The lake Titicaca and the Altiplano
Also called Meseta del Collao, Altiplano is a vast plateau of 100,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi) at 4,000 m (13,000 ft) a.s.l between the eastern and western Cordillera. The plateau extends from southern Peru (1/4 of its area), crosses Bolivia and ends in northern Chile and Argentina. It is an area rich in minerals where exists the most important tin deposits in the world.
The climate is semi-arid with large diurnal temperature ranges, the temperatures can vary up to 30ºC (86ºF) on the same day, from -5°C (23ºF) at night and 25°C (75ºF) at noon and solar radiation level is generally very high.
The most spoken language of the altiplano is Aymara, although Quechua (language of the Incas) is omnipresent and the main activities are cattle herding (llamas, alpacas, sheep, bulls) and growing potatoes and other tubers (oca, isaño , olluco), beans and especially quinoa.
Known as the highest navigable lake in the world with a surface elevation of 3,810 m (12,497 ft) refering to navigation by large boats, is a mythical place with amazing scenery. With an area of 8,562 km2 (3,306 sq mi), 174 km (108 mi) length and 70 km (43 mi) width, is shared between Peru (56%) and Bolivia (44%), with a maximum depth of 283 meters (928 ft) near the island Soto.
25 rivers empty their waters into the lake. Most of the water level control is done by evaporation, only 5% flows the single outlet at the Río Desaguadero, which then flows south through Bolivia to Lake Poopó.
The origin of the name Titicaca is unknown. It most likely is derived from quechua Titi (puma) and Caca (rock).
The lake is large but fishes are small like the carachi and ispi (10-20 cm / 4-8 in) and the suche (40 cm / 16 in). On the contrary, Titicaca is home to 50 cm (20 in) giant frogs living permanently at the bottom of the lake. In the 40s were introduced trout and silverside.
the lake has 41 islands, some of which are densely populated.
Floating islands Uros
This group of artificial islands made of totora (reeds) installed in the bay of Puno amid the reeds that grow in the shallow part of the lake, are 20 minutes by boat from the port of Puno and it is one of the most exotic places in the world.
The islands are all different in size but do not pass the 50 meters (150 ft) long, where up to 10 families live together, lodged in houses also made of reeds. Here are also two schools, two churches and a health post. the Uros settlers live on the fishing, the hunting and now tourism.
2 hours 30 by boat from Puno, Taquile is the most tourist island of the lake. Two paths can be used to climb to the main square. The first is not difficult and takes less than an hour, but at 4,000 m (13,000 ft) above sea level, a short walk can deplete us as a marathon. The second way is more difficult but also shorter. In both cases, the view is wonderful, also appreciates the tranquility of the place and even the locals are quite discreet and speak softly. The men Knit and the women spin wool while walking hidden behind black shawls.
In the main square, a community center offers local handicrafts. The textile art of Taquile was proclaimed Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2005. The 2,000 Taquileans are small farmers growing potatoes, beans, oca, corn or raising cattle, sheep and cows.
3 hours from Puno, this island is located near Taquile and less touristy than its neighbor, but most frequented by people who want an overnight homestay on islands, rather rustic conditions. Amantani is a bit bigger and higher (4,150 m / 13,610 ft) than Taquile and its population of 4,000 inhabitants is quite similar. At the top of the island are two pre-Inca ceremonial centers, Pachamama and Pachatata.
In the southern part of the lake, is another bay called Lago Menor or Wiñaymarca. On the Peruvian side there are 5 islands and from some communities have developed rural tourism welcoming travelers whith overnight homestay on the island Anapia. On the island Yuspique live about 50 vicuñas.
City of Puno
Capital of the department of Puno and linguistic border between the Quechua (north) and Aymara (south), this city of 137,000 inhabitants live mainly from tourism and agriculture. During the first 130 years of colonization, the city did not exist, there were only a few people and the region began to gain importance with silver mines. Puno was founded in 1668 and has been officially declared as folkloric capital of Peru in 1985 thanks to its 240 dances, the carnival and its famous festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria.
The Plaza de Armas (Main Square) is connected to the Pino Park by a pedestrian mall called Lima Street. The baroque style cathedral dates from 1757, its interior is simple but has a beautiful altar made of silver and copper and several cute pictures. On the side of the cathedral (Deustua street), are the Carlos Dreyer museum displays a ceramics collection, jewelry, sculptures and pre-Columbian textiles and the Casa del Corregidor, a beautiful colonial house with cultural and artistic exhibitions.
In the Pino Park, the unique church San Juan is home to the patron saint of Puno, the Virgen de la Candelaria.
The handicraft market is located in the harbor.
The Yavari Ship-Museum shows the remarkable story of two warships built in 1862 in England and brought in pieces by sea to the south coast, then by train and carried on mule-back through the Andes. After being abandoned by the Peruvian navy, the Yavari is being restored with a cruiser project and is currently moored at Pier of the Hotel Sonesta toward the Esteves peninsula.
The two most important festival of Puno take place in the beginning of the year. The Fiesta de la Candelaria dedicated to the local patron saint, is a festival of colors and extravagant costumes involving 40,000 dancers and 9,000 musicians through the streets during the first two weeks of February. The carnival is celebrated end of February.
In the first week of May, the Fair of the Alasitas is a typical market where you can purchase the item in miniature corresponding to our desires, like a house, a car, airplane, money, etc.
The Andean amulet
The main figure of the Alasitas Fair, a superstitious tradition, is the Ekeko the god of abundance and prosperity in the Southern Andes.
We find it in every handicraft markets, loaded with various objects that symbolize our desires (house, car, food, bag, etc.). To ensure that our wishes are realized, it is better receive the Ekeko as a gift and place a cigarette in his mouth to "smoke" every Tuesday and Friday.
45 km (28 mi) of Puno, it is the region's largest city with a population of 250,000 inhabitants although not the capital of the department. Its strategic location in the heart of the Peruvian Altiplano Bolivia-Cuzco-Arequipa, makes Juliaca an important economic center. Trade is its principal economic activity but due largely to contraband with all kinds of items from Bolivia, like gas, appliances, clothing and food products.
The other major economic sector is the small and medium industry, specializing in counterfeit of all kinds of products. Here are manufactured the famous synthetic or mixed wool sweaters tagged 100% alpaca offered in all handicraft markets of the country discrediting the real alpaca wool of high quality. In terms of tourism the city is not very interesting, apart the nice main square and the beautiful Santa Catalina church. Juliaca is home to the regional's airport, Inca manco Capac airport.
This pre Inca site on the banks of the beautiful lagoon Umayo 34 km / 21 mi of Puno (45 minutes) and 38 km / 24 mi from Juliaca, was a Colla (1100-1450 AD) cemetery, a civilization at the end of the Tiahuanaco period and conquered by the Incas.
The Collas have built here impressive burial towers of 10-12 meters (32-40 ft), the chullpas, some rustic, others quite sophisticated.
This village located 18 km / 11 mi of Puno (30 minutes) has one of the most beautiful churches in the region, the Asunción.
However the main attraction of Chucuito is the ceremonial center Inca Uyo featuring numerous phallic stone sculptures that gave it its nickname Temple of Fertility.
Also known the Ciudad Rosada (Pink City) located 34 km (21 mi) northwest of Juliaca, it's a nice quiet village of 5,000 inhabitants with a magnificent colonial church exhibiting many pictures.
This community located at the tip of the Capachica peninsula 70 km / 43 mi from Juliaca (2 hours) and 80 km / 50 mi of Puno (2 hours by boat), has developed an experiential tourism with overnight homestay.