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The Holy Week Pilgrimage to Copacabana

The Holy Week Pilgrimage to Copacabana

Taking the bus from La Paz to Copacabana

Copacabana is one of the most visited sites in Bolivia during Holy Week, as many Bolivians travel by foot to visit its Sanctuary of the Virgin of Copacabana, Bolivia’s patron saint. 35,000 penitents are expected to walk to the Copacabana Sanctuary this year. All of them, driven by faith, depart by Ash Wednesday, in order to arrive by Holy Friday. Several thousand others will travel by car. Upon their arrival after the 2 day trip, there will be 3 days of processions, religious rites, and sermons, ending on Easter Sunday.

The Santa Tierra Festival on Lake Titicaca

The Santa Tierra Festival on Lake Titicaca

In Andean myths, Lake Titicaca, the sun, moon and stars came out of Lake Titicaca, as did Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, the legendary founders of the Inca civilization. The lake and some of its islands are still considered sacred sites in Andean culture to this day.

Colca Canyon to Lake Titicaca

Colca Canyon to Lake Titicaca

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The route from Arequipa to Colca Canyon is marked by open plains surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes. Along the way, we make several stops: at the Pampas Cañahuas Reserve to watch the grazing herds of alpacas and vicuña, at the town of Viscachani to stretch our legs and enjoy a coca tea or coffee, at the Mirador of the Andes Lookout (4850masl) to take in some dazzling expansive views of the surrounding landscape. The lookout is located at the highest point of the crossing, meaning that you will probably be feeling a little fatigued from the altitude! (Check out an earlier post if you’re looking for tips to prevent and deal with altitude sickness….you’ll probably be glad you did.)

Llama and alpacas in Reserva Nacional de Salina y Aguada Blanca. Arequipa, Andes, Perú2120876033_490a9b995a_ollamas-chivay

At Chivay, we’ll enjoy a buffet lunch where you can sample alpaca and other local dishes. Chivay is considered the canyon’s principal town and entry point, so this is where visitors must purchase their entry, which is presently S/35 Peruvian nuevos soles.

Continuing on to the town 2980577117_f0458c70f1_bof Coporaque, you can get settled in our inn for the night before exploring the town with our local guide. Evenings can be quite cold in the canyon, but you can warm up in the La Calera Hot Springs if you desire. The entry cost is S/10 Peruvian nuevos soles. (The inn can provide towels, so you just need to bring sandals and your swimsuit.) The pools are surrounded by beautiful mountains. Dinner will be accompanied by a folkloric show highlighting the canyon’s two pre-Columbian cultures, the Collagua and the Cabana.

After an early breakfast on the second day, we head to the viewing platform of Condor’s Cross, the most famous site in the canyon, stopping along the way to enjoy views of the canyon and its river as well as thousand year old cliff-side agricultural terraces and pre-Columbian hanging tombs. As the sun’s rays begin to warm the canyon, the endangered Andean condors rise from their nesting colony deep below Condor’s Cross, circling ever higher in search of food. The sheer size of the world’s largest birds of flight is stunning to see at close range, especially in the setting of the canyon’s natural beauty. There are some small trails in the area that we can walk as well. During the return to Chivay for lunch, we’ll visit some of the tiny towns of the canyon.


Then, it will be time to depart from the canyon and begin our journey over the altiplano, the high Andean plains. Depending on the time of year, we may see Andean flamingos feeding on the shores of Lagunillas Lake. At the end of the journey, you will be dropped off at your hotel or hostel in Puno.

Boy from Yanque

Although Puno itself is not a large city, the islands of Lake Titicaca will surely be calling to you. Most visitors choose to see at least the Floating Islands of Uros, and if time allows the islands of Amantani and Taquile. For more detailed information on things to do in Puno, here’s a selection of earlier posts on the topic:



Your Must-Do List for Puno Peru

Your Must-Do List for Puno Peru

Dancing on Amantani Island in traditional dressMany travelers pass through Puno to visit the islands of Lake Titicaca or to cross into Peru or Bolivia in the most economical way possible. The city, its outskirts, and the lake are worth stopping to explore, however. In honor of all that little Puno has to offer, here are our suggestions for how to spend your time in Puno, ranked in no particular order:

  • Hike to one of Amantani Island’s two hilltop temples, Pachatata (Father Earth) or Pachamama (Mother Earth). It takes about two hours.
  • Climb the 600 stairs to Condor Hill lookout (Kuntur Wasi) for the most impressive view overlooking the city and the lake. There are benches to rest along the way, but it’s also accessible by car.

Final steps up to Condor HillSign at Condor Hill in Puno, PeruView of Puno and Lake Titicaca

  • Ride in a traditional totora reed boat. You can arrange a short ride from the Floating Islands of Uros.
  • Visit the free Yaraví Ship Museum Totora reed boat at the Floating Islands of Uros near Puno, Peruat Puno’s port. It’s housed in the world’s oldest single-propeller iron ship, which was carried on mule-back through the Andes in the 1800s.
  • Walk along the lakeside walkway, the Malecón Ecoturístico Bahía de los Incas, marked by stunning lake views and pre-Incan sukankas.
  • Don the traditional dress of Amantani Island and take part in a local dance while staying with a family for the night.
  • Tour the Sillustani Chullpas, pre-Incan burial towers 45 minutes outside of Puno, overlooking Lake Umayo.

Diablada dance devils at the Candelaria Festival in Puno, PeruTraditionally costumed dancer at the Candelaria Festival in Puno, Peru

  • Sample some traditional local meals. Aside from freshly caught trout from Lake Titicaca, there are a number of options At the Sillustani Chullpas on the outskirts of Puno, Peruto seek out, including a quinoa fish stew known as chupe de quinua, a pig’s head soup called huarjata, a humble tuber and meat soup called chairo, breaded and fried chicharron de alpaca.
  • See the mummies and gold of the Sillustani Burial Towers exhibit at the Carlos Dreyer Museum in the main square.
  • Stop at the café and bar at the 17th century Corregidor’s House in the mainsquare, a popular gathering place for local artists and expats.
  • If possible, go during the last week of January and first couple of days of February to enjoy one of South America’s most spectacular Entrance to Pirwa Puno Hostel festivals, the Virgen de la Candelaria Festival.

If you need any assistance with guided excursions, bus transport, or any other aspect of your trip, feel free to contact the experienced specialists of Pirwa Travel, who have been providing travel services throughout Peru for ten years.

It’s no secret that when it comes to where to stay, we think that Pirwa Puno Hostel is the best choice for budget-conscious travelers! We’re located just a couple of blocks from the city’s main square, and a 15 minute walk from the port of Puno.


This Month: The Feast of San Santiago & Taquile Textile Fair on Lake Titicaca

This Month: The Feast of San Santiago & Taquile Textile Fair on Lake Titicaca

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The Island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca has been inhabited for over ten thousand years, first by the Pukara culture before being integrated into the Tiahuanaco Kingdom and the Inca Empire. It has the distinction of being one of the final holdouts resisting the Spanish conquest. Although it was probably known as Intika during the Inca Empire, the island took its current name from Count Rodrigo of Taquila, who received the island after it fell to the Spanish.


After a brief stint as an island prison during the republic, ownership of the island of Taquile was returned to the local communities some decades ago. Today it houses a couple thousand Quechua-speaking residents spread throughout the various villages. Residents still don the Spanish peasant clothing they were forced to adopt after the conquest, combined with Andean ponchos, coca-leaf purses, and belts. The island’s day to day life is run though community collectivism and the economy relies mainly on fishing, terraced agriculture, and tourism.

Taquile_24Most visitors who visit Taquile due so as part of a tour including Amantani Island and the Floating Islands of Uros. The Uros islands are sometimes referred to as Peru’s “Disney experience”, but are considered an obligatory stop regardless because despite their increasingly touristic nature, they’re still a site like no other.

Meanwhile, the lesser-known Taquile is popular for Taquile_14the warmth of its people, its scenic hikes, and the very traditional and communal way of life of its inhabitants.  If you visit Taquile without visiting the other islands first, it takes three hours to reach the island (although much less if you opt for a more expensive speedboat option.) One does not see dogs and cats on the island, as these are considered delicacies, and families must receive community permission to have one.

Each July 25th through August 2nd, Taquile honors its patron saint, the Apostle James (San Santiago). The night before the ascent of the saint on August 2nd is marked by dances, serenades and fireworks, although if you visit anytime during this period you are likely to be treated to a festive atmosphere with abundant chicha (fermented corn beer) and a backdrop of Sikuris and others playing panpipes, Andean flutes, and drums while other perform the Candelaria, Cinta K´ana, Taquilean Carnaval, and other traditional dances.

Music of Taquile IITaquile_18Taquile_17

The Taquile art fair takes place around the same time, from July 25th through August 5th.


Taquile_12Handwoven Taquilean textiles are considered some of the best handicrafts in Peru, UNESCO even declared the textile art of Taquile Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005. While yarnmaking and weaving are considered female tasks, knitting is exclusively done by males. Alongside soapmaking, these are some of the traditional tasks you’ll be able to observe during your visit. During the art fair, you will find the families of the Artisan Association displaying their wares in the main square.

The festival ends with the offering to the Pachamama (the Andean version of the mother earth).