In & Around Puno

This page provides information about life in and around the vibrant city of Puno, which is located on the western shores of Lake Titicaca in Peru and is home to approximately 150,000 residents. I have had the privilege of living and working in this region over the last 20 years and look forward to sharing information that promotes interest in its people, natural beauty, history, and cultural resources. Please let me know if you have suggestions for additional links.

Puno city. There are many things to see and do in Puno. The Lonely Planet Guide and Trip Advisor are good places to start researching the city and surrounding areas before a visit. I also suggest checking out archaeologist Charles Stanish‘s Lake Titicaca: Legend, Myth and Science (2011) for an excellent introduction (with beautiful photos) to the archaeology, history, culture, and natural resources of the region. Puno has been featured on a number of television shows, including Viaja & Prueba (Travel & Taste) & Buen Viaje (Good Travels), which provide various perspectives on traveling in the region. There are also many videos on YouTube that feature Puno– let me know if there are any good ones I should share on this page. Lastly, here are a few drone flights over the region (thanks to Desde Aire Films), the city and nearby archaeological sites (thanks to Nina Fernández), and wildlife (thanks to Creativa Drone).

Once you have gotten used to the elevation (12,500 feet can stress the lungs a bit!), be sure to spend a day exploring the pedestrian avenues of the city center and nearby plazas. The cathedral of Puno is worth a visit and there are many sources of information on its history and architecture. After visiting the cathedral be sure to stop by the Cafe Bar La Casa del Corregidor, which is also in the Plaza de Armas, and the Museo Carlos Dreyer, which features stone sculpture and other artifacts and art from the region.

There is also a bustling regional university in Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the Universidad Nacional del Altiplano (UNAP), which trains archaeology students in the School of Tourism and School of Anthropology. We have had the pleasure of collaborating with both the faculty and students of the UNAP over the years on a variety of investigations and projects.

Lake Titicaca. Most visitors to Puno want to spend some time on Lake Titicaca and there are a number of day and overnight trips to nearby islands, including the floating reed islands of Los Uros, Amantaní, and Taquile. Tickets for these trips are available from many tour companies in town. While most of what is included in a typical island tour has been “packaged” for tourists, there are a number of publications available that provide additional information on local language, culture, economics, and politics written by anthropologists, historians, and other scholars. For example, Elayne Zorn’s Weaving a Future: Tourism, Cloth and Culture on an Andean Island (2004) is about community resistance and sustainable ecotourism on Taquile and Ben Orlove’s Lines in the Water: Nature and Culture at Lake Titicaca (2002) beautifully explores how people live and work in communities along the lake edge. There are also a number of publications written by anthropology faculty from the UNAP, which are available directly through the university. Lastly, if you are ready for a serious splurge and want to spend some quiet time on the lake, I highly recommend visiting Isla Suasi for a few days.

Day Trips from Puno. There are a number of day trips from Puno to archaeological sites, nearby towns, and beautiful scenery. Sillustani, an archaeological site that features a number of Inca and pre-Inca burial towers on Lake Umayo, is not to be missed and afternoon tours are easily arranged in Puno. If you have more time I highly recommend visiting the Fundo Chincheros, a former colonial hacienda located 9 kilometers outside the city off the highway to Juliaca. The wonderful owners host visitors for horse-back riding, hikes to a local archaeological site (with an incredible view of the lake), tours of agricultural fields and visits with their camelids (vicuña, alpaca, and llamas).

Heading south, about 30 minutes from Puno is the town of Chucuito, which has some of the most lovely views in the region and a collection of stone sculpture that makes many a visitor blush. Here is a bit of clarification from archaeologists and some perspectives from community members on these sculptures. From Chucuito one can travel south to Juli, a large town on the lakeshore with a collection of impressive colonial churches. Depending on the tour, you might stop at a fabulous Inca site with monumental stone carvings, which has been incorporated into a number of New Age tours. Just be careful not to bump your head!

To/From PunoYou can travel to Puno via plane, train or bus. There are multiple daily flights from Lima to Juliaca (JUL, about an hour from Puno), which usually stop in Cuzco or Arequipa. There are daily busses to Puno from Arequipa, Cuzco, Moquegua and La Paz, Bolivia. Traveling from La Paz requires a stop at the border, either at Desaguadero or Yunguyo/Kasani. Be sure to visit the archaeological site of Tiwanaku and the Islands of the Sun and Moon/Copacabana if traveling from Bolivia into Peru.