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Machu Picchu















Altitude 3,827 meters (12,500 feet) a.s.l.
Population 91,877 inhabitants in the city

Puno, on the banks of Lake Titicaca - the world highest navigable lake - displays the reminiscences of its origin 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 found the Inca Empire.

During colonial times, the Spaniards established In Puno attracted by its mineral richness, bringing new cultural, social and economic Patterns along. The city of San Carlos de 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 subsistence farmers eke out a living fishing in its icy waters, growing potatoes in the rocky land at its edge or herding llama and alpaca at altitudes that leave Europeans and North Americans gasping for air. It is also where traces of the rich Indian past still stubbornly cling, resisting in past centuries the Spanish conquistadors' aggressive campaign to erase Inca and preInca cultures and, in recent times, the lure of modernization.
When Peruvians talk of turquoise blue Titacaca, 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 surface 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 sunburn is common.

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Services Duration
Sun island overnight 2 days and 1 night
Puno-La Paz 2 days cruise 2 days and 1 night
Puno - Copacabana Sun Island 2 days and 1 night
Sacred Lake of the Incas 4 days and 3 nights
Millenarian Puno 4 days tour 4 days and 3 nights
Living in Titicaca 4 days and 3 nights
According to legend, this lake gave birth to the Inca civilization. Before the Incas, the lake and its islands were holy for the Aymará Indians, whose civilization was centered at the Tiahuanaco, now a complex of ruins on the Bolivian side of Titicaca but once a revered temple site with notably advanced irrigation techniques.
Geologically, Titicaca's origins are disputed, although it was likely a glacial lake. Maverick scientists claim it had a volcanic start; a century ago, Titicaca was popularly believed to be an immense mountaintop crater. A few diehards today stick to the notion that the lake was part of a massive river system from the Pacific Ocean.

Indian legend says the sun god had his children, Manco Capac and his sisterconsort Mama OcIlo, spring from the frigid waters of the lake to found Cuzco and the beginning of the Inca dynasty. Later, during the Spanish Conquest, the lake allegedly became a secret depository for the empire's gold. Among the items supposedly buried on the lake's bottom is Inca Huascar's gold chain weighing 2,000 kilos (4,400 lbs.) and stored in Koricancha - the Temple of the Sun in Cuzco - 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 submarines 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 ironhanded count traveled to Puno, ordered Jose Salcedo executed and transferred Laykakota's residents to Puno.

At an altitude of 3,827 meters (12,628 feet), Puno is still the capital Peru's altiplano - the harsh highland region much better suited to roaming vicuñas and alpacas than to people. It is also Peru's folklore center with a rich array of handicrafts, costumes, holidays, legends and, most importantly, more than 300 ethnic dances.

Among the latter, the most famous is Devil dance performed during the feast of the Virgin of Candelaria during the first two weeks in February. Dancers fiercely compete to outdo one another in this Diablada, notable for its profusion of costly and grotesque masks. The origins of the dance have become confused over the centuries but it is believed to have started with pre-Inca Indian cultures, surviving through the Inca conquest and the Spanish takeover of the country, with the costumes being modified each time.

Dance and wild costumes:
As numerous as the dances themselves are the lavish and colorful outfits the dancers wear. They range from multi-hued polleras (layered skirts) donned by barefoot female dancers to the short skirts, fringed shawls and bowler hats used in the highland version of the marinera dance. For centuries the Indians in the altiplano were accustomed to working hard, then celebrating their special days with gusto. In fact, many of the dances incorporate features of the most repressive times for the Indians with dancers dressed as mine overseers or cruel landowners characters that are mocked during the festivities. It is difficult to find a month in Puno without at least one elaborate festival, which is always accompanied by music and dance.

Within Puno, there remain a handful of buildings worth seeing. The cathedral is a magnificent stone structure dating back to 1757 with a weather-beaten baroque-style exterior and a surprisingly spartan interior- except for its center altar of carved marble, which is plated in silver.

Over a side-altar to the right side of the church is the icon of The Lord of Agony, commonly known as El Señor de la Bala. Beside the cathedral is the famous Balcony of the Count of Lernos found on an old house on the comers of 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."

On the Plaza de Armas is the library and the municipal pinacoteca, or art gallery and half a block off the plaza is the Museo Carlos Dreyer, a collection of Nazca, Tiahuanaco, Paracas, Chimú and Inca artifacts bequeathed to the city upon the death of their owner, for whom the museum is named.

One of the museum’s most valuable pieces is an Aymará arybalo, the delicate pointed-bottomed pottery whose wide belly curves up to a narrow neck. Throughout the South American continent, the arybalo stands as a symbol 0 the Andean culture.

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Views of the Sierra:
Three blocks uphill from the plaza is Huajsapata Park, actually a hill that figures in the lyrics of local songs and an excellent spot for a panoramic view of Puno. Huajsapata is topped by a huge white statue of Manco Capac gazing down at the lake from which he sprang.

Another lookout point is found beside Parque Pino at the city Is north side in the plaza four blocks up Calle Lima from the Plaza de Armas. Also called Parque San Juan, it boasts the Arco Deustua, a monument honoring the patriots killed in the battles of Junin and Ayacucho, the decisive battles in the Independence War with Spain.

The "San Juan" moniker for the park comes from the San Juan Bautista Church within its limits; at its main altar is a statue of the patron saint of Puno, the

Virgin of Candelaria. Also in the park is the Colegio Nacional de San Carlos, a grade school founded by a decree signed by Venezuelan liberation leader Simon Bolivar in 1825. It was later converted into a university, then subsequently used as a military barracks.

Two blocks down F. Arbulu Street from Parque Pino is the city market, a colorful collection of people, goods and food. Tourists should keep their eyes on their money and cameras while here, but it is worth a stop to see the wide collection of products - especially the amazing variety of potatoes, ranging from the hard, freeze-dried papa seca that looks like gravel to the purple potatoes and yellow and orange speckled olluco tubers.

Woolen goods, colorful blankets and ponchos are on sale here, along with miniature reed boats like those that ply Lake Titicaca. Among the more intriguing trinkets are the Ekekos, the ceramic statues of stout jolly men laden with a indefinite number of good luck charms, ranging from fake money to little bags

of coca leaves. Believers say the Ekekos smoke and they are often found with lit cigarettes hanging from their mouths. Those who really believe in the power of these jolly statues claim that they only bring luck if they are received as gifts - not purchased.

Exploring the Lake:
Puno is the stepping-off point for exploring Titicaca with its amazing array of islands, Indian inhabitants and colorful traditions. Small motorboats can be hired for lake trips or for catching the 13kg (30lb) lake trout that make it one of Peru's best-known fishing destinations.

Most of the transportation is either by motorized launches or the totora reed boats that Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl studied in preparing for his legendary 4,300-nautical mile (7,970-km) journey from Peru to Polynesia in the reed boat Kon-Tiki in the 1940s.

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Floating islands:
The best-known of the islands dotting Titicaca's surface are the Uros, floating islands of reed named after the Indians who inhabited them. Legend has it the Uro Indians had black blood that helped them survive the frigid nights on the water and safeguarded them from drowning.

The last full-blooded Uro was a woman who died in 1959. Other Uros had left the group of islands in earlier years owing to a drought that worsened their poverty - and intermarried with Aymará and Quechua-speaking Indians. But the Indians who now inhabit this island - a mix of Uro, Aymara and Inca descendants - follow the Uro ways.


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