Lake Titicaca lies 12,500 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains, one of the largest lakes in South America. Located in southeast Peru along the border with Bolivia, the area remains steeped in local history and fascinating traditions. When visiting Peru with children, Lake Titicaca’s a great place to see Inca ruins, learn about Peruvian folklore, and tour one of the many man-made Uros Islands.
People have lived here for thousands of years and learned to adapt to extreme conditions and life on the water. With approximately 70 man-made structures floating in the lake, the Uros islands remain a testament to the Uros people’s ingenuity and adaptability.
How It All Began
The Uros people have lived on Lake Titicaca for approximately 3,700 years and even pre-date the Inca Civilization. Yet, their origins remain obscured by history and mystery. According to oral tradition, they originated in the Amazon but migrated to the lake. They found Lake Titicaca occupied by another people who proved hostile to the newcomers.
Unable to fend off their oppressors and limited by available land and resources, the Uros floated out into the middle of the lake on makeshift rafts crafted from totora, a thick reed that flourishes along the banks of the lake. In the middle of the lake, the Uros found refuge and constructed a living as fishermen and bird hunters.
Over time, their man-made havens grew to 70 islands. Most were located at least nine miles from shore, a guarantee they would not be bothered by outsiders. But in the mid-1980s, a storm ravaged the islands forcing many Uros to relocate closer to shore.
The Uros moved their island homes near the relative security of Puno, the largest city on Lake Titicaca and Peru’s folklore capital. This new location changed the Uros way of life forever as their islands transformed from private escapes into major tourist destinations. Today, tour boats ferry approximately 200,000 visitors each year to the islands for a glimpse of their homes, festivals, and traditional lifeways.
The Uros Islands
What can you and your children expect on a trip to Peru and the Uros islands? Each of the islands proves relatively small, about 50 feet by 50 feet. They contain a few thatched houses apiece and are occupied by a single extended family. They rotate their hospitality services on a daily basis. So, while half the islands remain open for tourists, the other half take a break for fishing, hunting, artisanal work, and normal day-to-day life. Then, they switch.
The islands feel squishy underfoot despite the fact that each one measure up to 12 feet thick. Residents work tirelessly to maintain them. Formed with giant pieces of floating earth. These pieces of earth are tethered together using long cables. The pieces of earth are also tethered to the bottom of the lake. The totora must constantly be added to, and so cutting fresh reeds and drying them is a regular chore. The Uros also use this reed material to build houses and boats.
Peru with Children
Some Uros families now offer overnight immersive experiences on their islands. They are committed to authenticity and helping outsiders better understand their way of life and traditions. When traveling through Peru with children, the Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca will fascinate your entire family.
Want to learn more about travel to Peru for kids? A country rich with delectable food, kid-friendly destinations, and diverse cultures, you and your family will love this South American gem. At Our Whole Village, we create tours carefully designed for families who want to create lasting memories. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its peoples, and cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable experiences that we handcraft for families just like yours.