IS PUNO WORTH VISITING? – A COMPLETE GUIDE TO LAKE TITICACA, PERU

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,810 metres above sea level. The town of Puno is nothing to write home about, but the lake itself is incredible and a must-see, especially if you aren’t making your way to Bolivia on your South America travels.

IS PUNO WORTH VISITING?

We think Puno is worth visiting for two reasons: one to see Lake Titicaca obviously, and two, to get a look into the diverse ways of life of the indigenous peoples that live out on the lake – the Uros and the small populations living on Isla Taquile and Amantani.

 

Lake Titicaca is a sight to behold, stretching on forever in all directions and you will get many beautiful panoramic views of it from around Puno. It’s also a must-see whilst in Peru, especially if you aren’t travelling to on to Bolivia/Copacabana.

 

Whilst the Uros islands may be becoming a little touristy, the floating islands are an impressive sight and  visiting them gives you great insight into how these unique people live. 

BEST THINGS TO DO IN PUNO

Tour The Floating Uros Islands

The Uros people of Lake Titicaca have made the floating reed islands their homes.

 

These islands are created by the Uros people themselves and are made entirely from the native totora reeds and mud fro m the lake. The reed islands have to be rebuilt regularly as they erode over time.  

 

Before the Inca invaded the region around the lake, the Uros lived on the shore in towns and villages. However, while other groups bent the knee to the Inca conquerors, the Uros decided to escape out onto the lake instead. 

 

Visiting the Uros islands is a must, experiencing the unique way of life lived by these people is like nothing else you will have seen.  

 

Here are a couple of options for visiting:

 

Explore Isla Taquile

Isla Taquile is famous throughout Peru for its expert male weavers who produce textiles of remarkable quality.

 

The terraced hillsides of this beautiful island are planted with wheat, quinoa, potatoes, and other vegetables and littered with farm animals such as sheep and cows grazing the slopes.

 

Visiting the island can feel like you’ve entered another country, where the inhabitants live with their own customs, cuisine and clothing vastly different to those of the mainland.

 

You can climb to the peak of the island, up to 4200 meters of altitude to be rewarded with breath-taking lake views.

 

Get Your Guide has a Uros Islands and Isla Taquile full day tour for £20.

Enjoy A Day In The City

If you do end up with a day to spend in the city, then there’s enough here to keep you occupied.

 

You can start by visiting the Cathedral in Plaza De Armas and wandering around.

 

If you want to learn more about Andean culture, then head to the Carlos Dreyer Museum – a museum curated by a German painter and collector who lived in the city. He was a great enthusiast of Andean culture, and the museum contains well preserved archaeological pieces, paintings by the artist himself and three mummies!

 

An excellent place to watch the sunset is ‘Mirador El Condor’ which will give you a fantastic view of the city and lake – just be careful if you trek up to this viewpoint as we have read a few blogs advising not to bring valuables as it can be unsafe. Check with your hotel and see if you can get a taxi there and back.

Visit Isla Amantani

We chose Taquile over Amantani for our day tour so we can’t write much about it here.

 

Although we imagine it’s a similar experience with indigenous population specific to the island and beautiful views of the lake all around.

 

It has two mountain peaks, Pachatata (father earth) and Pachamama (mother earth), with ancient Inca ruins on top of both if you prefer archaeology to the weave making of Taquile.

 

You can find overnight stays/tours on the island on Find Local Trips for cheap.

Sillustani Burial Ground

A short drive outside of Puno will take you to the pre-Inca burial site of Sillustani on the edge of Lake Umayo.

 

Here you can discover the history of the Aymara inhabitants of Lake Umayo and see the ancient burial ground featuring giant cylindrical funeral towers. 

WHERE TO STAY IN PUNO

We stayed at Hostal Virgen de Las Nieves II, which cost £15 in total for a twin room with shared bathroom and breakfast included.

 

The beds were comfy, but there wasn’t much else going for it.

 

Cozy Hostel has 4-bed dorms from £7 a night with breakfast included. Anywhere near Plaza De Armas is a safe bet.

 

We booked our tour through our accommodation, which was helpful. However, we imagine you can do this with almost all the hostels and hotels in Puno. If not, you can head to the main square (Plaza de Armas) to find all the tour companies.

HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED IN PUNO?

No doubt you came to Puno for Lake Titicaca which can easily be done in a day. So, all you really need is one full day and 2 nights.

 

However, if you want to see more than one island on the lake or want to do a home stay on the floating islands then we would suggest 2 days and 3 nights minimum. Decide how many of the islands you want to visit and then plan around that.

 

If you are heading to Bolivia afterwards then we’ve heard that Copacabana is a much nicer town and place to visit Lake Titicaca so give it a miss here if you are.

 

However, if you don’t have much time in Peru then we would say maybe give it a miss as well as there’s so much more to see in this amazing country. 

PUNO 1 DAY/2 NIGHT ITINERARY

This is how we organised our brief stay in Puno.

 

  • Day 1 – Arrival from Arequipa, booking a tour and a meal in town
  • Day 2 – Lake Titicaca tour (Uros Islands and Isla Taquile)
  • Day 3 – Early bus to Cusc o

We felt like breaking up the long journey from Arequipa to Cusco and weren’t to bothered about seeing anything else apart from the lake so we stuck to 1 full day/ 2 nights.

 

We arrived off a long bus from Arequipa late afternoon and booked onto a Lake Titicaca tour that evening for the next day. After finishing the tour, we stayed that night and then jumped on a bus to Cusco the following day.

 

Our full day tour took us to the floating Uros islands and then to Isla Taquile which we were happy with.

 

In the evening we checked out the town centre, ate and then left the next morning. Lake Titicaca ticked off the bucketlist.

 

If you wish to try and see all the islands on the lake or if you want to do a homestay on the floating Uros islands then you can take an extra day, but aside from this, there’s not much else going on in Puno, especially for backpackers.

HOW TO GET TO PUNO

Getting to Puno depends on your itinerary. Take a quick look at ours if you haven’t already planned your Peru trip; otherwise, the two likely places you’ll be arriving from are Arequipa or Cusco.

How To Get To Puno From Arequipa

we took an early bus from Arequipa to Puno which took around 8 hours. You can do this via night bus if you like, but we prefer an early bus in the day, so our sleep isn’t all out of whack.

 

The bus companies in Peru are numerous and easy to navigate. You can book your bus online or turn up on the day.

 

  • Red Bus – is specifically for Peru
  • Bus Bud – an international company that we used a lot travelling around South America.

The bus station in Puno (Terminal Terrestre Puno) is situated in the harbour close to the lake and its around a 5-minute taxi from there to Plaza De Armas. Taxis wait outside the station and are easy to find.

How To Get To Cusco From Puno

Travelling from Puno to Cusco, again we took an early morning bus. This time the journey was around 10 hours, and we took the first bus, slept a bit on the drive and then passed the rest of the time with podcasts and working on laptops.

 

The journey through the Andean countryside is spectacular and coming into Cusco is also a beautiful sight; however, this may best be done by a night bus if you aren’t a fan of daytime bus journeys.

WHERE TO EAT IN PUNO?

  • Pacha Mixology Coffee Bar – great for pisco sours and any other cocktail you might fancy
  • Mojsa Restaurant – A nice restaurant with local Andean recipes as well as Asian fusion dishes. We tried alpaca here for the first time and weren’t disappointed.
  • La Table Del Inca – another highly rated restaurant serving local cuisine. The quinoa ratatouille sounds delicious.

PUNO ALTITUDE AND ELEVATION

Puno is 3,827m in elevation. If you are coming from Lima, Paracas or Arequipa in the north then this will likely be the highest elevation you have been at in Peru.

 

Even coming from Cusco (3400m), this will be a big gain in elevation, and you’ll be able to feel it. So, make sure you take it easy and take the necessary steps to avoid altitude sickness: stay hydrated, take altitude sickness pills, rest when feeling symptoms.

 

Touring the Uros islands and lake by boat won’t be strenuous but if you decide to go to Taquile island then you will be walking at incline and will eventually reach 4200m so just be aware of this.

 

I (Bayf) had been in Peru for the last couple of weeks so didn’t feel the effects of altitude. Koum however had just arrived back from the UK and went from sea level to 3800m in a matter of days.

 

Leaving the next day on the bus to Cusco he had a headache, didn’t feel great and eventually just crashed and slept the entire way from exhaustion. Luckily, the altitude sickness affected him at a time when he could just sleep it off, but he still wasn’t back to normal until a couple of days after and it could have been much worse.

 

Make sure you take it easy guys and gradually build up to higher elevations, altitude sickness is no joke.

Where’s your next stop in Peru? If your heading north then check out our Arequipa guide or if even further then you could stop off at the desert oasis of Huacachina or Parcas National Reserve. 

 

If you are working your way round in the classic Peru loop, the Cusco should be your next stop. Check out our guides for hostels, food and nightlife to help you start planning.

For more on backpacking in Peru and South America, check out our itineraries and travel routes: