Taquile Island is a little strip of land 5 miles long and less than 1 mile wide, located in the centre of Lake Titicaca in Peru. Yet despite it’s size, it is a place big on culture, big on uniqueness, and made a big impression on me.
After a bus journey from Cusco to Puno, Lake Titicaca was my first stop on my solo travels around Peru. I walked through the main street in Puno, booked the tour to Taquile Island, and the next day my day pack and I were ready to explore.
Taquile Island sits 30 miles off shore from Puno, and is a fantastic boat ride when the weather is clear and sunny. Disappointingly for me, it was quite cool and cloudy, but I still enjoyed the ride!
Even though you’re skimming across the lake, it’s quite mind-blowing to think Taquile Island sits at 3,900m above sea level. Thankfully by this time, I had fully acclimatised to the altitude!
We arrived at the dock and headed ashore. Our tour guide starting telling us about the island. The inhabitants of Taquile Island are Quechua speakers, and known as taquileños. The island has been inhabited ever since the Spanish conquest of Peru in the 1500’s. The current inhabitants keep many traditions from the Catalan conquerers, including the notable, cute, woollen floppy hats.
|Taquileños men wearing colourful woollen hats|
I was particularly enamoured with one of the stories about the hats.
” The men of Taquile Island wear different colours of hats to show whether they are single or married, and to depict their level of rank on the island “
How useful is that?! It’s like one constant traffic light party.
We headed up the hill on the main path, passing through the arch that led to the main square on the island.
|An arch covered with stone men with bowler hats|
The island was fascinating. Far removed from the hustle and bustle or Puno, the island’s inhabitants got on with their everyday lives. They farm, fish and produce incredible hand-woven garments to make some money.
Whilst travellers visit in their droves, the local taquileños simply get on with life, moving animals around the island, and making the most of the climate to farm crops and different varieties of potato. Whichever direction you looked, their were terraces either being farmed, or getting ready to be farmed.
The main square sits in an elevated position, towards the top of the island. As we headed higher and higher, the views became quite breathtaking.
Then a farmer walked past me with three cows.
Whilst farming and textiles are the main occupations on the island, the locals also welcome travellers and tourists to see their work and local life. Part of my tour package was to visit one of four restaurants on the island, to eat local food caught, prepared and cooked by the locals.
I had a delicious fish dish, but I was more taken aback by the view of Lake Titicaca. It was possibly the best lunch view I’ve ever had.
Given I had only finished the Inca Trail a few days earlier, Peru had begun to surprise me. There was more than meets the eye to this fast, intriguing country.
For that very reason I extended my stay in Peru for another week. I even bought myself a woollen hat, although I forgot to ask what status it depicted… 🙂