Things to Do in Puno
Lake Titicaca, glistening atop the Andes Mountains, is a tourist attraction, spiritual oasis, and cultural hub all in one. It is also South America’s highest (at 12,507 feet/3,812 meters) and largest (at an astounding 3,230 square miles/8,366 square kilometers) lake, as well as the highest navigable lake in the world.
The unusual 40-plus floating Uros Islands are the most photographed attractions on Lake Titicaca. Constructed with springy totora reeds and anchored to the lake bed, the fragile islands must continually be built and rebuilt, changing in shape, size and even number over time.
Looking out to the stunning Lake Umayo, about an hour outside Puno, is one of Peru’s more enigmatic pre-Inca archeological wonders. Sillustani is a burial ground marked by perfectly hewn stone towers (called chullpas) that stretch toward the high-desert sky were built by the local Aymara-speaking Colla people, around 1300 AD.
Amantani Island on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca has been communally owned since shortly after Peru’s independence from Spain. Less touristic than the Uros and Taquile islands, Amantani is still operated as a type of commune, with families welcoming travelers for overnight stays.
Tiny Taquile Island in the middle of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, has a dramatic, rocky topography topped with windswept pre-Columbian ruins. The island has become a tourist haven due to its famous knitwear and textiles, designated as elements on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The rugged Andean terrain of La Raya Pass has gorgeous sloping hillsides, purple peaks, and fresh water pools. A popular route between Lake Titicaca and Cusco, the pass is full of tourist trains making a quick photo stop 14,150 feet (4,313 meters) above sea level.
Of all the magical islands on Lake Titicaca, privately-owned Suasi Island offers luxury-seekers a stay in a sumptuously-appointed ecolodge amongst the island’s stunning vistas, rocky outcroppings, and cascading bougainvillea. Still quite remote, this tiny (106 acres, 43 hectares) island relies on simple rustic pleasures and renewable energy sources.
Sun Island (Isla del Sol) is the largest of the lake islands on Lake Titicaca, and with welcoming guest houses and hostels, travelers have many options to stay overnight to maximize the experience. With dramatically sculpted terrain, some 800 families live here amongst 180 pre-Columbian ruins, ancient hiking trails, and a small museum with fascinating artifacts.