Puno, Peruvian Gateway to Titikaka

Trip Start Sep 30, 2013
Trip End May 31, 2014

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

We took a very comfortable 7 hour bus ride from Cusco to Puno on the shore of lake Titikaka. The countryside was quite unlike any I have seen before. A high plateau surrounded by snow capped mountains with Lamas and Alpacas in abundance.

Very fortunately, and quite unexpectedly, we arrived during a local festival. We took refuge in a restaurant on the main street (Avineda de Lima) and spent an hour or more with a leisurely lunch watching bands and dancing groups pass by. Rather like the furry dance in Cornwall, all the bands played the same tune and all the groups danced (pretty much) the same dance. The atmosphere was great. 
Puno gets a poor write up in the guide books and blogs, but I find it a pleasant town with useful shops and friendly people.

When Marian slipped out to take photos she met a nice German girl who joined us for lunch. She was traveling on her own and told us that she had been robbed twice during recent weeks. On one occasion she was in the main square in Lima at 1pm when she was attacked and robbed by 2 men. Nobody came to her assistance. 

Monday 20th January

Lake Titikaka is amazingly large for being so high. It contains fresh water and is quite swimable - similar in temperature to sea at Looe in the summer.
We took a tour to the nearby floating Islands of Uros, where they speak the Aymara language. These people established the islands for defensive reasons many centuries ago.. We saw a demonstration of how then created, and still maintain, the islands out of the abundant reeds that grow in the lake. It was really odd to think how they have lived on these artificial islands for so long. Some of them welcome tourists, whilst other prefer to maintain their isolation. Nowadays they have solar panels and mobile phones, but I think it is an austere existence.
Then we went further out into the lake to visit Amantani, where we stayed for the night with a local family. In the evening we got dressed up in local clothes and went to a dance in the community centre. It was great fun, though the dancing was rather vigorous at times. At 10pm the island's 'president' said that was enough, and we all went home. All the locals we met were friendly and smiled and laughed a lot of the time. Our guide said there were about 6,000 inhabitants in 10 communities.

The island has 2 hills, called Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Pachatata (Father Earth). Once a year half the islanders go up Pachamama and half go up Pachatata where they observe some weird ritual. Then they race to the central square and an almighty piss up follows.

Tuesday 21st January
We visited the smaller nearby island of Taquile (2,200 people), which was similar to Amanatni but the people were not so friendly. The men of this island are good knitters, while the women spend every spare minute spíning wool with hand spindles.

On both islands they speak the Inca language Quechua, and every usable inch of land is terraced, growing quinoa (pronouned kinwa) potatoes with purple flowers, maize, wheat or beans. 

The other 2 main islands in Titikaka, Islas del Sol and Luna, are on the Bolivian side. As they are similar and it is raining heavily we will probably skip them and go to La Paz next. 
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Heather Margetts on

Enjoyed reading this! xx

Viv Sullivan on

Its all about the timing, arriving for the festival! we cant wait to see you in some of your warm clothing on the boat Si.

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