Uros Islands are one of the most popular attractions on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. Most travelers choose to go on a full-day boat tour to Uros, Amantani and Taquile islands, but did you know that you can also book a homestay with a local family through Airbnb?
On this post, we share our 2-day homestay experience in Uros – our honest thoughts and what to expect in terms of activities, interaction with the host family, accommodation facilities and more. If you’re looking for a non-touristy way to explore Uros Islands, then keep on reading!
Why we chose to do a homestay instead of the island-hopping tour
The main reason why we wanted to visit the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca was to see Uros – a centuries old Aymara community living on an armada of floating totora reed islands.
All prior research encouraged us to use Puno, Peru as a base and take a day tour through the islands. When browsing through accommodation options on Airbnb however, we stumbled upon a homestay experience with a local Uros family.
While we had also read that the island tours were a bit of a tourist trap, the overnight stay experiences had absolutely stellar reviews. At this point we also craved for some authentic connection with the local culture, something we fell short of in Bolivia. Overcompensating perhaps, we booked a 2-night stay expecting to interact with the islanders and experience their way of life.
Arriving to Uros Islands
On arrival to Puno’s Bus Terminal, we proceeded to catch a taxi that dropped us off at the Qalapajra port – a gateway to Uros. Our host Issac, dressed in brilliant traditional clothing, greeted us and invited us to board his motor boat.
The brief ride to the islands was spectacular and made us really excited about our stay. We passed through the narrow reed corridors and small islets full of birds until we entered a vast basin surrounded on all sides by the Uros islands.
The initial sensation of stepping on the reed laden surface of our island was one of fright and awe. After a few steps and confirming that we were unlikely to fall through the cracking reeds we proceeded to met the extended family that would be our hosts for the next two days.
After introductions, we were led into our room. What we found next, exceeded all of our expectations!
Hot shower and lights powered by solar panels, a queen size bed and a charging point with an amazing view of the lake underneath our window.
At closer inspection we further realised that the toilet bowl was compostable (i.e. you cover up your sins with a fragrant compost material). We thought this was a brilliant idea and immediately warmed up to this sustainable way of living. Outside, we had our private patio with two comfy chairs overlooking the lake. Overall, the room facilities were at the level (..if not better) of any city accommodation we have stayed at.
Settled in, we got our books out and made ourselves comfortable while enjoying the tranquil waters, glorious sunshine and cool breeze. An occasional passing tour boat amused us by revealing surprised faces upon seeing a couple of westerners settled on the islands.
Interacting with our host family
Over the next day, we spent time with the family fishing for trout and touring the community islands.
They also taught us traditional Aymara embroidery and reed knitting for souvenirs which was great fun. We felt that they really opened up to us and we ended up chatting for hours on end (granted being a native Spanish speaker was a great advantage).
They explained to us that families live off tourism and have been doing so for decades. The island building skills are passed down the generations. Part of life on the island is sourcing and resurfacing the entire area of the island with fresh reeds on a fortnightly basis. In fact, a reed island can be maintained for almost 25 years and ours was just over 14 years old.
Before our family was able to offer the private accommodation to tourists, they were solely relying on selling the embroidery as well as receiving some shared profit from the Uros community.
So do people really live here?
As far as we could gather, not everyone is permanently based on the islands. We realised that some family members suspiciously disappeared from one day to another. Our theory is that some of them arrive only on the days when tourist boats would dock on their island.
Whether true or otherwise, we concluded that living on the islands only makes sense if the family runs a hospitality business, which would justify putting up with all the inconveniences that the island life brings with it.
Things to do on Uros Islands
Our stay was a perfect balance of relaxation & activity. Below are some of the things we did during our 2-night stay.
– Relax by the lake
– Dress up in local clothes for pictures (Fun!)
– A brief boat ride to setup fishing nets
– Dinner and chat with the hosts
– Early breakfast followed by an hour of relaxation by the lake.
– A boat trip to check on results from the overnight net fishing. We caught a total of 8 small fishes!
– Later in the morning we toured the whole of the Uros Island with our host, checking out other islands and concluding that ours was the best.
– Lunch, followed by more time spent chatting with the family and admiring the lake.
– Embroidery class with more chatting 🙂
– Early breakfast and departure for Puno Bus Terminal
Breakfast, lunch and dinner were absolutely delicious and included items like eggs and fresh orange juice, fruit, salad, quinoa, rice and potatoes with either meat or fish (Lunch and dinner meals were not included in the price of the stay)
Thoughts on the homestay
In terms of “experience” – for the most part we enjoyed it. Learning about the islands and the way of life here is fascinating, regardless of whether anyone is permanently stationed there or not. Of course the community’s main income is tourism, so at times we came to a realisation that not all is as it seems and there is certainly some Disneyland element to the islands.
On a good day, the lake itself is absolutely stunning so enjoying it from a floating island, in peace, in itself is an amazing sensation.
Our hosts were kind, friendly and made sure we enjoyed ourselves. The conversations and laughs we exchanged made the time spent together truly memorable.
How to book this homestay
New to Airbnb? Here’s $40 USD off to get you started!
How long to stay?
We think that staying at least one full day in Uros is an optimal way to experience the islands – anything less may be missing the point.
How much did it cost?
Cost breakdown for 2:
– Accommodation (breakfast included): $27 USD
– Taxi to/from Puno bus station: $4 USD
– Access ticket to enter the community: $3 USD
– Extra lunch and 2 x dinners for 2: $40 USD
Total for 2 people for 2 nights/3 days : $74 USD
Useful tips for your homestay in Lake Titicaca
– It is chilly at night on the lake so bring warm clothes with you.
– Bring cash (Peruvian Soles) to pay for lunch and dinner which are not included.
– There are no shops nearby. Pack your favourite snacks!
– There’s no WIFI available on the island.
– It is always wise to purchase travel insurance prior to your trip for peace of mind.
– Many families command English at a conversational level so set the expectations in that department or you will need to make an effort to speak Spanish!
Planning a trip to Peru? Check out these useful resources to help you plan your trip!
Hope you enjoyed this Lake Titicaca homestay review. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment below!
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