Taquile Island is seemingly on top of the world. In the middle of the Peruvian half of Lake Titicaca, the shores of Taquile sit at 12,959 ft (3,950 m) above sea level, while its highest point reaches 13,287 ft (4,050 m).
Despite its (literally) breathtaking elevation, the island’s size is pretty modest at 2.21 square miles (5.72 km²). However, it is still the second largest Peruvian island on the lake after Amantaní island. The island is 28 miles (45 km) from the region’s largest city Puno on the lakeshore. It takes about 3 hours by boat to reach the island from Puno.
The island was once part of the vast Inca Empire until the Spanish conquered the territory during the 16th century. The Incas called it Intika, and the Quechua locals—descendants of the Incas— still called it that today. The name Taquile comes from the Spanish nobleman Pedro Gonzales de Taquila.
The Spanish imposed cultural restrictions on the inhabitants of the island. For example, they weren’t allowed to wear traditional Inca clothing but had to wear campesino, or peasant, styled clothing instead. However, because of the island’s remote location, especially at a time without motorized boats, many other local customs remained intact. Today’s islanders, numbering around 2,200, continue the generations-old tradition of subsistence farming and fishing.
Perhaps what Isla Taquile is most well known for today is its weaving tradition. Weaving is, of course, an integral part of local culture in many parts of Peru. It is a way for indigenous peoples to represent their history and society with geometric and natural shapes as well as colors. The weavers of Taquile Island, in particular, have an interesting tradition where both women and men take up the loom.
Tourism on Taquile took off in the 1970s and transformed their weaving traditions. With such international interest in their woven goods, locals adjusted their patterns and colors for an international market. For example, the traditional background color for Taquileños’ woven goods is red. However, many started to use purple as a principal background color to appease their new international buyers. Also, to keep up with increased demand, local weavers now buy factory spun yarn rather than hand spinning the wool themselves.
They still make all of their products using local traditional techniques, including a four-point grounded loom. In fact, Taquileños are among the few indigenous communities in Peru to forgo Western dress and keep their traditional garments.
The patterns and colors may have evolved over time, but the meaning is still present in their work. Even UNESCO has recognized their incredible local art by recognizing Taquile and Its Textile Art as a “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2005.
Feel the magic and the energy of Cusco and Machu Picchu, then continue to where the legend began – Lake Titicaca, to get off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy the peace and tranquility on the shores of the Lake.
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