Founded in the 17th century and located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Puno is a popular destination for indigenous communities from around Peru who admire the city for its jubilant festivals and storied folkloric history. The town itself is on a thin strip of activity whose population consists largely of the indigenous Uros community. For tourists, however, the town is best known as a popular basecamp for exploring Lake Titicaca, its famous floating islands and the Uros people who live there.

view of the floating islands and tortola reed boats of Lake Titicaca, Peru

The Uros refer to themselves as kot-suña, meaning "the people of the water. Accordingly, the lake is home to over 40 floating islands that are carefully constructed out of bundled totora reeds and are the traditional home of the Uros, considered one of the oldest native groups in South America. At the bottom of each Totora reed is a block of roots, which the Uros bind together until eventually, they form an island. As the blocks of reeds decompose, they produce gases, which give the islands the ability to float. After the roots are covered with two meters of dry reeds the islands become strong enough for the Uros to live on. Though many families live on their own reed islands, two popular, natural islands where visitors can explore and mingle with the Uros are Amantani and Taquile.

local Uros from the Lake Titicaca, Peru islands of Amantani and Taquille

As the popularity of Cuzco and Peru as a tourist destination continues to grow, more and more people visit Puno and Lake Titicaca each year. Today, tourism is the primary source of income for the Uros people. Though the islands are the main attraction, most visitors spend either a half-day or a full day visiting the islands and then return to Puno to spend the night. For those who want to spend an overnight out on the lake, there are lodging and basic food accommodations available on both Amantani and Taquile.

Cruising around on Lake Titicaca, Peru

For those visiting Lake Titicaca, the floating islands are great way to spend a few hours. Tickets for boat tours around the lake can be purchased in Puno. Before you go, visitors should know the weather in Puno is unpredictable as it is in most of the highly elevated Andes region. Situated at an elevation of 3,822m and located next to the world's highest navigable lake, drastic changes in temperature are the norm. The sun rays are surprisingly strong and the nights, startling cold.

stopping for a pose high up in the Puno region of Peru