Though it may not be revered as one of the most beautiful of Peruvian cities, Puno does have a lot going for it when it comes to bringing in tourists. Located at the southeastern end of the country, Puno boasts a most envious feature. It rests at over 12,000 feet on the shores of the amazingly beautiful Lake Titicaca, which is not only the highest navigable lake in the world, but also the largest in all of South America. It is also worth noting right off the bat that Puno Peru is also one of the best cities in the country for experiencing Peruvian folklore. The events and festivals in Puno and on the islands of Lake Titicaca are among the most vibrant in all the land, most often featuring traditional dances and traditions. If you are in southern Peru and have some time on your hands after visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu, for example, then a trip to Puno caps a most unforgettable experience. Puno is also a worthy stopping point if you plan on heading to Bolivia, which begins on the other side of Lake Titicaca.
Puno Peru was officially founded in 1668 by a Spanish viceroy, as a result of the discovery of silver mines in the area, but it had already been a most significant place for the Inca people. It was their belief that the Inca Sun God, Manco Capac, was born from the waters of Lake Titicaca, from which he rose to begin the storied Inca Empire. Capac would center this empire in Cusco, but you can understand the importance of Puno and Titicaca as the sacred origin of the Inca people. As for the Spanish, Puno would originally be named San Carlos de Puno, due to then Spanish king, Charles (Carlos) II. Much like the Spanish did throughout the rest of the Americas, they began to preach Christianity to the natives, and subsequent churches would soon follow. These churches remain to the present day, figuring as just part of the Puno tourism scene. But, people do not plan Puno vacations to relish in the impact of the Spanish. Puno tourism is alive and well mostly because people come to see and interact with the surviving native cultures of the Aymara and Quechua civilizations, and surely Lake Titicaca is a main draw when it comes to Punos tours.
Among the most popular and recommended Punos tours are those that take visitors on a boat ride to the floating Uros Islands. These islands are literally made from the tortora reed, crafted as such for thousands of years by the native people that inhabit them. On the Uros Islands, you can shop for crafts from the local people, however you should take care if you wish to photograph them, as is true with most native peoples. It is often customary to offer a monetary offering of some sort if you wish to take direct pictures. If you have the chance, you might consider taking one of the Puno tours that visits the Uros Islands and Taquile Island. The sailing part of the trip will last a few hours, as Lake Titicaca is larger than the country of Switzerland, and the experience of sailing out on it is almost too much to take in, especially if you find yourself on the tour on a whim. You almost have to pinch yourself a couple times to verify that you are not dreaming. When you get to Taquile Island, you must climb a lengthy set of high-rising steps that take you to the top of the island, and yes, the views are stunning. You can tour the island by yourself, and if you are lucky, the native people will be celebrating a special event or festival. It is something to see these people in their colorful clothes, singing and dancing their way about as if you were not there at all. Seeing the ancient Sillustani Burial Towers that were built along the shores of Lake Titicaca is another one of the possible Puno tours.
The great thing about Puno tourism, is that the city is relatively small, though growing, and fairly easy to navigate. You can head to an open-air market and barter for handcrafted textiles and goods, drop in on one of Puno’s restaurants for a meal with people you might have just met, and then top the night off exploring the city’s nightlife, which is not extremely lively, yet nonetheless sufficient. In the fairly recent past, most of the Puno hotels were of the budget variety, but for those taking Puno vacations nowadays, the hotel selection has added some more upscale options. Hostels can still be found here, and if you are on a budget, you can surely find an appropriate place to rest your head, specifically if you are lucky enough to find a local Puno tourism agent to help you arrange everything from accommodations to tours. Puno will likely only increase in popularity as a tourist destination, as more and more people come to realize the life-changing experience that Puno vacations provide.
PUNO GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
Cradled amid the shores of Lake Titicaca on one side, and the crawling hills on the other, Puno has very little flat land and this is evident as the city continues to grow up the surrounding hills. Bordered on the east by Bolivia and lined by the Carabaya Cordillera to the north and the Maritime or Volcanic Cordillera to the south, the area has a unique geography.
Lake Titicaca, the highest commercially navigable lake in the world, stretches across more than 3,100 sq mi and two countries. Throughout the lake, there are more than thirty islands ? both man-made and natural.
Puno shares the characteristic of the Andean/Amazonian two main seasons: rainy and dry. The rainy season occurs during the summer months of November to March, with the dry season passing during the winter months of April to October. Temperatures range from 59º F/15º C to 71º F/22º C in summer to around 41º F/5º C to 60º F/16º C in winter. The thermal effect of the lake provides a slightly warmer climate for Puno than other cities in the region.
As in Cusco, the winter months are graced with blue skies and crisper temperature while the summer months see the rain. However, this is another area best to dress in layers as the evenings here are decidedly colder than the day, so be sure to have warm clothing on hand. Along with the beautiful, shining sun and high altitude, sunburn is quite common, so be sure to have plenty of sunscreen on hand as well.
Inca Manco Capac International Airport
Located in the city of Juliaca, this is the closest airport to the city, roughly thirty minutes away. Both LAN and Star Peru service the Juliaca airport from Lima, Cusco and Arequipa. Flights from Lima are approximately 2.5 hours and flights from Cusco or Arequipa take roughly an hour.
It is most common for travelers to arrive in Puno by bus, taking a tourist bus along the way. From Colca Canyon, 4M offers service from Chivay, lasting about six hours and stopping along the way at Lagunillas top view the wildlife as well as in Patapampas for a light lunch. From Cuzco the tourist bus, will stop to visit the church in Andahuaylillas, the Inca temple Raqchi, the highest pass on the route, La Raya, and the pre-Inca ruins of Pukara. This trip is highly scenic and takes about 9 hours including the various stops and a buffet lunch in Sicuani. Another very attractive, if more costly, option is the tourist train, Andean Explorer, which runs three times a week from Cusco – for more details ask one of our expert travel advisors.
GETTING AROUND THE CITY
The most convenient way to get around the city is on foot, as the center is small and all points of interest are within easy walking distance from each other. Should the altitude make walking a bit taxing, a taxi can easily be taken. Rarely should you pay any more than 3-4 soles ($1-1.50) for a taxi anywhere around town. Always be sure to settle on the price before entering the taxi as they do not run with meters. Tipping a taxi driver is not necessary.