Welcome to Puno!
Within Peru can be found beauty and enchantment like no other. Rich histories keep unique cultures thriving, and the magic of the fabled islands of Lake Titicaca are no exception. A cool, highland sanctuary, the lake and its breezes keep the heat of the sun at bay, and from its shores can be seen an array of vibrant sunrises and sunsets.
Settled in a western cove of the massive lake is Puno, Peru’s folkloric capital. Home to traditional festivals, vibrant music, and local dancing, Puno has an atmosphere unlike any other city in the country. Weekend markets buzz with locals and tourists alike, and authentic handicrafts paint the streets with color. With a steamship turned into a bed and breakfast and a baroque-style cathedral thrusting toward the sky, you will never know what the next street corner will reveal.
Not far from the city can be found the chulpas of Sillustani — ancient architectural feats that outdate even the Incas. The cylindrical spires jut out against the landscape, still strong after hundreds of years, speaking to the rich heritage of the land. The proud dead are buried there, their tombs rising above a lake, creating a silhouette of history and saying, “We were here.” With sweeping views of Lake Umayo below and mountains in the distance, the vistas and enchanting history of the burial ground beg for a visit. Ruins from a later period are also found nearby, and visitors trek through the alpine highlands to reach an Inca fertility temple where interestingly-shaped statue — while important to the Inca way of life—may amuse the tired hiker.
In the opposite direction, into the waters of Lake Titicaca, lies an array of islands home to various indigenous people. The most famous and fabled of these are Islas Uros — Uros Islands. Hundreds of years ago, the Uros people fled to the lake when aggressive tribes and Incas made land-living impossible. The Uros then created a patchwork of floating islands that drift gently in the water. Locals still live on these islands of woven, native, Peruvian reeds, and with every springing step on “shore,” visitors are reminded of the amazing ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Uros people. This incredible skillfulness continues to Taquile Island, a land mass where the local Taquileños are renown throughout Peru for their amazing handicrafts and flawless, handwoven textiles. This is an island where storytelling is king, and every piece of cloth shares its own tale with the voice of the hands that created it. Be flooded by colors, patterns, and cloths of all shapes and sizes in the marketplaces and street stalls, and guests take time to trace the stories as they meander the jovial streets of the popular, little island.
Gliding farther across the azure waters of the lake will eventually bring you to Amantani Island. A peaceful retreat from the hubs of the lakeside cities and bustling island villages, this off-the-path island offers a relaxed glimpse into authentic, Peruvian island life. Turismo vivencial thrives here. The practice allows visitors to step into the world of the islanders and experience the culture firsthand. From sleeping and eating at a local’s dwelling to strolling through their agricultural terraces, the culture of the people and the earth seeps into every hour spent on Amantani, leaving guests with friends alongside the memories. A platter of culture and beauty, the islands and villages of Lake Titicaca await for those with a taste for Peru.