You can’t visit Puno without exploring the millennial culture of the traditional islands of massive Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. Its surprisingly transparent waters stretch between Peru and Bolivia and provide refuge for more than sixty different bird species such as the Parihuana, which inspired the colors of the Peruvian flag. Together with the surrounding high plateau, it forms the Titicaca National Reserve.
Tens of thousands of domestic and international travelers are expected to visit Puno this year during its annual and legendary Virgin of Candelaria Festival the first two weeks of February. Even more will be participating, however, as more than 40,000 dancers and 5,000 musicians will take part in the competitions and parades. Some have been preparing for the event for half a year, along with the mask and boot makers and embroiderers. Even the Chulluni community on the Floating Islands of Uros is preparing, as locals have been remodeling their totora reed houses in anticipation of a grand influx of visitors.
Those of you planning on traveling to La Paz next month should think about swinging through Tiwanaku (in Spanish, Tiahuanaco) for the Aymaran New Year on June 21st, when the 5,522nd year of the Ayamara calendar will begin. As an agriculture-based society, the Aymara began their new year at the beginning of a new agricultural cycle. During the Southern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, the longest night of the year when the sun was at its farthest, meant a new sowing season was to begin, and required rituals of celebration, adoration to initiate the sun’s return.
Travelers who enter and exit Peru by land generally do so vía Puno in the Peruvian highlands, at the edge of the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. Far from being a mere wayside stop, however, it’s a destination for thousands of travelers. Its greatest attractions are the islands of Lake Titicaca, especially the storied Floating Islands of Uros, man-made reed islands which are home to the Aymara-speaking Uros people, believed to be the oldest living culture of the Americas. Travelers often make it a point to visit one of the the traditional Quechua-speaking islands as well, either Taquile or Amantani, both of which have pre-Incan and Incan temples and terracing. They’re reknowned for their knitting and textile arts, which they’ve practiced for thousands of years; Taquile’s colorful textiles were even declared “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO.
Next Tuesday, Puno will celebrate its 346th Founding Anniversary. As part of the celebrations, the city has released an official month-long program with more than a hundred activities; the best of which we’ve compiled here.
The main parade will take place on Nov 3rd and will be followed by the traditional Serenade to Puno concert and the Great Puneñan Night, which amounts to a huge open-air party that will include live musical acts and fireworks. The following day, there’ll be a theatrical presentation of the rising from the waters of Lake Titicaca of the mythical Manco Cápac, who according to Incan legend was child of the sun who eventually founded the Incan Empire in Cusco. He ruled alongside his wife and sister Mama Ocllo, who will also make an appearance.