This city is on the Peruvian side of the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. Puno is a trading centre between Peru and Bolivia, and a stopping point for travelers going between La Paz and Cusco. However, Puno has its own charm: it is known as the “folkloric capital” of Peru, as many festivals and traditional events take place here. An expanding city, the steep hillsides around the city centre are inhabited by poorer people. However, from one of these streets you can find an amazing view over the city and of Lake Titicaca.
Puno is visited for the Floating Islands, which are unique in this part of the world. Share some time with a local family and let them show you their culture, food and the way that they built these incredible islands from reeds and rafts. Discover a totally new culture: Lake Titicaca is the home of the Aymara people, they have been building the floating Islands with their own hands for more than 100 years and keep doing it to this day. They have their own traditions and their own language, which is the same as the name of the culture, Aymara. Below is our Puno travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
EXPLORE LAKE TITICACA – Take a boat trip and explore the famous Floating Islands which are unique to Uros – there are 70 of them! The people use the Totora reeds – which grow in the lake - to construct homes, boats, and other useful objects. This way of life is highly sustainable, as when the bottom layer of the reeds rot, a new layer is added on top.
Depending on how much time you have, you can take a 2-hour boat tour, or you can do a Homestay Tour and visit Amantani and Taquile Island. The Uros Floating Islands are more touristy than Amantani and Taquile, so if you’re after a more authentic experience then stay overnight with a local family on one of these islands. You’ll get to eat great, local food, and even enjoy a party if you go to Amantani!
SILLUSTANI – This is a cemetery located 33 km from the city in the Lagoon Umayo. Here you’ll see tombs built above the ground, resembling little towers (called chullpas) – the tallest one is 12m high! The people from the Kolla Culture (pre-Inca) used to put mummified corpses in the foetal position inside these chullpas.
CONDOR HILL - You’ll need to ascend around 700 steps to reach the viewpoint – known as ‘The Condor’. From this mirador, you’ll get a fantastic panoramic view of the city and the lake (if you don’t fancy the stairs then you can always take a taxi!). Please note, it’s not advisable to come here at dusk, as robberies can occur.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
Visit the Floating Islands.
The most popular food is lake trout: go to the local restaurants to try the different ways that they cook it, such as Mojsa (Jr.Lima). Here they also serves soup and pizza, among other dishes. A set menu plus a glass of wine is around 20 soles.
Another option is the local market (Oquendo 154) where you can find stews, and of course, lomo saltado - a traditional Peruvian dish, which is a mix of marinated beef steak, as well as onions, french fries, and tomatoes, and served with rice.
Most of Puno's entertainment - outside of festivals - can be found on the street named Jiron Lima, where you'll find bars and clubs. Close by is Kamizaraky Rock Pub (Grau 148), which has great cocktails, and sometimes hosts live music. A nice place to keep warm during the chilly Puno nights, with a grungy vibe and graffiti-style decor.
It’s common that they have celebrations every month. The best month to go is in February because they will be celebrating the Fiesta de la Candelaria, this is the Peruvian version of the carnival in Brazil. You will see people from the schools dancing with their traditional costumes from each little town around the city. Puno has a large number of dances, that’s why we call Puno the Folklore Capital of Peru. A lot of people from around the world come to see this celebration because it is very colorful and there is a lot of great energy around.
Another good month to go is in November as this is the month that celebrates the anniversary of the city. You will see parades and dances on the street. The main day is on November 5th.
The airport is not in Puno, it’s in Juliaca which is one hour by car. Buses arrive into the centre.
If you’re coming from Lima, it’s 23 hours by bus.
If you’re coming from Cusco, it’s 6 hours by bus.
If you’re coming from Copacabana, Bolivia, it takes 3 hours by bus and includes a border crossing.
Most of the hostels and hotels are inside the centre, you can also stay on one of the islands with a local family or in a fancy hotel on the islands too. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful views of the Lake Titicaca.
If you've got cash to spare, and would like to wake up to the beautiful views of the lake, go to Eco Inn (Avenida Chulluni 195). There's a buffet breakfast, the staff are kind and professional, and the location is a little out of town but in a more natural setting. For a nice hostel, go to Pacha Suite (Cajamarca 243), which is cozy and close to the main square.
Don’t stay in Juliaca, it’s one hour from the lake and it’s a dangerous city.
There are always a lot of visitors in the center of the city walking around the streets safely, however it is advisable not to walk in remote areas of the center, especially the market area.
If you visit the Uros Floating Islands, be prepared to pay a local if you want to take a photo.