Lake Titicaca is known worldwide as one of the main attractions for any traveler who wants to visit Peru. But the main question is, “Where is Lake Titicaca?” And most could respond by saying that it is right next to Puno. But the truth is that most people have no idea where they are located. Puno is the city that serves as the gateway to the many and varied tours on Lake Titicaca. However, Puno is not only “the city of Lake Titicaca”, there is much more to do and see in this small town. Therefore, together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru, we have prepared a small article about the things to do in Puno that you cannot miss.
An Inca fertility temple with stone phalluses that sprout from the ground like mushrooms, some floating islands made from Totora on Lake Titicaca, a British steamship stranded on the lake, and the festivity of an ancient virgin. The best things to do in Puno are just around the corner.
Learn about the different and varied things to do in Puno
- Explore the Uros Islands
- Visit the Cathedral of Puno
- Get to know la Casa del Corregidor
- Walk to Jirón de Lima Street and Parque Pino
- Enjoy the festival of the Virgin of la Candelaria
- Sail to the Taquile Island
- Visit the Sillustani Cemetery
- The quaint town of Chucuito
- The Yavari British steamship
- The white giant of Huajsapata
1. Explore the Uros islands
If you are planning a boat tour on Lake Titicaca, be sure to book a tour that includes the Uros Islands. Just about 5 kilometers from Puno, the Uros people live on around 40 artificial floating islands that are made of Totora, endemic reeds that grow in Lake Titicaca. Even, they have to renew the Totoras every 6 months, changing the form, the large, and the number of the islands constantly. The Uros people have lived there even before the Incas and still follow the ancient way of life and traditions. But, the islands are not the only thing that is made of reeds, even their boats and houses are made of woven reeds. While his daily duties include fishing, island renovation, and more, tourism is a big part of his life today.
No one knows for sure how they got there, in the middle of the lake, but the most accepted theory affirms that they began to build the islands in the middle of the lake to stay away from the invading hordes of pre-Inca cultures, Incas, and even the same Spanish conquerors. During your visit to the Uros floating islands on Lake Titicaca, you will be taught about their daily life, and you can buy some beautiful handicrafts. If you have more time, you can even spend an evening with a local family for a first-hand experience. On the tour of the different islands, you will surely learn about the meaning of Lake Titicaca.
2. Visit the cathedral of Puno
In the center of Puno city, specifically in the main square, is a colonial baroque cathedral, completed in 1757 and designed largely by the mestizo artist Simón de Astro. While the facade is remarkably impressive with its two wide steeples, the interior, on the other hand, is not. Justly, the interior suffered severe damage due to a fire in the 1930s. However, you can still admire the major large altar of marble inside. The monument is better appreciated from the adjacent central square of Puno known as Plaza de Armas. This basilica is devoted to San Carlos Borromeo, but everyone knows it as the Cathedral of Puno. Knowing the cathedral of Puno is, without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Puno.
3. Get to know la Casa del Corregidor
On any trip from Machu Picchu to Lake Titicaca, it is convenient to first pass through the city of Puno. And within the city, there are many things to see and do, including getting to know the famous little yellow house. That small bright yellow house with a beautiful Spanish-style blue balcony is located directly opposite the Cathedral. It is one of the oldest and most recent examples of colonial architecture in Puno. The old house from the 17th century is supposedly one of the oldest in the city, it was built in 1668.
Now, it houses a fair trade handicraft shop, local art exhibition halls, as well as a charming café, and even a library, the music is relaxing, perfect for a rest moment. At night, you can visit and enjoy delicious tapas and local craft beers. Knowing this old colonial house is on our list of the best things to do in Puno.
4. Walk to Jirón de Lima Street and Parque Pino
If you are looking for more things to do in Puno, what about the Jiron Lima? It is a pedestrianized street full of souvenirs markets, cafes, restaurants, travel agencies, shops, hotels, and bars. If the different Lake Titicaca hotels are not to your liking, walk this street to find the best hotels in Puno. You can get there easily from the Plaza de Armas, the main square, heading north. This lively street is perfect for a relaxing afternoon stroll through the city. Besides, it connects the main square with Parque Pino. This park was created in 1901 in honor of Dr. Manuel Pino, a local who is considered a hero in the war against Chile. If you want to see the local lifestyle of the Puno people, you can’t miss the visit to this park.
5. Enjoy the festival of the Virgin of La Candelaria
On your list of things to do in Puno, you should unquestionably not miss the Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria. In early February, between 2 and 12, this two-week holiday is filled with a unique religious procession, accompanied by folk dances in which participants drink beer on every step, colorful and spooky costumes, and an incredible amount of alcohol. It is believed that during the great rebellion of Túpac Amaru in 1781, the Virgin protected the Spanish inhabitants of Puno from the Incas besiegers.
The sculpture of this virgin is located in the ancient mud church of San Juan Bautista, this church was renewed in gothic-style structures in 1886 and converted into an official sanctuary of the Virgin of Candelaria in 1998. Nowadays, its festivity is celebrated with people from all over Peru watching the grand opening folk dances competition in the municipality stadium, with dance rituals, and enjoying the accompanying music. It’s a unique sight to see, and it’s worth being part of the event, so consider a Virgen Candelaria Puno festive tour.
6. Sail to the Taquile island
If you have a full day to spend on Lake Titicaca, add in a visit to Taquile Island. It is one of the necessary steps to knowing the varied Lake Titicaca mystery. It is located 02 hours and 30 minutes from the Puno port. The island with its steep slopes and stone paths that cross lands of grazing offers a breathtaking view over the dazzling blue of Lake Titicaca.
Not a few visitors claim to have felt on the island of Capri or Sardinia, being in Taquile. The men of these islands are experts in weaving beautiful fabrics and clothes of remarkable quality. Since childhood, they graze with needle and wool in hand, learning the ancient art of weaving. While the women weave colorful and impressive blankets. Therefore, Taquile has been considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 2008. Visiting the different islands within Lake Titicaca is one of the best things to do in Puno.
7. Visit the Sillustani cemetery
About 30 km from Puno is Sillustani where you can witness lines of Chullpas, which are ancient funerary towers. They belonged to the Qolla people, who were defeated by the Incas in the middle of the XV century. The Qollas used to enclose their deceased nobles in a fetal position along with food and personal belongings for their journey to the other world in these funerary towers. Unfortunately, some Chullpas are deteriorated due to grave robbers and lightning strikes, both abundant in the area.
These Chullpas have an altitude of 37 feet approx. Being the tallest, the impressive Lizard Chullpa with 40 feet of altitude. Tours usually start in the afternoon, so there will be a lot of people by then. You can also take a taxi and go on your own in the morning to avoid the crowds. After enjoying a Lake Titicaca boat tour, this place is an excellent option.
8. The Quaint town of Chucuito
Chucuito is a little town located southeast of Puno. 01 hour by car. The town was the capital of the Collasuyo, the most important political division of Tahuantinsuyo (Incas territory) on the east side. Even, Francisco Pizarro, captain of the Spanish conquerors’ first wave in Peru, visited it in 1538 due to its importance. Chuicuito has the first Catholic Church in the Peruvian Highland, the Renaissance Santo Domingo church, built-in 1581. But, the most outstanding attraction there is an ancient Inca fertility temple, where a series of well-sculptured stone phalluses sprout from the earth, similar to giant mushrooms of stones. You can take photos with them and pose! Even, if you take advantage of a Sunday, you’ll enjoy folk dances in its main square, developed by the local people. Definitely, visiting Chucuito is one of the best things to do in Puno.
9. The Yavarí British steamship
If you see a Lake Titicaca map, you will see a steamship British-style stranded in a port. But, What is a British steamship doing on Lake Titicaca? Well, the answer to this question keeps an interesting story. The British steamship was finished assembling in the shipyards of Birmingham (England) in 1862. Being moved until Arica, in Chile. At that time, part of the Peruvian territory. To be used as part of the recent Peruvian navy. After the defeat in the Pacific war, the ship was moved, practically, on the back of mules, crossing the Andean mountains until Lake Titicaca, where it sailed for another 100 years.
Nowadays, the steamship is aground in perpetuity in a Lake Titicaca port, in front of an exclusive hotel. This hotel company refurbished it, turning it into a bed & breakfast ship, where a visitor can spend some nights, touring its compartments and knowing more about its amazing history. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit it and enjoy a good story about the waters of Lake Titicaca.
10. The white giant of Huajsapata
If Cusco has the giant White Christ (Cristo Blanco) on a close hill to the main square, Puno has its own. It is an Inca instead of a Christ, the giant white sculpture of Manco Capac, who look at the Puno City, as its eternal guardian. The legend says that this Inca, son of the god Viracocha, the creator of everything, emerged from Lake Titicaca, along with his wife Mama Ocllo. He had the mission of finding a place to his father’s liking, (for this, he had to sink a staff, which his father had given him. The place where the staff sank would be the right one to found his father’s new empire)
This place was Cusco and the new empire of Viracocha was the Inca Empire, converting to Manco Capac its first king. This observation deck is located 15 minutes climbing a hill from the Puno main square. But believe us, the effort is worth it, you’ll have beautiful landscapes of Puno, not to mention the perfect postcards.
“WE TRAVEL, ONE FOREVER, TO SEEK OTHER STATES, OTHER LOVES, OTHER SOULS”
As you will see, the Lake Titicaca islands are not the only places where you can enjoy incredible experiences and things. Puno is an excellent place to rest, relax and enjoy a well-deserved vacation. You will have access to luxurious hotels, bars, restaurants, and a culture that is worth knowing. We hope together with the experts of Machu Travel Peru to have been of help. Remember that you can enjoy the different tours in Peru by consulting with our qualified advisors.