Uros People of Lake Titicaca, Peru

Posted on August 2, 2009 by

The vast Lake Titicaca stretches 58,000 km2 across two countries, Peru and Bolivia, and sits at a high altitude of 3812m. From the distance, it almost looks like the sea with the endless horizon. The legendary lake is stunning, but what draws me to it is the indigenous natives who have created their unique culture and way of living, making them intriguing and all the more captivating.

View of Lake Titicaca from Taquile island

Artificial Floating Villages

A floating village

Around the vicinity of the city of Puno, Southern Peru, there are over 60 little floating villages on Lake Titicaca that the Uros people have constructed with natural resources. Using reeds, or in Quechua language ‘Totora’ (a strong aquatic plant), they build temporary houses that float atop the water surface. The tide washes over their houses at times, so new layers of reed need to be  laid every 2 weeks for better resistance.

Balsa de Totora

Our boat man We had the great opportunity to visit one of the floating villages where 8 Uros families live. Recently opened to tourists, these families are barely familiar with foreigners and can only speak Quechua language (descendents of the Incas).

They showed us their homes, and their colorful work of art and sang beautiful melodies of the Uros. We also got to ride on their boats weaved out of reed, or how they called ‘Balsa de Totora’.

Self-sufficiency

Women of the floating village

tn_IMG_2762The Uros people lead a simple life, catching food from the lake, exchanging fish for any products they need and getting all their basic necessities from the environment. Education (primary and secondary) is free in Peru. They weave their own clothes and materials.

In other words, they are completely self-sufficient. They do not need money as they get everything they need from the natural surroundings. If everywhere in the world worked this way, our environment and the Earth might just be saved from destruction.

Descendants of the Incas

The Inca civilization had stretched from Mexico all the way through to Peru. There are two main groups of descendents from ancient civilizations – the Quechua and the Aymara-speaking people. Puno is the only place in the world where you can find people from the two indigenous groups living unanimously together. Above Puno towards the North, there are only Quechua-speaking people, while in the South are the Aymara-speaking group. It is definitely intriguing to hear the Uros speak these ancient languages that their ancestors had spoken thousands of years ago. Many do not speak Spanish, the official language of the country.

the Aymaras

Taquile Island

Girl on Taquile The soul of Lake Titicaca lies on the unique Taquile Island that is blessed with the natural backdrop of Bolivia’s Cordillera Real (Royal Mountain Range) and a hilly landscape. It also boasts of a thick and rich culture that the locals have fortunately retained and flourished.

The people of Taquile island have their distinct costumes, influenced by Catalunyas’ Sadarnas (Spanish traditional wear).  We were lucky enough to have lunch at a local family’s home, where they shared with us their local dance and costume.

 

Local family on the Taquile island

Lake Titicaca Culinary Delights

tn_IMG_2834The Uros and inhabitants all over Lake Titicaca get their food from the lake, which means fish is their main staple. They do not eat any red meat, and have a healthy diet based on fish, potatoes and quinoa.

Quinoa is an extremely popular South American grain that is as healthy and nutritional as soya bean. We sampled some freshly fried corvina fish and quinoa soup that were definitely some of the best Peruvian cuisine we’ve had. Like what they say, home cooked food is always the best.

Corvina fish with rice and fries

 Dining in a local family's home

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This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip through South America so far, with a surreal and rare peek deep into the hearts of the locals. Despite tourism being over-developed in many countries including some parts of Peru, this part of the world still stays relatively real.

 

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offgrid destinations and adventure travel, she scours through the world in search for a slice of undiscovered paradise. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sealions in the Galapagos and built a school in Tanzania.

21 Responses to “Uros People of Lake Titicaca, Peru”

  1. Tribudragon August 5, 2009 2:06 pm
    #

    I enjoy your stories. Just great ;-)

  2. ZQ | Travel Blog August 10, 2009 3:42 pm
    #

    Interesting floating villages and traditional costumes… its hard to see such sights in many parts of the world now.. perhaps should start planning a trip to South America..

    Nellie, hope you could share your itineraries. :-)

    From a fellow Singaporean travel blogger
    ZQ

    • Nellie October 12, 2009 2:52 pm
      #

      Thanks ZQ, good to see a fellow Singaporean travel blogger around! I'm actually planning to write a post on my route through South America. Stay tuned!

  3. Amanda December 9, 2009 11:12 am
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    That looks like such a tranquil place to visit, it must be a pleasure to see people going about their lives without any great influence from the spectre of modern society. Its such a pity that there are less and less places that go untouched as countries and cultures continue to be warped by tourism or plundered for natural resources driving traditional native communities from their territory. Visiting these places like this seems like a catch 22 situation.

  4. Libertador Hotel February 8, 2010 12:15 pm
    #

    There have been many news reports concerning rain-related damage in the department of Puno, and, on account of those stories, Libertador Hotels, Resorts & Spas wishes to set the record straight that the devastated area is very far away from the destination’s major hotels, around 100 kilometers in fact, and that is why hotel managers and tour operators in Puno are guaranteeing that travelers will be 100% safe.

    “It’s important for tourists to know that hotels are located far from the affected area and that they can stick to their travel plans to go to Lake Titicaca and other destinations around the region with no danger whatsoever,” stated Luis Barboza, Libertador Operations Manager. He went further and asked media to inform that roads connecting Puno with Tacna, Arequipa, and Cusco are operating normally, as are those crossing the border into Bolivia, and that access to the Juliaca Airport is completely open and has not been affected by the rains.

    As some may know, this is the week in which Puno celebrates “La Candelaria”, perhaps its busiest tourist time of the year. The feast is in full swing, and those tourists who have already reached Puno are enjoying the traditions, culture, and natural settings this marvelous destination has to offer.

    Lima, Peru
    February, 4, 2010

    • admin February 8, 2010 4:51 pm
      #

      Thanks for the update. I’m sure readers will continue to visit Puno despite the heavy rain. When visiting the Lake Titicaca, I based myself in Puno and really liked the small city. It’s packed with culture and colonial architecture, yet quaint and small enough to be attractive.

  5. Amanda March 12, 2010 8:48 am
    #

    Thank you. I was traveling with you for a moment! I am planning for a long trip through South America in the next few years. I am seriously envious of your recent experience. The Peruvians certainly have a healthy charm about them and I expect are beginning to realize how special they are in a world that is constantly on the move and changing.

  6. Arielle November 6, 2012 8:37 am
    #

    such a fascinating culture, I’ve been wanting to visit for years as it is so unique. great insight and information, thanks!

  7. homestay Penang May 27, 2013 1:34 am
    #

    This is a new culture to learn about. Its totally new to me in my entire years of traveling. I'm gonna personally visit this for me to experience it myself.

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