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Puno Tourist Attractions

En nuestro primer post del año, esta vez nos vamos al sur de Perú a descubrir los lugares Turísticos de Puno.

Puno, the cradle of mysteries and great legends, possesses a natural heritage of incalculable worth to the whole world. In this beautiful city you will see a potpourri of pre-Inca, Inca and Colonial culture. This fascinating mixture is present in the architecture of its temples, archeological centers and colonial mansions.

The main tourist sites of Puno are Lake Titicaca, the Islands of the Uros, Taquile Island, Amantani Island, the Pucara Museum, the Sillustani Archaeological Complex, the Chucuito Peninsula, and the Island of the Sun; but there are actually many more. However, the greatest tourist attraction in Puno is the mythical Lake Titicaca, which shines a brilliant sapphire blue under the cloudless sky, 365 days a year. Also, out on the lake, the visitor can find lots of activities and innumerable sites of interest on the lake’s picturesque islands.

Another reason to visit the city of Puno is to take part in its exciting cultural life. Especially notable is the Feast of the Virgin of the Candelaria and of the Immaculate Conception. It is one of the most important events in the Americas. Every year, on the 2nd day of February, the city of Puno is flooded with dancers and party goers. More than 50 thousand people parade through the streets in their colorful costumes, playing Andean music. The traveler can participate in this revelry which lasts for more than two weeks. It is one of the biggest celebrations in all of southern Peru.

Puno Tourist Attractions
Puno Tourist Attractions

Let’s see what Puno’s best tourist destinations are:

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. It also forms the natural border between Peru and Bolivia. As an ecosystem, it is as wonderful as it is strange. Its unique characteristics bring into focus its majesty, its history, and its biodiversity. In addition, it contains an unparalleled wealth of animal and plant life and cultural traditions.

This impressive watery mirror is located in the Andean highlands. It is considered to be the highest navigable, freshwater lake in the world. It is found at an elevation of 3,812 meters above sea level, and it has an area of 8,562 km², of which 56% belongs to Peru and 44% to Bolivia. The average depth of the lake is 107 meters. Geologists tell us that they believe the lake is more than 3 million years old. More than 25 rivers empty their waters into Lake Titicaca. The average water temperature is 13ºC.

Today, Lake Titicaca is a national reserve protected by the Peruvian government.

This natural treasure consists of the lake itself, a collection of manmade floating artificial islands, the hilly natural islands, and the verdant, cultivated fields which surround the lake. All this combines to make up a beautiful, harmonious tableau.

In ancient times the islands of Lake Titicaca were populated by numerous Andean cultures. These included the Pucarás, the Tiahuanacos, and the Incas. For this reason, it is also known as the Cradle of the Ancient Civilizations of Peru. Also, during the Incan Empire, Lake Titicaca was known as a very sacred place. This was because, according to Incan mythology, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo, who were the original founders of the great Incan dynasty, emerged from this lake.

You can observe how the perfect combination of blue sky and crystal clear waters make Lake Titicaca a dreamlike and magical place. This sacred lake is unequalled, and is has many qualities which have never been seen before, in any other tourist destination.

The Floating Islands of the Uros

The Floating Islands of the Uros
The Floating Islands of the Uros

The Floating Islands of the Uros actually form a floating village of manmade islands out in the midst of Lake Titicaca. They are still inhabited by their makers, the Uros tribe. These platform-like islands on which the families of this community build their houses, are made out of Totora reeds. Totora reeds are aquatic plants that grow in large quantities around the edge of Lake Titicaca.

A floating island can last up to 20 years if taken care of properly. Although to keep it afloat and to not have to rebuild an entire island, a new layer of reeds is added every 20 to 25 days. In order to travel from one island to another, the Uros use boats that are also made out of Totora. These reed boats are beautifully designed, and they can even have two levels. From five to seven families live on each island. They subsist thanks to fishing, hunting, and experiential tourism. They do beautiful colorful embroidery and they make miniature reed boats, too. These crafts are offered to visitors who come to visit their floating islands.

According to the Chroniclers the Uros formed one of the first cultures on the Altiplano (the High Plain), and their origin dates back to the pre-Inca era. According to some theories, they came from Bolivia before they moved to the shores of Lake Titicaca after the great droughts of 900 A.D. – 1,200 A.D. Although they initially lived on the mainland, they decided to build floating islands in order to avoid being conquered by the Tiahuanacos, the Collas, and the Incas. Since they found a means of survival (hunting and fishing) out in the middle of the lake, they never did return to the mainland.

The Burial Towers of Sillustani

The Burial Towers of Sillustani
The Burial Towers of Sillustani

The Archaeological Complex of Sillustani contains archaeological monuments linked to burial rituals of the Tiahuanaco, Colla and Inca cultures. The site is located 34 kilometers from the city of Puno, on a Peninsula in the Umayo Lagoon, at about 4000 meters above sea level. It is believed that the Chullpas or circular stone towers were erected to house the buried remains of the principle authorities of the Colla people.

At the Chullpas of Sillustani, there are about ninety inverted cone-shaped chullpas that were masterfully crafted so that they fit together perfectly. These mausoleums can reach up to 12 meters high. One of their outstanding characteristics is that their bases are smaller in circumference than the top sections. According to the Chroniclers, the mummified bodies of the highest authorities were placed inside these graves. And next to their bodies, as part of their funeral trousseau which would enable them to have a better life in the Beyond, there were also placed their most valuable belongings such as gold and silver objects, food and ceramic utensils. There is an on-site museum within walking distance of the Sillustani tourist complex. Various relics from the Colla, the Tiahuanaco, and the Incan cultures can be seen inside the museum.

It is recommended that you visit the Chullpas of Sillustani during your trip from Puno to the Juliaca airport, or vice versa.

Amantani Island

Amantani Island
Amantani Island

Amantaní Island is the perfect place to witness traditional customs, and to see for yourself how the inhabitants of the highlands live. You will also be amazed by the wonderful scenery. This legendary island is located out on Lake Titicaca. It is 3817 meters above sea level, and 36 km. northeast of the port of Puno. The travel time by motor boat is approximately 3 hours.

The island is notable for two reasons: the Coanos Hill and the Llacastiti Hill. These hills are where the ceremonial centers honoring Pachatata and Pachamama are located. From the tops of these hills you can see all up and down Lake Titicaca. The whole Island of Amantani is covered with innumerable native medicinal plants such as muña, cantuta, sage, and patamuña. Amantaní is also home to ten communities. The residents of these communities are especially dedicated to the cultivation of agricultural products such as potatoes, corn, and quinoa. They also raise geese, carve stone images, and weave textiles.

Currently, the island of Amantani stands out for being in the forefront of the practice of experiential tourism. It is one of the few places where it is possible to stay overnight in a rural house. By staying overnight in a rural house you can learn all about the local customs and traditions, taste the local cuisine, and participate in ancient, ancestral traditional activities.

Because it is quite far by boat from Puno, tourism on this island is not as developed as it is on the other islands of Lake Titicaca.

Taquile Island

Taquile Island
Taquile Island

Taquile Island is the largest island in Lake Titicaca. You can find incredible vistas, magnificent scenery, and pre-Incan artifacts on Taquile. It is home to Quechua-speaking islanders who make their living by fishing, farming, and weaving textiles. The islanders are strongly grounded in their ancient customs and traditions.

The inhabitants of Taquile are totally different than the inhabitants of the other islands in Lake Titicaca. On Taquile, the people maintain a strong sense of group identity. Therefore, most of its inhabitants marry only people from the same island.

Taquile has a fascinating tradition surrounding its handicrafts and textiles. Each woven piece is made according to a system of deeply rooted social customs. The men wear very finely woven woolen hats which they themselves weave. The color of each hat denotes the social position of its wearer. A red hat is worn by a married man, whereas a red and white hat is worn by a single man. Taquile women dress in their traditional red blouses and multicolored skirts.

Currently, Taquile specializes in rural tourism adventures. Travelers are encouraged to disconnect from their daily routines and from the hustle and bustle of city life. So, come to Taquile Island and enter into the customs and traditions of this Quechua world. You will learn directly from the Quechua people who live up in the high country, out on an island, in the middle of Lake Titicaca. The very best sunsets, the fertile red fields, the intense blue of Titicaca’s waters, and the brilliant white snow-capped peaks which dominate the skyline on the Bolivian side of the lake, are waiting for you. Come on a voyage of discovery!

Chucuito

Taquile Island
Taquile Island

The Chucuito Peninsula is also known as the City of the Royal Banks because it was a tax collection center during the Colonial era. It is located 18 km. south of Puno. This peninsula is notable for its beautiful white sand beaches, its unique landscape, and its natural scenic overlooks offering some the most fantastic views of Lake Titicaca.

In Chucuito, specifically in the rural community of Karina, it is possible to participate in traditional activities. Also, you can visit the Renaissance-style Church of the Assumption and the Church of Santo Domingo, both of which are considered to be fine examples Colonial religious expression. There are the ruins of Inca Ullo to explore, too. This rectangular foundation was built long before the arrival of the Spanish. Inca Ullo was and is considered a sacred place where fertility ceremonies are celebrated.

Pucará

Pucará
Pucará

The town of Pucará is located 110 km. from the city of Puno. and to the northwest of the city of Juliaca. It is well known for the fine craftsmanship of the pottery made there. It is home to the famous Toritos de Pucará which are the ceramic bulls that are placed on the roofs of newly constructed houses, and which symbolize protection and prosperity in the Quechua world. There is also a great celebration here every July 16 honoring Our Lady of Carmen.

The Archaeological Zone of Pucará protects architectural monuments which were built 1800 years before the birth of Christ. According to the Chroniclers, this was the oldest and most important administrative religious center on the Altiplano. The archaeological complex is divided into two sectors: ceremonial and urban. The first sector is the more important and it is composed of nine pyramids, among which the Pyramid of Kalasaya is the most notable. Usually a tour of this site is included on the Route of the Sun Tour when traveling between Cusco and Puno.

In Pucara, you can also visit the Lithic Museum of Pucará where ceramics of various sizes and shapes are exhibited. There is a set of monoliths and lithic sculptures from the Pucará culture that have been classified into three groups: monoliths, stellae, and zoomorphic sculptures. In addition, there is also the Ceramics Museum of Pucará where more than thirty ceramic objects are exhibited. Through viewing these grand ceramics, you will be able to see the greatness of the Pucará culture and observe the magnificent ceramics of all the pre-Inca and Inca cultures.

Aramu Muru Gate

The Gate of Aramu Muru, which is also known as Hayu Marca (City of Spirits) and Willka Uta (Gateway of the Gods) is located 70 km. south of the city of Puno. It is a door carved into a single piece of rock. It measures approximately 7 meters in height. Aramu Muru is, without a doubt, one of the most mystical, enigmatic, and energetic places that exist in the Lake Titicaca area.

The inhabitants of the area have great legends about this Gate of Aramu Muru. One such legend is that, during the Spanish invasion, the Incan Priest, Aramu, fled from the city of Cusco carrying the golden sun disk. He did not want it to fall into the hands of the Spaniards. According to this Andean myth, Aramu used this disk as a key to open the door. Then he took the sun disk and disappeared through the portal. This is one reason why Aramu Muru has become a place of myths and legends.

Today, thousands of intrepid travelers and historians, locals included, have visited this sacred door. Many of them go there to offer prayers. Others do rituals. Some adventurers go there in search of positive energy. Because only the gods are said to be able to pass through this gateway, it is believed to be a very good place to revitalize both soul and mind.

So, if you are looking for positive energy, we believe that this gateway is the perfect place for you to visit. A very auspicious date for going there would be on the winter solstice, June 21. At that time there are festivities and celebrations giving thanks to Pachamama, Tayta Inti and the water spirits.

Tinajani Canyon

Cañón de Tinajani
Cañón de Tinajani

Tinajani Canyon is located 150 km. north of Puno, at an elevation of about 4059 meters above sea level. It is a perfect place for those adventurers who love to explore awe-inspiring, seldom visited natural wonders. These days, Tinajani Canyon is growing in popularity due to its enigmatic geological formations. These mysterious formations have inspired mystics from all over the world to come here in order to make direct contact with Mother Nature and with the Ancestors.

The stone forests of the Tinajani Canyon are spread out over an area of 250 hectares. The forests lay along the banks of the Pacobamba River. The river’s clear, placid water murmurs softly to the visitor as they flow by. The incredible formations resemble large towers or castles that seem to have been converted, for some reason, into stone. According to scholars, the reasons why there are such peculiar rock configurations in the canyon have to do with wind phenomena and temperature changes.

The figures reach up to 50 meters in height. When you visit you here you will note the human-type figures, along with the winged sphinxes and the phantoms of granite.

If you would like to reach Tinajani Canyon, the recommended starting point is the city of Ayaviri, which is only 15 minutes away from the canyon by car, or 3 and a half hours walking.

Island of the Sun

Island of the Sun
Island of the Sun

The Island of the Sun is the perfect place to discover the people of the Andes. It is a very beautiful destination with its cultivated terraces and Lake Titicaca looking just like a picture postcard. The Island is located out in Lake Titicaca, on the Bolivian side of the Lake.

This Island holds a very important place in Andean mythology. According to the legend, the Sun-god, Inti, lived on the Island and this is where he created his children, Manco Cápac y Mama Ocllo. They were the first Incas and the founders of the great Inca Empire. On the other hand, according to the Chroniclers, during Incan times, the Island of the Sun was a sanctuary with a temple where the Virgins dedicated to the Sun lived.

Today the Island is inhabited by indigenous people who speak Quechua and Aymara. They make their living by farming, by making handicrafts, by offering rural tourist services, and by raising llamas and alpacas. Most of the people who live here are tri-lingual. That is, they speak Quechua, Aymara, and Spanish.

The easiest way to get to the Island of the Sun is by taking a boat from Copacabana, Bolivia.

On your next vacation, visit the city of Puno and write your own legend. In this mythical land, you will find stories which have been passed down for thousands of years, colorful celebrations, beautiful islands, and lots of other natural and cultural wonders.

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