Saturday, September 8, 2012

Taquile island, Lake Titicaca

Taquile Island on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca is a gem of a destination. Lake Titicaca, a highland lake in the Andes, covers both Peru and Bolivia. There are several islands on the lake worth a visit, and Taquile is certainly one of them.

The islanders, known as Taquileños, have developed a community-based tourism model, offering services such as homestays, restaurants, guides etc. This protected them from losing their heritage and livelihood from mass-tourism from non-islanders. They are well-known for their handwoven textiles, and are supposedly of the highest quality in Peru. A designated shop in the "village square" of sorts sells the islander's textile products, ranging from mantas, to handicrafts to clothings. The islanders are friendly, and there are no hassling to buy stuff etc and almost all of them are still dressed in a semi traditional way. And it's so interesting seeing the men knitting away continuously while walking/talking/resting etc!

But what I like is that the children on the island do not swarm to you asking for money or anything. They go about their normal life, but children being children, they are still curious about tourists, and they would often glance in our direction for a glimpse of three Asian faces (I was with two other friends).

The island also has some Inca ruins, but unfortunately are situated at the top of the island, which stands at above 4000m! So climbing up may be a little breathless, but the views are great, and so coming up during sunrise/sunset would be awesome. Overnight stay would be recommended, and as most tourists seemed to be day-trippers, you would likely get the place mostly to yourself!

From Puno, ferries ply the various islands on the lake daily. Note that the journey from Puno to Taquile takes 3-4 hours. Once you land on the island, there will be locals offering homestays, and while the accommodation is pretty basic, the experience would be certainly memorable!

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