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Hidden in the Andes lies the world’s highest navigable lake—Lake Titicaca—believed to be the birthplace of the Incas with islands that remain protected from outside influence, something very evident on Taquile Island. As a territory that’s only recently begun to welcome visitors to its shores within the past 40 years, the Taquile Island community continues to live life in the traditional way and is definitely worth getting a glimpse of.
Each week, members of the Taquile community will make a trip to the port city of Puno on the mainland to get supplies they don’t have on the island like toilet paper and certain fruits and vegetables. To get anywhere on the lake, a boat is essential and Taquileño cuisine also depends on catching fresh trout from these boats.
After visiting Cusco and the Sacred Valley, you’ll probably be used to the image of women knitting beautiful Andean textiles. That is not that case on Taquile Island. Here, the men perform all the knitting and textile-making while the women weave, making the gender roles of men and women unlike those elsewhere in Peru. In Taquile’s Plaza de Armas, you’ll find a store selling the man-knitted goods that the island has become famous for.
Instead of wearing a wedding ring, the people on Taquile Island dress according to their marital status. Married men wear red chullos, or knitted hats, with elaborate designs, while single men wear red and white hats. A Taquile man’s famous skill for knitting is put to the test when he decides to get married and must knit a hat that holds water to present to his potential father-in-law. If any water seeps out of the hat, the man’s marriage will not be arranged.
As in Cusco and other places in the Andes, Catholicism and the Andean religion live side-by-side. Don’t be surprised when you find a Catholic church blessed with coca leaves with statues of bulls inside, which are Andean symbols for good luck.
Modern items like shampoo and body soap have only recently been introduced to the island, but the older generations still prefer their traditional products. Taquile’s men still make soaps and shampoos using herbs found on the island, and they actually work really well.
There aren’t many roads on Taquile Island, but the one you will find takes you directly to the central Plaza de Armas. People get around the island by foot, and at around 3,950 meters (12,959 feet) above sea level, it’s not an easy stroll.