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Altitude 3,827 Meters (12,500 Feet) a.s.l.
Population 91,877 Inhabitants in the City
Punois located on the Banks of Lake Titicaca - the World’s Highest Navigable Lake. IT Displays the Reminiscences of its Origins Through Cave Paintings and Spearheads, Testimony of Our Highland Ancestor’s Life.

The Collao Plateau Is the Geographical Space, Where Ancient and Important Cultures Like Pucara and, Later, Tiahuanaco, Appeared. This is the Region Where, According to the Legend, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo Emerged From the Sacred Lake Titicaca to Establishthe Inca Empire.
During Colonial Times, the Spaniards Settled Down In Puno Attracted by its Mineral Richness, Bringing New Cultural, Social and Economic Development to This City. The City of San Carlos of Puno was Founded in 1668 and the Priests, Eager to Convert the Natives, Motivated Them to Build Beautiful Churches.

Lake Titicaca is the World's Highest Navigable Lake and the Center of a Region Where Thousands of Farmers Made a Living Fishing in its Icy Waters with Great Effort, Growing Potatoes in the Edges of the Rocky Lands or Herding Llamas and Alpacas at Great Altitudes. It is Also Where Traces of the Rich Indigenous Past Still Stubbornly Clings, Resisting For Centuries the Spanish Conquerors' Aggressive Campaign to Erase Inca and Pre-Inca Cultures and, in Recent Times, the Attraction of Modernization.

When Peruvians Talk About the Turquoise Blue Titicaca, They Proudly Note That it is so Large it Has Waves. This, the Most Sacred Body of Water in the Inca Empire and Now the Natural Separation Between Peru and Bolivia, Has a Surfaced Area Exceeding 8,000 Square kilometers (3,100 Square Miles), not Counting its More Than 30 Islands.

At 3,856 Meters (12,725 Feet) Above Sea Level it Has Two Climates: Chilly and Rainy or Chilly and Dry. In the Evenings it Becomes Quite Cold, Dropping Below Freezing From June Through August. In the Day, the Sun is Intense and the Sunburn is Common.

According to Legend, This Lake Gave Birth to the Inca Civilization. Before the Incas, the Lake and its Islands Were Sacred For the Aymará Natives, Whose Civilization was Centered at the Tiahuanaco, Now a Complex of Ruins on the Bolivian Side of the Titicaca But Once a Worshiped Temple Site With Notably Advanced Irrigation Techniques.

Geologically, Titicaca's Origins are Disputed, Although it was Likely a Glacial Lake. Maverick Scientists Claimed it Had a Volcanic Start; a Century Ago, Titicaca was Popularly Believed to be an Immense Mountain Top Crater.There are People That Defend Their PositionToday Sticked to the Notion That the Lake was Part of a Massive River System From the Pacific Ocean.

Ancient LegendsSayThat the Sun God had His Children, Manco Capac and his SisterConsort Mama OcIlo, Who Came out From the Frigid Waters of the Lake to EstablishCuzco and The Beginning of the Inca Dynasty. Later, During the Spanish Conquest, the Lake Supposedly Became a Secret Depository for the Empire's Gold. Among the Items Supposedly Buried in the Lake's Bottom is Inca Huascar’s Gold Chain Weighing 2,000 kilo (4,400 lbs.) and Stored in Koricancha the Temple of the Sun in Cusco Until Loyal Indians Threw it Into the Lake to Prevent it From Falling into Spanish Hands.

Oceanographer Jacques Yves Cousteau Spent Eight Weeks Using Mini Submarine to Explore the Depths of the Lake but Found no Gold. (What he Did Discover, to the Amazement of the Scientific World, was a 60-Centimeter (24-in) Long, Tri-Colored Frog That Apparently Never Surfaces!)

Urban Base:
On the Peruvian Side of the Lake is Puno, an Unattractive Commercial Center Settled as a Spanish Community in 1668 by the Count of Lemos. Although Today Puno Seems Unappealing, During the Spanish Period it was One of the Continent's Richest Cities Because of its Proximity to the Laykakota Silver Mines Discovered by Brothers Gaspar and Jose Salcedo in 1657. The Mining Boom Drew 10,000 People to an Area not Far From What is Now Puno. It Also Brought a Bloody Rivalry That Ended Only When the Iron-Handed Count of Lemos Traveled to Puno, and OrderedtheExecution of Jose Salcedo and Transferred Laykakota's Residents to Puno.

At an Altitude of 3,827 Meters (12,628 Feet), Puno is Still the Capital ofPeru's Plateau theTough, Highland Region Much Better Suited to Graze Vicuñas and Alpacas. It is Also Peru's Folklore Center with a Rich Collection of Handicrafts, Costumes, Holidays, Legends and, Most Importantly, More Than 300 Ethnic Dances.

The Most Famous is “La Diablada” Performed During the Feast of the Virgin of Candelaria That Takes Place During the First Two Weeks in February. Dancers FiercelyCompete with Each Other to Obtainthe Grace of the Virgin( Mamacha in Native Language) in this Diablada, Notable for its Profusion of Costly and Grotesque Masks. The Origins of the Dance Have Become Confused Over the Centuries, The Origen Comes of the Ancient Rituals, but When the Spaniard’s Arrived they Had to Hide Their Costumes Under The Catholic Religion, What the Spaniards Did not Know was That They were Mocking Them , When They Used Masks with Big NosesExaggerating Colonial Behavior. It is the Only Way That this Dance Has Survived So Many Centuries.

Dance and Wild Costumes:
As Numerous as the Dances Themselves are the Lavish and Colorful Outfits the Dancers Wear. The Female BeginnersDance Barefootand They Use Multi-Colored Short Skirts “Polleras “(Layered Skirts), Fringed Shawls and Bowler Hats. For Centuries the Natives in the Plateau Were Used to Work Hard, And then They Celebrated Their Special Days With Pleasure. In Fact, Many of the Dances Incorporate Include Different Representations of the Most Repressive Times for the Natives WithDifferent Characteristics Dressed as Mine Overseers or Cruel Landowners That are Mocked During the Festivities. It is Difficult to Find a Month in Puno Without at Least One Elaborated Festival, Which is Always Accompanied by Music and Dance.

In Puno, Remain a Handful of Buildings Worth Seeing. The Cathedral is a Magnificent Stone Structure Dating Back to 1757 With a WeatherBeaten BaroqueStyle Exterior and a Surprisingly Spartan InteriorExcept for its Center Altar of Carved Marble, Which is Plated in Silver.
Over a SideAltar on theRight Side of the Church is the Icon of The Lord of Agony, Commonly Known as El Señorde la Agonia. Beside the Cathedral is the Famous Balcony of the Count of Lemos Found on an Old House on the Comerof Deustua and Conde de Lemos Streets. It is Said That Peru's Viceroy Don Pedro Antonio Fernandez de Castro Andrade y Portugal, the Count Stayed Here When he First Arrived in the City he Later Named "San Carlos de Puno."
In the Main Square is the Library and the Municipal Art Gallery, and Half a Block From the Square is the Museum Carlos Dreyer, a Collection of Artifacts that belonged to the Nazca, Tiahuanaco, Paracas, Chimú andIncaArtifacts Became Property of the City Upon the Death of The Owner, For Whom the Museum is Named.

One of the Museum’s Most Valuable Pieces is an Aymará Aribalo, the Delicate Pointed-Bottomed Pottery Whose Wide Belly Curves up to a Narrow Neck. Throughout the South American Continent, the Aribalo Stands as a Symbol of the Andean Culture.

Views of the Highlands:
Three Blocks Uphill From the Square is Huajsapata Park, Actually a Hill That Figures in the Lyrics of Local Songs and is an Excellent Spot for a Panoramic View of Puno. Huajsapatais on the Top ,It is a Huge White Statue of Manco Capac Gazing Down at the Lake From Which he Came Out.

Another Lookout Point is Found Beside the Park Pino at the City’sNorth Side in the Square , Four Blocks up of the Main Squarein the Street Lima Also Called Park San Juan, Where you can find Arco Deustua, a Monument Honoring the Patriots killed in the Battles of Junín and Ayacucho, the Decisive Battles During the Independence War with Spain.

"San Juan s "Nickname for the Park Comes From the Church San Juan Bautista That is Nearby; at its Main Altar is a Statue of the Virgin of the Candelaria the Saint of Puno,. Also in the Park is the National School of San Carlos, a Grade School Establishedby a Decree Signed by Venezuelan Liberation Leader Simon Bolivar in 1825. It was Later Converted into a University, then Subsequently Used as a Military Base.

Two Blocks Down F. Arbulu Street From Parque Pino is the City Market, a Colorful Place Full of People, Goods and Food, it is Worth a Stop to See the Wide Variation of Products Especially the Amazing Variety of Potatoes, That go From the Hard, Freezed Dried Potatoes(Papa Seca) That Looks Like Gravel to the Purple Potatoes and Yellow and Orange Speckled Olluco (Tuberous crop).
Woolen Goods, Colorful Blankets and Ponchos are on Sale Here, Along With Miniature Reed Boats Like Those That You Find in Lake Titicaca.

Puno is the point to Explore Titicaca with its Amazing Array of Islands, Native Inhabitants and Colorful Traditions. Small Motorboats Can be Hired for Trips on the Lake or To Catchthe 13kg (30lb) Lake Trout That Make it One of Peru's Best-Known Fishing Destinations.

Most of the Transportation is Either by Motorized Small Botes or the Totora Reed Boats That Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl StudiedWhen Preparing For His Legendary 4,300-Nautical Mile (7,970-km) and recreated the Journey From Peru to Polynesia in the Reed Boat Kon-Tiki in the 1940s.

Floating Islands:
The Best-Known of the Titicaca Islandsare the Uros, Floating Islands of Reed Named After the Natives Who Inhabited Them. URI Uros "Which Means Untamed, Wild, Brave, Indomitable Men, Clear and Wild, Came from an Ethnic Group Called" QAPI "Whose Language was Pukina, Which Became Extinct, Currently Uros Inhabitants Speak Aymara. It is Also Said That They have Black Blood due to Which They Could not Drown or Feel Cold in the Winter Nights.
The Last Full-Blooded Uro was a Woman Who Died in 1959. Other Uros Had Left the Group of Islands in Earlier Years Because of the Drought That Worsen Their Poverty - and Intermarried With Aymará and Quechua-speaking Natives. But theNatives Who Now Inhabit This Islandis a Mix of Uro, Aymara and Inca Descendants and Follow the Uro Traditions.

The Uros' Poverty Has Prompted More and More and this Made Them Move to Puno. That Same Poverty Has Made Those Who Remain to Take a Hard-Sell Approach Upon Tourists and, BesidesPressing Visitors to Buy Their Handicrafts, They Frequently Demand "Tips" For Having Their Photographs Taken.

Today, Tourism to the Uros Floating Islands is a Well-Oiled Machine. Usually Combined With a One-Day Visit to the island of Taquile, or a Two-Day Excursion to the Islands of Amantani and Taquile, They Have Become the Most Visited Destination on Lake Titicaca. They are a Close-knit Group of islands, Built From Reed, That are Floating in the Huili River, only 12 Minutes by Boat From the Port of Puno. You are Dropped Off on 1 or 2 Islands, Where Guides Explain How the Floating Islands are Built and Maintained. Contrary to the Traditional Image of People of the Plateau, the Inhabitants of the Uros Islands are Quite Openhearted, Even Talkative; an Obvious Result of the Place Tourism has Taken in Their Lives.
The Ancestral Grounds of the Uros are the Totora Reeds That Occupy a Large Area of the Puno Bay. Due to its Ecological Value, it is Part of the Titicaca Natural Reserve, Which Forces an Uneasy and Sometimes Tense Co-Existence Between Conservational Authorities and the People That Went to Hide in Lake Titicaca so Nobody Could Rule Them. But it Also Provides a Spectacular Background to An Ancient Culture. Lake Titicaca has Over a Hundred Endemic Species, Mainly Birds, but They Also Fish Like the Ispi or Mauri, and is the Home of the Emblematic Titicaca Flightless Greeb (Rollandia Microptera) or “Zambullidor del Lago”. The Area is Bathed in Mysteries, as it was Once Dry, Part of the Land and Apparently Host to an Ancient Culture of Which Very Little is Known. The HarborsArtificial Structures, Watersand Graveyards of Which the Uros Only Whisper With Respect.
Handicrafts Also Play an Important Role in Life on Amantani, a Lovely and Peaceful Island Even Further Away From Puno Than Taquile. Amantani was Once Part of the Inca Empire, as Shown by Local Ruins, Before the Spanish Invaded and Slaughtered the Islanders. The Spaniard Who Had a Concession to the Island Used the Indians in Forced Labor andTheir Descendants Were Still in Control After Peru's Independence From Spain. But Eventually an Island Fiesta Turned Violent and the Indians Attacked Their Landlord with Hoes and Consequently Split up the Island into Communities Based on Plots

Amantani has Opened its Doors to Outsiders Who are Willing to Live For a Few Days as the Aymará-Speaking Islanders doand That Means Sleeping on Beds Made of Long Hard Reeds and Eating Potatoes for Every Meal. There is no Running Water or Electricity and at Nighttime Temperatures Drop Down to Freezing Even in Summer. But Those Who areHappy to go Through This Experience Catch a Glimpse of an Andean Agricultural Community That has Maintained the Same Traditions for Centuries. Some Amantaní ResidentsLive and Die Without Ever Leaving the Island.

Journeys to Amantaní Begin at the Puno Docks Aboard Wooden Motorboats Operated by the Islanders. At the End of the Four-Hour Trip, Visitors are Registered as Guests and Assigned to a Host Family. The Family, Usually Led by a Shy Patriarch, Shows the Way to its Mud-Brick Home Set Around an Open Courtyard Decorated with White Pebbles Spelling Out the Family's Name.

Another Island Well Worth Visiting is Amantani. It is Very Beautiful and Peaceful, and in Many Ways Less Spoiled than Taquile. There are Six Villages and Ruins on Both of the Island's Peaks, Pacha Tata and Pacha Mama, From Which There are Excellent Views. There are Also Temples and on the Shore There is a Throne Carved Out of Stone. The Residents Make Beautiful Textiles and Sell Them Quite Cheaply at the Artensania Cooperative. The People are Quechua Speakers, but Understand Spanish. Electricity Supply From6-11pm.

Prepared Visitors Usually Bring Gifts of Fruit a Rarity on the Isolated Island and the Socializing Begins When a Family Member Who Speaks English Offers a Guided Walk Around the Island, From Where the Views are Something Spectacular. Women Wearing Traditional Black and White Lace Dresses Pass by with Slingshots in Their Hands to Kill Scavenging Birds.

Estevez is Another Island, it is Connected to Puno by a Bridge and is Best Known by Tourist’s as IslaEstevez. This Luxury Hotel is a Far Cry From What Used to be the Main Construction on the Island a Prison That Accommodated the Patriots Captured by the Spanish During Peru's War for Independence.

James Orton, a Naturalist and Explorer Who Died Crossing the Titicaca on a Steamship in 1877, is Buried on Isla Estevez; His Memorial Sits Beside One Honoring the Liberation Fighters who Perished in the War With Spain. Orton, a Natural History Professor From Vassar University, was on his Third Expedition to Explore the Beni River in the Amazon Area. The Beni's Link to the Mamore River Both Crucial Conduits During the Jungle's Rubber Boom - was Named the Orton River in his Honor.

Mysterious Burial Chambers:
Some 35 km (21 Miles) From Puno is Sillustani, With its Circular Burial Towers or Chullpas Overlooking Lake Umayo. The Age of the Funeral Towers, Which are up to 12 Meters (40 Feet) High, Remains a Mystery. A Spanish Chronicle-Keeper Described Them as "Recently Finished" in 1549, Although Some Still Appear as if They Were Never Completed and the Indians That Built Them Were Conquered by the Incas About a Century Earlier.The Chullpas Apparently Were Used as Burial Chambers for Nobles of the Colla Civilization; These were Natives Who Spoke Aymara, and Had Architecture knowledgeConsidered More Complicated Than That of the Incas and Who Buried Their Nobility with Their Entire Family.Not Far Away is Chucuito, a Village That Sits Upon What was Once an Inca Settlement and inWhich You Can See an Inca Sundial. Stop by the Santo Domingo Church with its Small Museum in This Plateau Village; Also Worth Visiting is La Asuncion Church.

Juli, was Once the Capital of the Lake Area, Has Four Beautiful Colonial Churches Under Reconstruction. Although it NowAppears a Little Odd to See so Many Large Churches so Close Together, at the Time the Spanish Ordered Them Built They Hoped to Convert Huge Masses of Natives o Roman Catholicism.

In Addition, the Spanish Were Used Having One Church For the Europeans, One For the Mixed-Raced Christians and Yet Another For the Natives. The Largest of Juli's Churches is San Juan Bautista With its Colonial Paintings Tracing the Life of its Patron, Saint John the Baptist.

From the Courtyard of Church La Asuncion Visitors Have a Captivating View of the Lake. The Other Churches in the City are San Pedro, Once the City's Principal Place of Worship and the Church in Which a Choir of 400 Natives Used to Sing Each Sunday, and the Church of Santa Cruz, Which is Just Beside the City's Old Cemetery. Santa Cruz was Originally a Jesuit Church in the Front of Which Natives Stonemasons Carved a Huge Sunthe Inca God Along with More Traditional Christian Symbols.

Pilgrimage Site:
Copacabana Can Also beReached by Taking a Van Rid Around the Side of the Lake, Passing the Reeds Waving With the Wind, But You Can Always See Shy, Curious Children at the Edges of the Road and Always the Brilliant Blue of the Titicaca. This Pleasant Trip Involves a Short Ferry Trip to the Tiquina Canal and the Destination is a Nice One. Copacabana is a Friendly Little Town Used to Tourists and Has a Number of Modest but Clean Restaurants and Hotels. It is Most Famous For its Cathedral Containing a 16th-Century Carved Wood Figure of the Virgin of Copacabana, the Christian Guardian of the Lake.The Statue, Finished in 1853, was the Work of Indian Sculptor Francisco Tito Yupanqui, Nephew of Inca Huayna Capac. During Mass, the Statue Stands With its Back to the Congregation - but Facing the Lake so it Can Keep an Eye on Any Approaching Storms and Earthquakes.One of the Best Things in Copacabana is a Dawn or Dusk Walk Along the Waterfront, Watching the Sky Explode into Colors With the Sunrise or Slip into the Blue Black of Night at Sunset.
From Copacabana, Boats Can be Hired to Visit the Bolivian Islands Which are Also on Lake Titicaca the Island of the Sun and the Island of the Moon. The Island of the Sun (also Accessible Through a Public Ferry) has a Sacred Inca Rock at One End and the Ruins of Pilko Caima With a Portal Dedicated to the Sun God at the OtherEnd. The Island of the Moon, Which is Also Sometimes Called Coati, has Ruins of an Inca Temple and a Cloister for Chosen Women.





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