Tourism Gone Wrong in Peru

The last stop on a recent trip to Peru, Lake Titicaca, was high on my list of sites to see within the country. Let’s be honest, my desire to see this place was partially because of the name, which is hard to say with a straight face.

The Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca

The largest lake in South America, Lake Titicaca is also the highest navigable lake in the world. The high altitude definitely takes some time to adjust to and I caught myself short of breath on many occasions.

One of the things that drew us to this part of the country (which isn’t the easiest to get to), was the opportunity to visit the famed floating islands, which are made out of reeds. I’d seen the pictures and was excited to see them first-hand.

Isla Uros

It was the last day of our 10 day adventure and we set out from the town of Puno to explore Isla Uros, the largest of the floating islands. Instead of signing up for a guided tour, we figured we’d head to the ferry and make our own way there. After purchasing our tickets for the ferry and a separate ticket to get on the island, we were ushered onto the boat.

A short ferry ride later, we made our way on to one of the tiny islands that comprise the Uros Islands.  “It feels like we’re at some sort of Disneyland,” my friend commented as we arrived.

As soon as we got off and made our way on to the island I thought ‘uh oh,’ this doesn’t look good. We were made to sit in a circle, while someone from the island explained the construction process and their way of life (using the model below).

Model of a floating island

Unfortunately, we didn’t understand much of what was said, as it was explained in rapid Spanish (and I have the comprehension level of a five-year old). After the lengthy explanation was completed we were told we’d be separated into small groups to visit the different homes. We were ushered into a small one-room house, while a woman explained how she lived. I tripped walking through the door-way and almost demolished the house! Some house guest I am.

Dirty clothes hung from pegs on the wall and a blanket covered one side of the floor. The homeowner was missing her front tooth and had a pair of jeans on underneath her traditional attire (likely thrown on before we arrived). I seriously had to question whether or not she even lived on the island. Afterwards were were expected to purchases trinkets from the locals, who had set up shop for our visit.  To be honest, parts of the island stunk – like poop.

Trapped on Isla Uros

It wasn’t long before we were ready to head back to the mainland. But no, our exciting adventure wasn’t over yet. We were told we had to pay more, as we were first being taken over to another island on a traditional boat.

This island had a ‘delightful’ looking restaurant, swarming with flies. With nothing to do but sit and wait, we ordered cold drinks to kill the time.  Other visitors opted for food, but we stayed clear. Someone even ordered a huge bowl of potatoes, strange I know (Peru has hundreds if not thousands of varieties of potatoes). I sipped on a Coke but couldn’t make it through the entire bottle, for fear I’d have to pee. I’d been told by one of my brave friends that the washroom was one of the worst things she’d ever seen.

Another island, that looked a whole lot like the first one we saw.

This was the biggest letdown we experienced in Peru. Obviously, it can happen anywhere you go, but this place has so much potential to be a truly unique site.

It takes a lot for me to dislike a place, but here it was almost unavoidable. For such a famous destination, it was a huge disappointment. The place was dirty and just felt like one big money grab. A total sham.  It made me sad in some respects, as this could be a really special place. It was a wasted day for our group and a wasted opportunity for the people of the floating islands.

So much wasted potential

Would I go back here? No way. Would I recommend it to other travellers? Absolutely not. I loved the nearby town of Puno, but stay away from the Uros Islands.

Have you been to the floating islands? What did you think?

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4 Comments on “Tourism Gone Wrong in Peru”

  1. roamingtheworld Says:

    Ah, that’s unfortunate. I think I would go to visit just because of the name as well! It’s disheartening to see tourism gone wrong but unfortunately, as we become a more global world, it’s bound to happen! Sadly.


  2. janalinesmalman Says:

    This is sad but unfortunately this is happening so many places.


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