Isla Taquile is an island in the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. It is also called "island of the knitting men" because that's what men do - knit! This has a very long tradition and is deeply embalmed in the culture: If a man wants to marry a women, he first has to prove that he can work hard by knitting a hat out of which he can drink.
It's slightly more touristic than its brother island Isla Amantani.
The island of Taquile is governed by a council of elders whose members are elected.
One of the unique features of the island is that there are no big hotels or restaurants. Groups that go to the island and want to have lunch ask at the tourist office in which family's backyard they'll eat that day. Same applies for finding a bed, one has to ask at the tourist office which family's turn it is to take a paying guest.
Crime is non-existent and was only introduced for a short period of time by corrupt policemen when the Peruvian government set up a police station. The island's people kicked the police out again, so today there is no police station.
Because it is a very popular destination for tours from Puno, on any given day the island is full of tourists. If one wants to experience the real island life one has to stay overnight. Best opportunities for photos are until 10:00, when the first tour boats arrive, and after 16:00 (when the last tour boats leave).
Boats from Isla Amantani stop for a few hours at the island. There are also direct boats from Puno, usually part of a tour that stops at the floating islands on the way, which arrives at 11:30 and departs by 14:00. Travel time by boat from Puno is 2 hours and 30 minutes each way.
A fee of S/5 (soles) (as of February 2010) is charged when you enter the island.
Tours can be arranged through any travel agent in Puno for around US$10, or easily acquired at the dock in Puno before 07:30. The boats are typically nice, with reclining seats and emergency toilet.
Taquile has two ports: one in town, one a 20-minute walk away. The main advantage of the second port is that the ascent is not as steep as the one from the town's port - that one is really, really steep. So, unless you are already acclimatized to the height, make sure you arrive at the port out of town.
To get there without taking part in a tour, go to the port of Puno and ask around for boats going to Taquile. For getting off the island simply go down to the port in town and talk to the skipper.
The only mode of transportation on the island is on foot via steep walkways.
For a full exploration of the island you need to stay the night. If you only have a few hours climb up to the mirador north(?) of the little town. It's the highest point and gives a nice overview over the town. There is also a temple still used to bring sacrifices to Pachamama.
The local culture is very specific to the island and very fascinating. If you speak Spanish, have a local explain it to you. If you don't speak Spanish, hope for a good tour guide.
There are ample opportunities for great photos, even more so when you stay overnight and go on photo hunt when the island is not full of tourists (i.e., before 10:00 and after 16:00).
Locals sell textiles and other souvenirs typical of this area at booths and in a big market hall at the main square. Bargaining is frowned upon.
On the plaza there is a community restaurant and some families run ad-hoc restaurants in their backyard. Profit is used to help the community. For tour groups, the elders mandate which restaurant or family's backyard the group will eat at. The food is simple, typically fish from the lake, although omelets are usually available for vegetarians. Food is expensive on the island, S/15-20 for a set menu that would cost S/8 on the mainland. Food is also expensive if you stay with a family overnight.
There are no bars on the island.
There are about 70 families who have basic accommodation. The elders will decide which families will accommodate guests. The typical fee is US$3, and gifts of fresh food are appreciated. To get a room, ask in the tourist office at the main square.
Be sure to catch the boat back to the mainland or plan on staying there overnight.
If you stay overnight, go down to the port in town in the early afternoon and ask a skipper for a passage back. If the skipper is in a good mood it will be for free.