A Peruvian city noted for its proximity to one of the country’s must-see sights, Lake Titicaca, Puno is widely – and correctly – touted as simply a place to lay your head, with days invariably dominated by the chance to head off into the surrounding countryside and make the most of Peruvian nature at its best.
Lake Titicaca, of course, is simply huge, and the part you’ll find yourself exploring from Puno is one of the most regularly visited spots on the shore. Surrounded by hills and particularly pretty in the early morning sunshine, while the lake’s inhabitants include a massive local frog that can grow to over 3kgs and an impressive selection of birds and frightening looking amphibians. For all the local wildlife, though, you can still swim off the shore, though due to the lake’s sheer size, you probably won’t want to head out too far. In total, Lake Titicaca stretches all the way into Bolivia, and is about 8300 km2 in size, also holding the strange claim to fame of being one of the highest (in terms of height – 3800 meters above sea level) large stretches of water in the world. In the heart of the lake is one of Peru’s more unusual sights, the Uro Islands, a floating set of islands made of reeds, which can be explored as a day trip, and has recently opened its first hotel.
While there are other local attractions around Puno, many stick solely to the lake, largely because some of the other experiences on offer are notoriously dangerous. While the nearby hills are ideal for hiking, local bandits regularly mug tourists (if you must go, go in a large group), while money-focused crime elsewhere is common, too. Sights like Sillustani – a collection of tombs that date back to even before Inca times – can be visited through well organized and safe tours, though, and are a great taste of local history.
Puno itself, then, is likely to be a mile from the top of your must see list, but with a plethora of attractive sights and an unusual taste of traditional Peru on offer, it can make the perfect hub.