Islas Flotantes- The Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca

Floating Island Titikakka

Uros WomanThere are a lot of reasons to visit Lake Titicaca. Perhaps you want to find out the truth as legend dictates that in dividing up the lake between the two countries it’s proudly asserted by the Peruvian people that Peru got the titi and Bolivia got the kakka. For me, it’s an all of none experience. Eager to cross the border into Bolivia and explore the lake from that perspective, but rather than jump the gun this morning, Jeremiah and I decided to take a boat ride to the infamous Islas Flotantes (floating islands).

While the floating islands have arguably become Lake Titicaca’s number one tourist attraction, behind the parade of tour boats and staged tours, they are an amazing anomaly and mind-boggling sight here high in the Andes. First, Lake Titicaca has the reputation of being the highest navigable lake in the world, and at 12,500 feet it never freezes because it’s too damn big. Way before the Spaniards came tromping through the region the indigenous Uros started building these islands centuries ago from reeds found near the shore of this massive lake. In their desire to maintain their culture and to forebode the aggression of the Incas and the Collas they isolated themselves on these floating islands. Mind you that the reeds have a rather short lifespan so the reeds on the top are constantly replenished making walking on these unique islands bouncy and mushy. They anchor the islands with the reeds to plants and rocks in the water and as the weather and water levels change they move their islands at will.

Even more, the houses on these islands are built of the tortora reeds and the reeds are also used as a staple food and for boats which they use to fish and, of course, to harvest more reeds. Today more than 300 families live on the floating islands. Some islands refuse to accept tourists while others are happy to share their lifestyle and let you romp around the small islands.

A few hours after our island hopping excursion we were passing through the Peru/Bolivian border and heading into the tiny town of Copacabana, Bolivia – a base-camp for exploring other fixed and permanent islands of Titicaca. Jockeying through crowded market streets of yet another cobblestone colonial town we manage to find our way to our preselected hostel only to find they are sold out. So more jockeying through dark alleys and torn up streets until we found an acceptable place to rest bods and bikes.

Tortora Reeds Islands

Island Reeds Water Island Terrain

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