On the border between Peru and Bolivia you find Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest lake in South America. Puno is the biggest town on the Peruvian side and a gateway to tours of Lake Titicaca’s islands (Taquile and Amantani are the most popular) including the artificial, floating islands made of reed (Uro islands). The people on the Uros have lived on floating islands for about a thousand years!
We stayed in Puno three nights, mostly because Mathias was sick (..again, but this time it probably was the restaurant the first night in Puno), so the only things we did other than laying sick in the room was visit the floating islands and strolling around Puno a bit.
We have to say that the floating islands, although interesting to see, definitely feel very touristy. We were met by a local guide who gave us a quick, well-rehearsed speech about the islands before urging us to buy souvenirs. Next we “cruised” to the main island in a reed boat where we could buy more souvenirs or lunch.
All in all it wasn’t the best experience we’ve had, but it’s definitely interesting that they live on islands made entirely out of reeds! We also learned that they needed to put on new reeds every 15 days and continue doing so for 20 years before they needed to build a new island. The fact that we paid almost twice the price necessary (we hadn’t researched it enough beforehand) for an “all inclusive ticket” that didn’t cover certain unexpected charges on the island (such as the reed boat cruise) may have contributed to lowering our total experience..
Lake Titicaca is a very beautiful place, though very touristy (on both sides of the border). Even so, if you go a little outside the main tourist streets you see the locals living their normal lives: the women in the funny Bowler hats; sheep, chicken and alpacas for sale; and boys hauling mountains of eggs to the market on some very heavy wagons.
The next day we took the scenic route around the lake via Copacabana (the Bolivian main town) to La Paz, and if we’d had more time we would have stopped some days in Copacabana as well, as it seemed a bit smaller and more idyllic than Puno.
Find more pictures from Puno, the floating Uro islands and the rest of Peru here.