hour boat ride to get to the islands. The islands are all made of cut reeds which sit on the roots of reeds and are fantastically spongy to walk on! I was told the inhabitants of the islands have really soft feet (not that I touched them…) but I was told that when they go to Puno and have to walk on pavements, they walk weirdly because they’re just not used to walking on hard ground!
After an island is constructed, it lasts for about seventeen years after which the reeds start breaking up and the residents have to build new islands onto which to move everything and everyone. Each island is inhabited by families and their relatives. They have their own schools and also their own “medical centre” which is visited by the mainland doctor every so often. The islanders make their own boats also out of reed and, for a small fee; you can get rowed around in one of them for a while.
After visiting the floating islands, the tour continues to Isla Taquile, a small steep sided island which features terraces which the locals use for agriculture. Interestingly there are no dogs here because they are considered to be bad luck. Also, there are no donkeys here which is strange because it’s very steep in parts but seemingly the locals transport everything under their own steam.
The pathway to the center of the island is a typical Inca road on which you encounter some of the locals on your way to the islands square. The island’s inhabitants are all dressed in traditional dress. The men wear dark trousers, a white shirt, an embroidered cummerbund to protect their stomach and back when lifting heavy things, and a knitted cap which is red if they are married and red and white if single. The women wear full skirts, black head scarves and different colored tops again depending if they are married or single.
The whole community here appears to knit for Peru! But strangely and uniquely here, the women spin the wool and the men do the knitting! The men all just hang around with about 4 or 5 needles in their hands chatting whilst they blindly knit. It takes about 5 days to knit one cap apparently.
Coming here is really like stepping back in time. It seems a really lovely peaceful place to live, away from all the hustle and bustle of our lives back in Europe.
After taking a delicious fish lunch on the island, the boat returns gently back to Puno and everyone sits quietly in the warm afternoon sun as it twinkles upon the beautiful blue water.
If you’re in Peru then this tour is highly recommended, not only for its unique cultural insight but also for the immense pleasure of boating along what must be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
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