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Isla Taquile

In spite of the over 40,000 tourists that visit this island every year, Isla Taquile has managed to maintain a significant degree of authenticity. Located just off of Península Capachica and 35 nautical kilometers (21 mi) from Puno’s port, the island harbors a unique and rich local culture.

The locals still speak Quechua and continue to don the traditional dress. Women wear brightly colored polleras (skirts) and black headscarves, a practice implemented by the conquistadores. For the men, it’s the hat (chulla), not the ring on his finger, which reveals their marital status. Bachelors wear caps with white tops, red bottoms and tips folded to the sides, while married men wear solid red caps with tips folded to the back.

Taquileños sustain themselves with the production and sale of finely crafted textiles. Interestingly, while the women spin the wool, the men do all of the knitting. Don’t be surprised if you spot a group of men, armed with needles, fervently knitting on the streets of Taquile. The community has a shop on the Plaza de Armas.

The islanders still use the ayllu system, to ensure an even distribution of wealth. The 2,500 inhabitants share nine last names. Important festivals are Candelaria (February 2), Carnaval (February / March), Semana Santa (March / April), San Isidro Labrador (May 15), San Juan (June 24) and patron saint Santiago (July 25-August 5). Many celebrations include offerings to Pacha Mama or other agricultural ceremony, as well as traditional dances.

Isla Taquile’s original name was Intika. After the conquista, it was named for the new Spanish owner, Pedro Gonzáles de Taquila. In the 1930s, it was a prison. Later, administration of the island was returned to the native population.

Isla Taquila is six kilometers (3.6 mi) long and 1.5 kilometers (1.5 mi) wide. The highest point is 4,050 meters (13,284 ft). It is divided into six suyos (sectors): Estancia, Chilcano, Chuñopampa, Kollino, Huayllano and Collata. The main port is Chilcano, from where 540 steps climb to trail that leads to the Plaza Principal. Other ports are Alsuno, Salacancha, Huayllano and Kollata. The island has no transportation; all getting around is on foot.

Vistors are invited to join taquileños in the farm fields. Other activities are relaxing on the island’s beaches and swimming in frigid Lake Titicaca. Several pre-Inca and Inca ruins dot the landscape, like the stone arch Uray Kari in the center of the isle and Janan Kari, northwest of the Plaza Principal. Petroglyphs are at Caani Pala, near the southern tip, and Mulsini Pata, near the northern tip, both sacred places.

Tours may be arranged through most Puno tour agencies, or independent travelers can catch a boat from Puno’s port (see Getting to and away from Puno for more information). A boat may also be taken from Santa María, near Llachón, on the Península Capachica. The island community’s website is:

Upon arrival on Isla Taquile, travelers are assigned family with which to stay. Expect to pay about $11 per person, with meals. If you make arrangements with a Puno travel agency, go with a socially responsible agency, ensure that it pays islanders the established rate for lodging and food and confirm that no more than two people stay with each family. For a more authentic experience, ask to stay away from the touristy town square. One lodge on the island is Cruz Yucra Santo Domingo.

An entry fee is charged for Isla Taquile: foreigners $2, nationals $1, children under 13 years old free.

19 Jun 2012

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