Puno and Lake Titicaca :An immense región both in terms of its history and the breadth of its masad landscape, the Titicaca Basin makes most people feel like they are or the world. The skies are vast and the horizons appear to bend away below The high altitude means that recent arrivals from the coast have to take for a day or two, though those coming from Cusco will already have tized. The scattered populatíon of the región is descended from ancient Andean ethnic groups or tribes – the Aymara and the Quechua AymarásTiahuanaco culture pre-dates the Quechua’s Inca civilization three hundred years. The first Spanish settlement at Puno sprang up around a silver mine ered by the infamous Salcedo brothers in 1657, a camp that forged suer a and violent reputation that the Lima viceroy moved in with soldier and finally execute the Salcedos before things got too out of hand.At time — in 1668 — the viceroy created Puno as the capital of the región,then on it became the main port of Lake Titicaca and an importan the silver trail from Potosi.The arrival of the railway, late in the nineteenth cen-tury, brought another boost, but today its a relatively poor, rather grubby sort of town, even by Peruvian standards, and a place that has suffered badly ffom recent drought and an inability to manage its water resources. On the edge ofthe town spreads the vast Lake Titicaca — enclosed by white peaks and dotted with unusual floating islands, basically huge rafts built out of reeds and home to a dwindling and much-abused Indian population. More spectacular by far are two of the populated, fixed islands, Amantani and Taquile, whose still-traditional lifestyle gives visitors a genuine taste of pre-Conquest Andean Perú. Densely populated since well before the arrival of the Incas, the lakeside Titicaca región is also home to the curious and ancient tower tombs known locally as chullpas, which are rings of tall, cylindrical stone burial chambers, often standing in battlement-like formations.
Puno :With a dry, chilly climate — temperatures frequendy fall below freezing in the winter nights of July and August – PUNO is just a crossroads to most travellers, en route between Cusco and Bolivia or Arequipa and maybe Chile. In some ways this is fair, for its a breathless place (at 3870m above sea level), with a burning daytime sun in stark contrast to icy evenings, and a reputation for pickpockets, particularly at the bus and train termináis. Yet the town is immensely rich in tradition and has a fascinating ancient history. Puno’s port is a vital staging point for exploring the northern end of Lake Titicaca, with its floating islands and beautiful island communities just a few hours away by boat. Perhaps more importantly, though, Puno is famed as the folklore capital of Perú, particularly relevant ifyou can visit in the first two weeks of February for the Fiesta de la Candelaria, a great folklore dance spectacle, boasting incredible dancers wearing devil-masks; the festival climaxes on the second Sunday of February. If you’re in Puno at this time, it’s a good idea to reserve hotels in advance (hotel prices can double).The Tinajani Festival of Dance, based around June 27, is set in the bleak altiplano against the backdrop of a huge wind-eroded rock in the Canyon of Tinajani. Off the beaten trail, it’s well worth checking out for its raw Andean music and dance, plus its large sound systems; ask at the tourist offices in Puno or Cusco for details. Just as spectacular is the Semana Jubilar (Jubilee Festival) in the first week of November, which takes place partly on the Isla Esteves and celebrates the Spanish founding of the city and the Incas’ origins, which legend says are ffom Lake Titicaca ítself. Even if you miss the festivals, you can fmd a group of musicians playing briiliant and highly evocative music somewhere in the labyrinthine town centre on most nights of the year.