The town of Puno is the capital of the department of Puno in Peru. It was founded on November 4, 1668 by the Spanish for its closeness to the colonial silver mine of Laykakota.
Puno Peru is located at an altitude of 12,565 feet or 3,830 meters above sea level and has a population of 102,800. Puno is a small port city where the main industry is tourism, it offers a departure point to the many Inca and Pre-Inca ruins and to Lake Titicaca and its islands.
Traditional lifestyle inherited from the Incas
The region’s economy is based on agriculture and cattle raising activities. The area is well known for its herds of llamas and alpacas and for its traditional lifestyle. The main crops are: potato, quinoa and other tubers, yields are low due to limited access to fertilizers and seeds which only allows for subsistence farming. Rural population struggles with poverty where surviving is the main priority, illiteracy is high at 22% and higher among females than males. Health and malnutrition are related to extreme poverty, lack of clean water and sanitation infrastructure..
The town of Puno benefits from income brought by tourists visiting the Lake Titicaca National reserve.
Puno is considered the Folkloric Capital of Peru, there are more than 300 different local dances representing centuries old traditions inherited from the Incas and the colony. Folk dances and songs are accompanied by colorful costumes and masks to celebrate Catholic holidays or Inca celebrations related to the agricultural calendar. These celebrations are based on beliefs and myths of the relationship between men and god, to honor Andean gods, Catholic saints and the Virgin Mary.
Traveling to Puno
When traveling to Puno one should be aware of altitude sickness or soroche, about 30% of travelers never get it but if you do, the best is to acclimatize yourself for a day or two. If you are flying from Lima it is recommended to spend some time in Cusco or Arequipa first as those are cities located at lower altitude and will make the transition easier on your body.
Weather and climate in Puno
The altitude at which Puno is located gives it extreme weather conditions. Temperatures average 15C year round. During winter months from June to August nights can get particularly cold with temperatures dropping well below 0C. At this altitude sun rays are very strong, it is strongly recommended to bring sun block to avoid burning.
Places to visit in town
Most tourists travel to Puno to visit Lake Titicaca and its islands. The town of Puno is small but has a lot to offer. Its streets are narrow and compact, one can easily walk in the town center without the need of a vehicle, the port or the bus terminal are within walking distance, or you can always hop on a mototaxi. There are a number of churches, plazas and museums located at walking distance from each other in the town center.
The town’s major attractions are at walking distance
The Cathedral of Puno was built in the 18th century by the Spanish. The Church of San Juan is located on Pino Park and it is where the Patron Saint of Puno, Virgen de la Candelaria is honored with the biggest folkloric celebration. Other churches worth visiting include Church of San Antonio de Pauda and Church de la Merced where the Virgin of Las Mercedes, the Patron Saint of the Peruvian Army is honored.
Basilica Cathedral of Puno in Plaza the Armas
Plaza de Armas is the main square of the town where public gatherings take place and it is surrounded by government buildings. Other plazas include Pino Park and Arco Deustua.
The Dreyer Museum has collections of pre-Inca and Inca art including gold and silver tools, textile and pottery. The Yavari Ship Museum hosts a ship built in England in 1862 and was brought through the Atlantic and into the Andes from the Port of Arica in Chile.
Puno is a good place to purchase good quality alpaca clothing such as sweaters, scarves, gloves and socks; they are usually sold at fair price. There are three recommended shopping places in town. The Handicraft Market, an open air market selling all kinds of souvenirs and locally made crafts. Casa del Corregidor, look for CIAP a local nonprofit cooperative supporting local artisans. And the third is Artesanisa La Cholilla, an indoor shopping center.
Hotels in Puno
There are a number of hotels suitable for every budget. Prices are usually higher during high season and around special celebrations. If you go for budget accommodation make sure you have heat and hot water as many places do not offer them.
Related information about Puno
At high elevations the pressure of oxygen diminishes so the quantity of oxygen molecules per breath is lower than at sea level making us feel sick.
Lake Titicaca is a national reserve located in the department of Puno Peru. It is located on a high plateau ranging from 3,657 to 4,000 meters.
Interesting facts about Lake Titicaca, Puno.
Lake Titicaca is a geological wonder formed during the pre-ice age about sixty million years ago. The lake was formed when massive earthquakes shook the Andes.