A Homestay on Lake Titicaca

Imagine living on an island that floats. Lake Titicaca is home to the most unique living conditions we’ve ever seen. The Uros people build their islands out of reeds that grow abundantly in the lake. A trip to the fascinating Lake Titicaca is a must when traveling in Peru.

Raqch’i

On the way to Lake Titicaca we stopped at the important Inca site, Raqch’i. Tall, two story walls are all that remains of the temple for Inca god Wiracocha. As is the case for many Inca sites, it is built with the position of the sun in mind. Two outer walls of the temple complex were built so that during solstice, the sun would precisely rise between them. It’s not a large site, but worth a stop if you’re in the area.


Lake Titicaca

The highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca (3,812 m) also has one of the most interesting villages floating on its surface. The Uros people have been living on floating islands made from totora reeds for hundreds of years. They began this practice to escape the Inca Empire and continue to live on these islands today. There are over 60 floating islands spread along the reeds. The islands used to be in the middle of the lake, 14 km away, but a storm in 1986 devastated many of the islands so they have since moved closer to the shore. A one hour boat ride from the city of Puno brings you to a group of reed islands. Visiting these islands gives you a glimpse into their fascinating world.

Our boat was met by colourfully dressed women who welcomed us onto their island. Stepping on the island was like walking on an air mattress. The islands are remarkably stable, but there is definitely a sponginess to your steps. The Uros people live a very simple life. We watched one lady grind corn by hand with a grinding stone. Others cooked a stew and bread over an open flame. A flat stone under the fire ensures they don’t burn down their island. They shared their bread with us. It was delicious.

The islands are made using the totora reeds which are woven together and applied in layers. The end result is an island that is up to two meters thick. These reed layers are strong enough to hold weight, but light enough to float. They are tied to long eucalyptus poles and anchored to the bottom of the lake. As you can imagine, the islands require constant maintenance as the bottom of the islands suffer from rot. New top layers of reeds need to be applied every 2 to 8 weeks. An island can last a remarkable 30 years.

Since the reeds are in ample supply in the lake, they are used for more than just to build islands. The Uros people also use them to build their boats, homes and eat the white tender shoots. There is even a reed ‘hotel’ on one of the islands where you can stay overnight.

As with most tourist sites now, the islanders also sell handicrafts to tourists. Some complain that they are very aggressive in their sales, but we didn’t find that. We found them to be very pleasant, but also shy.


Amantani Island

From the floating islands, our boat motored across Lake Titicaca, passing large areas of totora reeds and many natural islands. The 40 km journey took over to 3 hours. Amantani Island is a hilly, dry island whose villagers are from a pre-Inca culture. Our boat was met at the dock by women from the host families dressed in colourful, traditional outfits. Many were knitting as they waited, something they do all day long. There were about eight people on our tour, therefore four host families in total. After our arrival, we were served a delicious lunch of potatoes and vegetable soup with fresh mint tea. The husband in our family was the principle of the school. We ate our meals in the only classroom and slept in a small room at the back.

The island’s primary resource is farming. Terraced gardens fill in the space between adobe homes. They grow potatoes, quinoa and vegetables and raise small animals including goats. It’s very peaceful on the island as there are no vehicles. It’s a tough life though. There was no electricity in our home for light or heat. Generators provided electricity to a couple of businesses and the main hall in town and a few homes now have solar panels.

Our host family’s son, Carlos, was very curious about us. He only knew a few words in Spanish as the islanders speak Quechua. We probably knew less Spanish than Carlos so communication was difficult. We tried to explain how far away we lived, but I think it was too much for him to imagine. He replied by saying that his dad had gone all the way to Puno on the other side of the lake. Carlos was very proud to tell us that he had been to the next island. It made us realize how fortunate we are to be able to travel and see the world. We gave Carlos one of our headlamps since they have no electricity. He was so excited by his new gift that he played with it all night. Thinking about it later, we should have also given him extra batteries.

That evening the village held a party for the eight of us who were staying on the island. They sold beer and snacks and kids from town played music. Carlos from our family was in the band. It was very cute. The tourists were given traditional clothes to wear. Since the island is at high elevation it gets quite cold at night so we put them on over our clothes. We looked ridiculous, but in the end it was a lot of fun.

Tips for visiting Lake Titicaca

There are many different tour operators in Puno offering a wide variety of trips to visit Lake Titicaca. Trips vary in the length of tour and combination of different sites. We booked our tour a couple of days in advance and didn’t have any problems with availability. Homestay tours are reasonable at $40 – $100 USD per person. Rooms at the homestay are basic but clean. It is cool in the day and chilly at night so bring long pants, a warm sweater and a jacket. Also, bring a flashlight as there may not be electricity. Even though there won’t be much physical activity the lake is at high elevation, therefore you need to be acclimatized.


Colca Canyon

After leaving Titicaca we drove through the Colca Canyon. It is the second deepest canyon in the world at a depth of 4,160m. It also very long stretching almost 70 km. Colca Canyon is very scenic with pre-Inca terraces covering almost every inch of canyon wall adding an interesting texture to the landscape.

A local market was selling some of the hundreds of types of potatoes and corn that are grown in Peru. We were told that this part of Peru has three growing seasons.


There are many large Andean condors flying overhead. We stopped at ‘La Cruz del Cóndor’ and were lucky to see a few soaring above. In the morning as the air warms, they swoop down into the canyon below and circle back up with the warming currents.

There are many hikes in the canyon, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to hike here.

Getting to Colca Canyon

If you don’t have your own vehicle you will have to join a tour to visit Colca Canyon. There are local buses from Arequipa, but it would be difficult to visit any of the sites. You have to purchase a Boleto Turistico (Tourist Ticket), check to see if it’s included in your tour price.

Coming Next: Alpamayo Circuit Trek

For extra pictures from Peru click here. For pictures from other blogs go to Gallery at monkeystale.ca

To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.

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36 comments

  • Do the men on Lake Titicaca still knit? They use or used a double-knit technique, so the hats were especially warm. They knitted while on boats, when walking, almost always. Still have mine 30 years later.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oops, 40 years ago! How time flies! Cost only a couple of dollars to stay in a home on an island when we were there, but they have obviously realized the value of their islands in the meantime.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We paid $40 which we thought was fair considering it was 3 islands, 3 meals and around 8 hours on a boat. I’m not sure I’d pay $100, it must be a nice boat!

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    • They knit on Taquile, but somehow we’ve lost all of our pictures from there. We lost a few things when we sold our house for our Asia trip. The men also wear different coloured toques (knitted hats) if they are married or single! We just stopped there for an hour or so.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Great post and wonderful photos. Looks like a real adventure. My son and his wife also visited the floating islands. I would imagine that residents have to be pretty careful with fire on the islands. Stay well and thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  • Great post and stunning photos. We enjoyed Lake Titicaca as well. We did get a sense of it being a bit touristy. We spent a day on Isla Taquile and that was a highlight for us for the Puno area. The commentary in Puna is worth a stop. I highly recommend taking the train from Cusco to Puno. Fascinating landscape and a very comfortable ride and pace.
    Cheers!

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    • You’re right, the floating islands were quite touristy, but Amantani wasn’t at all. Good information on the train ride, maybe next time…

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  • I am very interested in Lake Titicaca. It was one of the places that I missed while visiting Peru. Your photos are fabulous! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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  • My friend had a chance to visit the floating islands many years ago and I was in awe to see trough her photos such unique living conditions. It is said that the lake is a home to very large frogs, did you happen to see them? I’m glad to hear you gave that boy one of your headlamps, it must have made his day. Thanks for sharing such fantastic photos and have a good day 😀 Aiva

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    • We didn’t see the frogs, too bad. Carlos was so happy for the headlamp, but the batteries probably wore out in a few days with the amount he was using it! Thanks for you comments Aiva. Maggie

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  • It looks like you went to all places in Peru I’ve been dreaming of seeing. Not just Machu Picchu and the floating islands, but also the Nazca lines and Amantani. Keep the stories coming, for all of us need to dream of where to go once international travel is possible again!

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    • Thanks Bama, We spent 6 weeks in Peru so were able to see quite a few places. We have one more trekking post and then were done Peru. Hopefully you can go one day soon:)

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  • What a great experience. I find it quite touching that Carlos talked about his dad going all the way to Puno. How limited (in a geographical sense) some people’s lives are. Very humbling.

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  • This must be an incredible journey and experience to walk on the floating island made of reeds, the pictures are amazing. Your stay at Amantani was yet another lovely experience. The innocence as well as the ignorance of Carlos is so touching. Above all you both looked adorable in the traditional dress. 🙂

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    • Haha, well we didn’t bring the style back to Canada! It was so fascinating to see how these people still live today. Many have left the floating islands, but there are still a remarkable number of people actually living on them, it’s not a museum. These people are obviously used to tourists, but meeting Carlos made us realize how un-connected some people still are.

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  • Fantastic photos. What a great experience! My colleague has been all over Peru and raves about Lake Titicaca. I think Peru is her favorite country of all her travels, and she’s traveled pretty widely.

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    • Thanks! Peru is still one of our favourites, if not the favourite. Lake Titicaca is like no where else. It’s like going to a museum, but people live there.

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  • First of all, the photo of the child feeding the llama brought a big smile to my face. I wasn’t expecting the floating islands to look so neat and tidy. The reed houses and boats, while simple look like they are well-maintained. Perhaps I was thinking of our experience at floating villages in SE Asia, where some of them were very run down and filthy. The story about Carlos being proud to have visited the next island is a real opener, isn’t it! I can imagine his excitement with the headlamp. Photo of you two in traditional garb is awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, I love that picture of the little girl and her alpaca. It’s one of my favs. You’re right the floating islands were very clean, I don’t remember seeing garbage, but have heard of others complaining of it. I think when they live in such a small area,and their home requires constant maintenance, they have to keep it tidy. It’s completely unlike the floating homes in SE Asia. I find SA is much cleaner overall than Asia. The humble homes and pathways on Amantani were also very clean.

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