sábado, 7 de abril de 2018

Puno and Surroundings

If in our previous post we affirmed that Titicaca lake is -without any doubt- one of the most mystical places in Peru. The city on its shores and encompasses it on the Peruvian side, could not be less.

Puno (3.830 masl) is a vibrant crossroads between Cusco and La Paz, where trade between both sides of the border frantically moves and where the perfect marriage between the colorful culture of the altiplano and Catholic religious beliefs are still preserved.

One of these shows is the famous feast of Virgen de la Candelaria (“Candelaria Virgin”), inscribed as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO), which is celebrated on February 2 and lasts several days around wind bands that rotate all the night until dawn.

Meanwhile, local people and visitors dance to the rhythm of the huaynos (type of Andean music) and the crashing of the beer bottles that are piling up on a side of the streets.

In the parades dance up to 40 thousand dancers to the beat of 200 bands, with costumes of a bright color in which are mixed, sequins, embroidered skirts and large metal masks that remind of Spanish characters, devils or other spirits of the altiplanic worldview are mixed .

Fiesta de la Candelaria, Puno, What to see in Puno, Puno main sights

Puno is also considered "The Folkloric Capital of America", with more than 300 registered dances and other festivities such as The Jubilee Tourist Week of Puno, which marks the birth of the first Inca, Manco Cápac (November 5); Epifanía (January 6); San Juan Bautista (March 8); Las Alacitas (May 2, a beautiful party in which payments are made to the land and small crafts that represent our goals are blessed); Las Cruces (May 3-4 on the island of Taquile and Huancané); the festival of Santiago (July 25); and Nuestra Señora de la Merced (September 24).

For the rest, the city of Puno does not have much to do. Architecturally  is a city that to my impression was frozen between modernity and traditionalism, with hundreds of corrugated roofs (uralita) that reflect the sun's sparkle until sunset. The main street is the Jirón Lima, where you can find exchange houses, banks, coffee shops and small shops.

*Beware: be careful with altitude sickness or soroche; we must remember that we will be almost 4,000 meters above sea level. As we recommend in the post about Titicaca, you can buy some pills called Sorojchi Pills in any pharmacy, or take the coca tea that will serve you in any accommodation in the city.

In the same way, you will find in almost all the lodgings air cylinders  in case you need them. It will help a soft diet based on chicken soup and cooked vegetables.

The baroque cathedral of Puno

At one end of the Plaza de Armas (square) in Puno we can find the Cathedral, dating from 1757 and which holds the rank of Minor Basilica after the visit of Pope Paul VI in 1964.

The temple, which was begun to be built in the old Supay Kancha or Cerco del Diablo (Fence of the Devil), has a baroque style typical of the seventeenth century, with a spectacular facade and a staircase of 10 steps that descends to the square. SCHEDULE: 10.00 to 11.00 and 3.30 to 18.00. Free entrance.

The interior of the basilica stands out for its spaciousness and austerity, with a main altar finished in marble and where two images are worshiped and were taken to Puno in the early years of the Spanish colony, El Señor del Quinario and the Virgen de los Remedios (Virgin of the Remedies). The altar is covered with silver and you can see paintings from different schools such as Cusquena and Italian.

Puno Cathedral, Puno, What to see in Puno, Puno main sights

Carlos Dreyer Museum

Behind the Basilica we find this peculiar museum that holds a small collection of archaeological pieces from the Puno region, which belonged to the German artist and collector Carlos Dreyer Spohr. In its halls (Inca, Lithic, Regional, Religious), we will find weavings, ceramics and other objects from cultures such as the Moche, Nazca and gold jewelery of the “Tesoro de Sillustani” (Treasure of Sillustani), with a life-size replica of the Chullpa del Lagarto.

In the upper floor we can find mummies related to the region. SCHEDULE: Mon-Sat 9.30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Entry S/5. munipuno.gob.pe/

Coca Museum

Coca as a thousand-year-old leaf used in the pre-Inca culture of the altiplano continues to this day. Both the inhabitants of southern Peru, and much of the inhabitants of Bolivia, 'chacchan' (or chew) coca leaf to combat altitude sickness, improve blood flow and acquire greater vitality. In this museum we can find a brief history of these properties and a good collection of party costumes from Puno.

We can also find in the interior several products based on coca leaf, such as liqueurs, sweets, cookies ... and even coca wine. museodelacoca.com/

Coca Museum, Puno, What to see in Puno, Puno main sights

Viewpoints of Puno

If we have some time to get to know the city we can go to discover the Cerrito de Huajsapata and the Mirador del Cóndor (viewpoint of the condor), both 10 minutes from the city center and from where we can have beautiful views of the city and Lake Titicaca.

In the Cerro we will find a white image of the first Inca, Manco Cápac, while in the Mirador -as his own name indicates- we will find an enormous condor several meters high.

Condor Viewpoint, Puno, What to see in Puno, Puno main sights

The Puma Uta viewpoint (Cougar Viewpoint) is in the northern part of the city and in the Aymara language means the Casa del Puma (The cougar house). Like the condor viewpoint, it has a huge figure of a cougar that presides over the view of Titicaca Lake and the apus (or ancestral gods in the shape of hills) that surround the city: Machallata, Azoquini, Pirhua Pirhuani and Cancharani.

Cougar Viewpoint, Puno, What to see in Puno, Puno main sights


The funerary towers or chullpas of Sillustani are one of the most well-known and visited tourist attractions around Puno, specifically on the Umayo Lake Peninsula (about 40 minutes by bus). In these towers -of various sizes and that we can find elsewhere in the area- the ancient tribe of the colla buried the most notable personalities of the nobility.

The highest chullpa of Sillustani is 12 meters high and in these larger towers families were often buried with the belongings that would accompany them to the beyond. We can still see the small openings through which they entered to leave those belongings and that were later sealed.

The area is surrounded by the beautiful Lake Umayo (3890 masl), where you can see small islands where a great variety of birds nest and graze the vicuñas (camelids similar to llamas).

Buses leave for Sillustani from Puno at 2:30 p.m. for about S / 30, leaving visitors approximately one hour in the ruins of the chullpas. A cheaper option is to take buses that go to Juliaca (S / 5) and ask to get off at the fork to Sillustani.

If we get to Atun Colla, we will find the curiosity of finding edible earth, which is usually used as clay "in sauce" in some foods.

Cutimbo Puno, What to see in Puno, Puno main sights

Archaeological Complex of Cutimbo

The chullpas of this Cutimbo site are located 20 km from Puno, on top of an impressive volcanic hill that seems cut with a colossal blade. These chullpas, created by the Colla, Lupaca and Inca cultures, are different from the one we saw in Sillustani because they have a square plant - although we will also find a circular base.

Along with the chullpas we can see the stone ramps that were used for its construction. In the rocks we can see designs of monkeys, cougars and snakes, made by the builders.

Being away from Puno it is recommended to go in groups. First to save money on the journey and second, to avoid possible theft from tourists. A taxi can cost about S/ 70, including a 30-minute-wait for the driver. Another cheaper option is to take a bus to Laraqueri for about S/ 5. These leave from the cemetery next to the Amista Park.

On the way, after about 30 minutes of route, we will see the architectural complex on the left.

Cutimbo Puno, What to see in Puno, Puno main sights

After visiting these tourist attractions, we may want to rest in one of the hotels in Puno or have a drink in their places of march. We have to take strength to know what was considered the'navel of the world': the Imperial City of Cusco.

Esteban García, Peru Travels Blog
April 2018

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