Puno City is the capital of the Puno region, located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.
Fortunately, the lake produces a unique microclimate, with the sun heating the water during the day and this heat moderating the nighttime temperatures in the vicinity of the lake, creating a small area where agriculture is viable. In addition, the lake also provides cheap and easily accessible food for local inhabitants in the form of fish.
The geography of the department of Puno is very different from that of the rest of the Peruvian Andes. Much of its territory is composed of an almost flat plain between 3850 and 4000 meters above sea level. This high plain and the lake are shared with Peru´s neighbour Bolivia, as is the language spoken by the Aymara inhabitants of the region.
Puno city has an immensely rich enlivenment of tradition and culture – in particular, its modern interpretations of folk dances – as well as fascinating pre-Columbian history. The Pukara culture emerged here some three thousand years ago leaving behind stone pyramids and carved standing stones, contemporaneous with those of Chavín, 1600 km further north. The better-known Tiahuanaco culture dominated the Titicaca basin between 800 and 1200 AD, leaving in its wake the temple complex in its name, just over the border in Bolivia, as well as widespread cultural and religious influence. This early settlement was conquered by the Incas in the fifteenth century.
The first Spanish settlement in Puno rose over a silver mine discovered by the infamous Salcedo brothers in 1657. The camp forged such a wild and violent reputation that the Lima viceroy moved in with soldiers to crush and finally execute the Salcedos before the violence could progress any further. The Spanish were soon to discover the town´s wealth, in 1668 the viceroy made Puno the capital of the region, and from then on it became the main port of Lake Titicaca and an important town on the silver trail from Potosi in Bolivia.
Puno is located on the shores of Lake Titicaca in the southernmost part of Peru. Puno is in the Altiplano part of Peru that extends to Bolivia. Further south from Puno the Andes Mountains create a stunning scene against the sky.
What is the altitude of Puno?
The town of Puno is located at 12500 feet or 3800 meters above sea level. Puno is only slightly higher than Cusco.
The risk of altitude sickness is quite common amongst people travelling to Puno. Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, insomnia and loss of appetite. Before travelling to Peru, it is a good idea to ask your doctor to give you some medicine for the altitude. Remember to keep hydrated, do not eat too much and drink plenty of coca leaf tea.
Fiestas & Folklore
If you like festivals, you´ve come to the right place. Puno is the folkloric capital of Peru, boasting as many as 300 traditional dances and celebrating numerous fiestas throughout the year. Dazzling outfits can range from strikingly grotesque masks and animal costumes to glittering sequined uniforms. Accompanying music uses a host of instrumentation, from Spanish-influenced brass and string instruments to percussion and wind instruments that have changed little since Inca times.
LA VIRGEN DE LA CANDELARIA The festival in honour of Puno´s patrón virgin is celebrated over several days with masses and processions. It culminates with a thunderous street party on February the 2nd, a day marked by thousands of splendidly attired dance performances.
PUNO WEEK Centered on Puno Day (November 5th), this festival is celebrated in style and marks the birth of the Inca Empire when Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo first emerged from Lake Titicaca.
EPIPHANY Masked paraders take to the streets for the festival better known as Día de Los Reyes (Three Kings Day), when celebrants honour the magi who bestowed gifts on the baby Jesus. It takes place on January the 6th.
FIESTA SAN JUAN DE DIOS On March 8the, a more demure religious procession honours St John of God; the patron saint of the sick.FIESTA DE SANTIAGO The Feast of St James on July the 25th is a big feast day on Isla Taquile, when dancing, music and general carousing last for several days, and islanders make offerings to Mother Earth.
The seventeenth-century Cathedral is surprisingly large, with an exquisite Baroque façade from 1657 and unusually for Peru, a very simple and humble interior, in line with the local Aymaras´ austere attitude to religion.
The nineteenth-century British-built steamship Yavari provides a fascinating insight into maritime life on Lake Titicaca over a hundred and fifty years ago and the military and entrepreneurial mindset of Peru in those days. Delivered by boat from England to Arica on the coast, it was designed by James Watt. From Arica, it was brought 560 km by mule in over 1300 different pieces. Having started life as a Peruvian Navy gunship complete with bullet-proof windows, it eventually ended up delivering mail around Lake Titicaca. At times it has had to use llama dung as fuel. The Yavari is in working order now.
Standing on rolling hills on the Lago Umayo peninsula, the chullpas of Sillustani can be seen for kilometres against the desolate altiplano landscape.
The ancient Colla people who once dominated the area were a fearsome, Aymara-speaking ethnicity, later integrated into the southeastern part of the Inca empire. They buried their nobility in chullpas, which can be seen scattered around the region. The most impressive of these are at Sillustani, where the tallest reach a height of 12m. the cylindrical structures housed the remains of complete family groups, along with plenty of food and belongings for the journey into the next world.
Nowadays, nothing remains of the burials, but the chullpas are well preserved. The area is partially encircled by the sparling Lago Umayo, is home to a wide variety of plants and Andean waterbirds, plus a small island with vicuñas.
Puno, the Folklore Capital of Peru
Rising from a wealth of artistic expression and traditions, Puno is known as the folklore capital of Peru. With many Aymara and Quechua taking place each year, to celebrate and showcase the traditions.
The Spanish arrived into the area in the 16th century and bought with them Catholicism, the local people embraced the traditions but also have never forgotten their roots and still today ask Pachamana to bless their crops and their harvest.
Explore the streets of Puno
Calle Lima-the city´s pedestrian walkway- leads to the Plaza de Armes. The street is full of shops, bars and restaurants. You must visit the Cathedral and the Carlos Dreyer Museum whilst you are there.
Celebrate the Candelaria Festival
The Virgin of Candelaria is Peru´s largest festival. This is a two-week celebration held in February every year and honours the city’s patron saint. Recently named by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage practice, the festival sees the street abuzz with religious processions and dancing competions. Every year, over 40000 dancers and musicians from all over Peru and the world participate in the parades.
Each community of the Uros Islands have some activities and traditions to share with you. Whilst they are close to each other, Taquile Island and Amantani Island have remarkable differences and the people of these islands live in very particular ways. Most tours leave from Puno’s harbour in the morning and last for a full day. Tours include the Islands, interactions with local people and opportunities to purchase authentic, traditional handicrafts.
Stay with the locals
For a totally authentic experience stay on the floating Uros islands where you will eat with the locals, see their way of life, take part in their daily and cultural practices and learn their crafts.
Take the train to Puno
The Andean Explorer Train runs between Cusco and Puno every day. Travel this amazing and beautiful stretch of rail through high Andean plains, past magnificent mountain peaks, pass Andean towns, and see the locals enjoying their daily lives.
CASA ANDINA PREMIUM PUNO The Casa Andina Premium Puno is a lovely hotel that has a perfect location: on the shores of Lake Titicaca, from the hotel you can have the best lake view room in the world. It has 45 non-smoking rooms with bottle water, small balcony and services like: internet center, free Wi…
LIBERTADOR LAKE TITICACA A stay at Libertador Lake Titicaca, on the private island of Esteves, offers you a privileged position from which to marvel at the richly colored dawn sky or relax at the end of the day with a glass of red wine as you watch the sunset over the lake. The hotel is…
HACIENDA PLAZA DE ARMAS PUNO Visit the Hotel Hacienda Plaza de Armas that has an unbeatable location in the main square of the city. Its balconies have the best view of the historic center, the cathedral and the different folkloric festivals such as the Virgen de la Candelaria. These reasons make us the emblematic hotel…
SONESTA POSADA DEL INCA PUNO On the shores of Lake Titicaca, you can enjoy traditional Peruvian hospitality at the Sonesta Posadas del Inca Lake Titicaca Puno. This hotel offers an atmosphere surrounded by beauty and tranquility, as well as easy access to all tourist activities. Admire the wonderful landscape that offers you the highest navigable lake in…