- Language: Spanish
- City Population: 100,168
- Elevation: 3,860 m (12,421 ft)
- Latitude/ Longitude: 15°50′36″S, 70°01′25″W
- Time Zone:
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Introduction to Puno:
Puno is the capital and largest city of the Puno Region and Province in Southeastern Peru.
It is located at the edge of Lake Titicaca, the world's highest commercially navigable lake, at 3,860 m (12,421 ft) above sea level, on the Peruvian Altiplano.
Puno is an important agricultural and livestock region of Peru; particularly of South American camelids (llamas and alpacas) which graze on its immense plateaus and plains.
Trivia & Quick Points:
Puno has been designated to become a Special Economic Zone or "Zona Ecomomica" by Peru's president, Alan Garcia.
The area surrounding the city of Puno was where the Aymara civilization started.
Puno has been named the "Capital folklórica del Perú" (folklore capital of Peru) from its wealth of artistic and cultural expressions, particularly dance.
Knitting and textile arts have been practiced for thousands of years by both the men and women equally on the island of Taquile, (Isla Taquile) in the middle of Lake Titicaca.
Facts & Information:
Like most of northern Peru, the territory of Puno's importance to the vast Inca empire was reflected in a legendary connection. Inca tradition has it that Manco Capac, the first Inca, rose from the waters of Lake Titicaca, under the orders of the Sun God, to start the Inca Empire, which would be centered in the neighboring region and city of Cuzco.
In 1668, viceroy Conde de Lemos established San Juan Bautista de Puno as the capital of the province of Paucarcolla. Later, it was called San Carlos de Puno, in honor of the ruling king, Charles II of Spain.
From that moment, the town began to change physically, as the Spanish priests, in their eagerness to evangelize the natives, built the churches which still stand today.
Culture & Folklore
Puno has been named the "Capital folklórica del Perú" (folkloric capital of Peru) from the wealth of its artistic and cultural expressions, particularly dance.
They are most notable during the celebrations of the Feast of the "Virgen de la Candelaria" and the Regional Competition of Autochthonous Dances.
Travel & Tourism:
The city of Puno, Peru is a popular tourism and traveler's destination for a few reasons, the most obvious being the fact that it's located on the shore of world famous and fascinating Lake Titicaca.
The other reason Puno sees a lot of travelers is because it offers relatively easy border crossing choices to Bolivia- which is just on the other side of the lake.
Many Peruvian travelers use Puno as a basecamp to a Bolivian vacation.
The City of Puno
Sightseeing highlights around the city include obligatory visits to the Church of San Pedro, the Sistine Chapel of the Americas, and to the shoreline of Lake Titicaca at the Puno harbor. There, you can stroll along the boardwalk, spend your money at the giftshops, take endless pictures, check out the boats, and even visit a Titicaca boats museum.
There's also quite a lively nightlife for a city of this size, due to the large numbers of tourists from all over the world mixing it up with the plethora of artists and musicians of Puno.
Hiking around Puno-
Walking up in the hills just outside the city of Puno affords nice views of the city and lake, but it is quite dangerous! Locals recommend against doing it because tourists are often the victims of armed robberies in the hills.
If you like hiking, here's an idea: take a colectivo to Chuciuto (19km, 1 Sol, US$ 0.30) and start hiking from there. Next to the highest mountain (with a thin antenna on the top, 4550m) there is a summit where locals bring sacrifices. Fireplaces, flowers and bottles give witness of that.
Beyond the city of Puno, the surrounding area offers lots more touring and sightseeing options.
What to Do & See in the Surrounding Area
Here's 3 key attractions of the Puno region we recommend. There are many more, depending on your time constraints.
Floating Reed Islands of the Uros-
Lake Titicaca has some 41 floating reed islands on it that are an interesting experience for any traveler. These man-made islands have a fascinating history and story behind them.
Although in modern times it can be argued that they are a bit "touristy" and somewhat artificial, it is also a fact that for thousands of years up to now, the Uros people have lived on and maintained these unique Peruvian islands, depending on the lake for their survival.
Many tour companies offer trips to these reed islands, (as close as 20 minutes from Puno) and some combine reed island stopovers with organized tours of wonderful Taquile island. (a 3 hour boat ride and then spend a few hours on the island.) Definitely go for this combo tour if you have time... it's great! (and there's a lot more to see and do on Taquile island than the little reed floaters.)
These tours can be organized from both Copacabana and Puno.
Another great reason for getting out to the reed islands or Isla Taquile is because this gives you a chance to experience the magic and desolate beauty of Lake Titicaca, the world's highest elevation commercially navigable lake.
Seeing the scenery around you, breathing the clean air, and marveling at the magnificent greenish blue colors of the lake will give you a new perspective of this region and the body of water that has played such a key role in it's history.
is a fascinating time capsule of wonderfully preserved Peruvian and Bolivian cultures, having stayed the same now for thousands and thousands of years.
If you have time, consider seeing the other islands of the lake as well: Isla Amantani, a 4 hour trip from Puno with boats leaving daily at 8:30 am and also Isla del Sol, easily reachable from Bolivia's Copacabana.
Sillustani Burial Towers-
Hundreds of years ago, the ancient people from the Altiplano, that lived at the shore of the mystical Lake Titicaca, built a series of funeral towers to bury their kings and other important people of their regions.
The Sillustani towers are perhaps the finest and most perfect cylindrical constructions of ancient Peru, as such perfection can be found nowhere else in South America.
A tour to Sillustani will give you a better view into the life of pre-Inca civilizations, and exploring the area, you can marvel at the great beauty of the Umayo Lagoon, which is located at the foot of Sillustani.
Where to Stay
Book a hotel room in Puno- and many other cities in Peru, with our online reservations specialists- Pacarama.
Because Puno is one of Peru's favorite tourist destinations, there's over 80 different hotels to choose from in the area! Prices are quite affordable, as with most places in Peru, and range in quality from high end luxury to backpacker's hostels.
Most Puno accomodations offer their clients an interesting and unique "Puno ambiance" of their own, along with friendly and proffessional service- (Peruvians here are quite proud of their traditional Puneño hospitality.)
In general, all the "modern amenities" of life are standard at most of these hotels (TV, Wifi access, safety deposit boxes, hair dryers, luggage storage, taxi service, telephones, hot water, fresh linens, etc.), with many also offering quality dining or restaurants on premises.
SEE THE LIST OF PUNO HOTELS HERE
Getting There & Away
Puno is served by the Inca Manco Capac International Airport in nearby Juliaca. Although there are international flights arriving to this airport, you are well advised to price out your trip by way of Lima.
Puno.com recommends comparing various airlines and ticketing agents with our Travel partner Booking Wiz. (see widget on top right of page)
Daily buses depart to and from Cuzco and Arequipa. The ride from Puno to Cuzco takes about 8 hours. There's a night bus leaving Puno at 19:30 and arriving in Cusco at 4:30 am.
Daily buses depart to and from La Paz, Bolivia on two slightly different routes:
1) The direct route, (faster.)
Via ferry boat across Lake Titicaca and Copacabana. (more interesting)
It's a good idea to change some Peruvian money at the border in order to be able to pay the ferry in Bolivianos. Be prepared to change buses in Copacabana. (you might lose your good seats.)
Trains to and from Cuzco travel to Puno only 3 times per week. Other trains travel to Arequipa.
Most people get around town by foot... Taxi's and mini vans are not hard to find for longer distances. They are called "collectivos".
Food and Eating Tips
Most tourist spots are in and around Calle Lima. A little bit of bargaining will get you a discount, but don't push it too far if you want your food prepared without any bodily fluids.
In and around the mercado central are several budget places to eat for less then 3 soles. Also try a fruit juice at one of the many juguerias on the second floor.
Cafe restaurant Monterrey- at Pasaje Grau 158, has reasonably cheap and good breakfasts.
Restaurant pizzeria Ollantay- at Pasaje Grau 160, has pizzas, trout and alpaca. Ask for el menú.
If you enjoy documenting your experiences with photography, a phenomena you are sure to encounter in Puno is that MOST locals seem to hate getting their pictures taken. Unless you've got a long lens, catching a natural shot of a local is a challenge.
At first you may chalk this up to thinking the people are just camera shy, but it's actually much more than that. Once you learn about the local culture, religions, and superstitions, you will discover that most locals believe that your camera sort of "sucks out their soul" when you capture their image. They are quite adamant about avoiding looking into your lens. We recommend you be understanding of this idea and respectful to the people- and don't push them...
So what's the best way to get a great shot of a local "being natural" ? Smiling helps, and paying money is always a good strategy...
See the Puno.com photo gallery.
TRAVEL to PUNO!
Use JULIACA (or Lima) as your destination city and compare the travel services.
BOOK A PUNO HOTEL ROOM
With our Peruvian reservations specialist- Pacarama.com
Choose from over 80 different hotels in the Puno area now - or see the Where to Stay section for more details.
The best ways to research the details and logistics of all your sightseeing options are by popping your head into a few of the many tour operator businesses in the city center and asking questions and comparing prices.
Also, any seasoned traveler will highly recommend talking to tourists/ foreigners who have already done what you want to do.
You'll meet them in cafes, restaurants, shops, bars, and on the streets...
Don't be shy to strike up a conversation!
These people will usually have invaluable little tips and stories to share with you that the Peruvian tour operators won't think to mention.