Peru Destinations – Puno and Lake Titicaca
The Culture´s Cradle
According to Inca mythology Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, children of the Sun, emerged from the depths of Lake Titicaca and gave birth to the Inca Empire, cradle of this civilization. The city of Puno is located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and source of life for the towns existing on the area. Puno is a festive town with many colorful village celebrations.
The habitants of the Uros, one of the oldest native communities of America, live today on floating islands much as their ancestors did thousands of years ago.
Nestled in a vast highland plain in the Puno region between Peru and Bolivia, Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake, at 3,820 meters (12,500 feet). It covers an area of over 8,300 square kilometers (3,205 square miles).
The lake is also home to the floating islands made of reeds that are populated by the Uros, descendants of a nearly-extinct culture which used Totora as material in the construction of houses and rafts . Also attractive are the islands that maintain their ancient social and farming systems: Taquile, Amantani and Suasi. Also, it is the habitat of birds, such as the parihuanas (Phoenicopterus chilensis); of fish, like the carachi (Of the orestias spp species), suche (trichomycterus punctulatus or trichomycterus rivulatus) trout and Peruvian silverside; and of totora (cattail or reed) a water weed which can be as high 3 m.tall.
Located on the Plateau of Collao, Puno offers visitors magnificent pre Hispanic funerary monuments made of stone in the shape of circular towers, chullpas (tombs), colonial architecture, as does the town of Juli, famous for its fours 16th and 17th churches and rusty ichu-covered natural landscape projecting a spectacular view of the way of life in the high Andean tableau or Peruvian altiplano.
These areas are home to different cultures, such as the Aymara, Quechua, Uro, Pacaje and Puquina peoples who, following the Spanish conquest, merged with the elements of the Western Culture, producing a rich blend which is currently stated in the varied cultural, artistic and folkloric expressions.
Places to visitSillustani
In the archaeological site of the Sillustani, 34 km north of the city of Puno, on the shore of beautiful Umayo Lake, one runs into enigmatic chullpas, which were built by the Collas, some of which are more than 12 m. high. Used to bury the most important personalities of this nation, the chullpas known as Lagarto and Intiwatana are the most prominent.
This is a town located 107 km northeast of Puno and 62 km northwest of Juliaca, home to the famous Toritos de Pucará (Little Bulls from Pucará) traditional little sculpture clay works native of the nearby community of Santiago de Pupuja (15 km) whose reason to be is related to the magical and religious spirit of the farmers. Two blocks away from the town’s Main Square there is a museum exhibiting granite steles and monoliths of various sizes. Fives hundred meters from the square is the archaeological site of Pucará, belonging to the Pucará Culture, consisting of a set of six small pyramids built on stepped platforms which were used in ceremonies.
This is another of the Lake Titicaca Island of Puno and about 30 min north of the Island of Taquile, by lake. There are interesting archaeological sites here, such as the cove at the Chatajón Cemetery, and ceremonial sites, like Pasallasca Oc’co, where the Mama Qocha, the lake, is venerated each year. The inhabitants are mainly engaged in agriculture and fishing. They produce textiles with a variety of designs and they make baskets and containers, using the straw they obtain from the ichu. They also carve granite rock they extract from Llacastiti Hill.
The Islands Of The Uros
The Uros are a people who live on approximately 40 floating islands, made mainly of totora (cattail or reed). These islands occupy a large part of the Titicaca National Reserve, from the Bay of Puno to the Peninsula of Capachica. The Uros group themselves under the highest moral and religious authority: the grandfather. They mainly live off hunting and fishing, but they are also known for their high skills knit totora, which they use in making their rafts and their houses, as well as handicrafts.
This is a peaceful island on lake Titicaca, situated some 35 km (4hr) east of the City of Puno, by boat. There are no roads or electricity in Taquile, but there are plenty of hills and archaeological ruins. From Chilcano one may arrive at the Main Square, the island’s main pier, after climbing 540 steps. The most popular attractions in Taquile are its landscape, dominated by tiered platforms where potatoes, corn, quinoa and broad beans are cultivated; ceremonial sites hosting rituals imploring for abundant harvests and fishing, and the hospitality of its people, who are so outstandingly organized. The textile industry is the main activity and is done exclusively by men, and women are the ones in charge of the agricultural work. The products manufactured are related to their daily chores.
Folklore & Popular Art
Puno, known as the Folkloric Capital of Peru, is characterized by its very rich and varied musical expressions, consisting of over 300 dances. Among them mention must be given to the main ones such as the Wilafa de Asillo, a Quechua dance evoking the servinacuy or trial marriage; the Ichu Carnival, the Aymara Love Dance; the Llamerada, a homage to the Virgin of the Candlemas and the famous Diablada, which makes reference to the struggle between good and evil.
The people from Puno produce a variety of handcrafts, including the Torito de Pucará (Little Bull from Pucará) an object which is very much used in the ceremonies where the livestock is marked. The masks are an example of how ingenious these people are, which are used to complement the colorful dance attire seen during the festivities, particularly that in honor of the Virgin of the Candlemas. Additionally, the people from Puno are quite skillful in the manufacturing of musical instruments, such as the siku (type of squared flute that resembles a zampoña) the tinya (drum the zampoña (different flutes put together) and the charango (small Andean guitar).
Town Of Legends
Being the birthplace of the Tiahuanaco Culture, one of the most important pre-Hispanic cultures and the utmost expression of the Aymara people, Puno is considered to be a town of legends.
According to one of them, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo, who received instructions from their father, the Sun God, to found the Tahuantinsuyo Empire, emerged from Lake Titicaca. The Inca Empire was divided into four regions –or suyos- one of them being Collasuyo, which spread over the entire Plateau of Collao, including Puno.
When the Spaniards reached Cusco in the mid 16th century, they heard of the great mining wealth of this region, especially gold and silver. The bloody battles ensuing in the 17th century over the possession of the Laikakota Mines (9 km west from the City of Puno) forced the viceroy, Count of Lemos, to travel to the area and to pacify it, resulting in the founding of the present City of Puno, capital of the department. Founded on November 4, 1668, it was named San Carlos de Puno.
beans are cultivated; ceremonial sites hosting rituals imploring for abundant harvests and fishing, and the hospitality of its people, who are so outstandingly organized. The textile industry is the main activity and is done exclusively by men, and women are the ones in charge of the agricultural work. The products manufactured are related to their daily chores.