Puno and Lake Titicaca Travel Guide
Nearly everyone has heard of Lake Titicaca. With a great name like that how could one not have heard of it? People relate to its name, or to the fact that it is the highest navigable lake in the world at around 3800m, but when they don’t realize Lake Titicaca is also the epicenter for Andean culture. It is from the depths of this lake that the decedents of the great Inca nobility are said to have risen as well. Much of the region’s rich history can be tied back to this lake and its surroundings. Moreover, due to the isolation of some of the islands on the lake, this is one of the few places in the Andes where traditional ways of life have succeeded to this day. Although there are signs of a “show” for tourists in places like the Uros Islands, most of what you see on the islands is a very well preserved Andean culture.
Time Needed: 2-3 days
Budget: $35-50 a day
Things to do in Puno & Lake Titicaca
- Lake Excursions: Most come to the region for a lake excursion. These trips can be organized well in advance or the day of or before. Trips include day trips to the Uros Islands or Taquille Islands. It is also possible to book two day trips where you spend the night on either Amantani or Taquille Island.
- Carlos Dreyer Museum: The best place in town to check out old pre-Colonial artifacts and learn about the history of the region.
- Coca Museum: A bit of an odd museum, but it displays the significance of the coca leaf beyond its usual use in tea or as a chew; the medicinal and spiritual values are also depicted.
- Market: If you’re in town on a weekend you’ll notice the streets packed with stands. This is one of the most rudimentary, but also interesting, street markets in Peru.
- Yavari: The old steam ship that once pulled across the lake between Peru and Bolivia is now a museum. The story about how it arrived on the lake is about as interesting as the ship itself. A must visit.
- Sillustani Funeral Towers: Somehow this site has almost been left forgotten with so much excitement on the lake itself. An afternoon tour to the funeral towers on the lake’s edge can be had for about $5 and is worth the trip if you have the time.
Where to Eat
Most people stick to the main pedestrian drag (Calle Lima) in town when if comes to eating and drinking, and it is here that you’ll find the best options.
- Tulipans: On the main walkway downtown, this was always one of my stops in town. The service is always friendly and the food is good and well valued. Try the pizza. (Mains $6-9; Sandwiches $4-7)
- IncaBar: This is also a good place to go, and has a really nice atmosphere. The service is suspect at time, but the food is worth the visit. (Mains $6-10)
- Keros: Maybe the most traditional menu you’ll find (yes it includes Guinea Pig). Keros is just a block off of Lima Street and has a fun atmosphere and is much smaller and more personal than the other choices. (Mains $6-10)
Where to Stay in Puno
Puno is very well set up for tourism. There is a place to stay for each and every budget. During my 7 passes through Puno both working and backpacking I stayed in four different places, all which I recommend and are listed below:
- Hostel Munay Tambo: One block from Calle Lima this hostel, whose title means beautiful resting place in Quechua, is a great place to stay if you don’t mind hiking up some stairs. The rooms are very nice and there are bathrooms with nice hot water showers. All rooms also have TV and there is wifi in the lobby. Prices also include a nice breakfast spread. (About $20 per person)
- Hotel Italia: A nice place with a very friendly staff, the Hotel Italia is a couple blocks from the main street but it is a nice stay. Prices also include breakfast and wifi. (Singles $25, Doubles $35, Triples $45)
- Hostal Pukara: I stayed here after being moved on an overbooking at another hotel and was glad I did. This is a pretty fun little hotel just a block from Calle Lima. It has wifi and a couple computers as well. (about $25-30 per person)
- Bothy Backpacker Hostel: This is a friendly hostel and probably the best choice in town (although if you’re looking for a party hostel try “The Point”). Private rooms are about $12 a person or dorms run about $8. The hostel has breakfast included and internet access.
In Puno finding communication networks isn’t an issue. Calle Lima has a number of internet cafes and telephone booths. If you’re heading out onto the lake you’re likely to lose cell coverage and don’t expect to find internet, especially not on Amantani Island.
Getting Out of Town
Most tourists come to Puno via three directions: Cusco (7hrs), Arequipa (4-5hrs), or La Paz, Bolivia (7rhs), but there are also connections in Puno to Lima, Nazca, and Arica, Chile.
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