Peru, nestled on South America’s Pacific Coast, is an atmospheric country dripping with ancient legends, culture, and natural beauty everywhere you look. Traveling to Peru with Supera Tours opened my eyes to a world of culture. Sure, I knew about all the country’s famed alpacas, communities in the Amazon, and the incredible Machu Picchu, but I was blown away by what I discovered on Lake Titicaca on day 9 of the itinerary.
The Folkloric Capital
We woke up early to begin our adventure, departing from Puno.
This is one of the biggest cities along Lake Titicaca, and it’s known as the “Folkloric Capital” thanks to its many festivals and cultural dances. That’s something this whole area seems to have in common – dancing, particularly. I quickly realized this after the one-hour boat ride over to Taquile Island. We got off the boat and I felt my stomach tingle with butterflies. It was this windswept, rocky island with beautiful stone arches, farmland, and wide open and wild spaces.
The floating Islands of Uros.
There are about 2,000 people who call this island on the lake home, and they live entirely self-sustainable lives. The locals have no need to take the boat across the water to visit the shops in Puno or order things in from overseas. Nope, they have everything they need right on this island.
After disembarking the boat, we walked toward this cozy house perched on a cliff. It was a simply made, rustic home with a copper roof and layers of reed roots below it. Loads of vibrant flowers and plants brought the entire exterior to life. And with no cars, no electricity lines, and no pollution, this house and this island immediately felt like another time. Can I move here, please?
Locals of Taquile Island.
We walked up to the house and I was in awe. Locals greeted us by showcasing their culture in the best way. There was dancing, music, and even knitting (how cool is that?). They played bamboo flutes and danced around the front yard of the house. There was a vibrant energy that traveled through the wind as they performed, but my eye was on the fashion sense of the locals. Beautiful colors intertwined with intricate detailing, and I needed to know more about this island’s admiration for style.
Taquile Island residents perform traditional songs and dances.
The thing is, knitting is a big deal in Peru. If you thought it was the Nordic countries that were the ultimate pro knitters, you’d be surprised. I watched the men of Taquile Island craft numerous rows of intricate knitting in just a matter of minutes. Actually, knitwear is deeply embedded in the culture of this island. Not only are these local men known for producing some of the best quality textiles in Peru, but UNESCO even identifies the island for its intangible culture.
Crafts of Uros Island
An example of the embroidered textiles made on the Uros Islands.
I admire how the island is totally opposite of the general norm. When it comes to knitting, we may tend to imagine a grandmother or a crafty young girl, but on this island, knitting is done almost exclusively by the men. The women have chosen to weave and tend to the animals instead. I love the dynamic!
And if you’ve ever heard of Ireland’s Claddagh ring that women traditionally wear to symbolize their relationship status, this Peruvian island has its own thing – and it’s for the men. Married men on the island mainly wear red patterned hats. Men in a relationship but not yet married flaunt an embroidered bag embellished with colorful pom-poms. Then, single guys wear red hats with a white top. Who would have thought?
Men on Taquile Island are world-renowned for their knitting skills.
After uncovering the fascinating details of this island’s customs and traditions, we had the unique opportunity to take part. We joined them in dance and I felt like a small child as I laughed and twirled around alongside the locals and other participants. It was a beautiful moment I won’t soon forget.
Eventually, we made it inside of the house and the cultural experiences just kept coming. We were greeted by the enticing aroma of freshly prepared seafood, potatoes, rice, and veggies. It was one of the most extraordinary home-cooked meals I’ve ever had to this very day.
The food I am still dreaming about!
From there, we explored around the island as it’s so small that you can easily walk from one end to the other. We saw men knitting in quaint corners of the village, textiles drying on boulders in the sun, and sheep being herded by local women.
The pure simplicity of this island and its sustainability-minded locals left me with a tingly high for the rest of my trip. It felt like a place where time stood still. People didn’t wait in long lines at the bank, buy plastic-wrapped produce, or shop at fast fashion brands. None of that seemed to matter on this island. The locals seemed happy, carefree, and content. Perhaps this quaint island has found the secret to life. I just wish I could have stuck around longer to find out.