A good trip should contain some exciting adventures, excellent food and drink, and a dose of culture. If you’ve seen the Floating Islands of Uros and have eaten fresh trout from Lake Titicaca, then it might be time to consider that final element. In Puno, a good option for a little lesson on the history and culture of the Puno region is the Carlos Dreyer Museum…
Finding the museum is easy; it’s the only blue building in the main square of Puno-just follow the signs!
The show-stopper at the Carlos Dreyer museum is the Sillustani salon. One of the most famous archeological sites of the Puno region is the Sillustani Chullpas, or burial towers. These tall, circular structures were used to house mummies awaiting rebirth. They are pre-Incan, but were used by the Incas after they conquered the area. Although the towers are located outside of Puno city proper, on a cold hilltop overlook Lake Umayo, the treasures which were discovered at the site are housed in the Carlos Dreyer Museum. These include more than 500 golden pieces and impressively preserved mummies. In order to provide context, there’s also a replica of the most famous tower, the Chullpa del Lagarto (Lizard Tower). If you visited or plan on visiting the Sillustani Chullpas during your stay in Puno, a stop at the Carlos Dreyer museum is obligatory to bring meaning to the site.
The Sillustani salon is actually the fourth gallery in the museum (which is quite small considering the amount of permanent exhibits it boats). Visitors first begin in the Inca salón, which despite the name includes artifacts from cultures such as the Moche, Nazcas, Chimu, Chancay and Paracas as well. The second salon contains the lithic gallery, which is centered on carved stone monolyths from the ancient Pucara culture. These monolyths take the form of suche fish from Lake Titicaca. You can see more stonework from the Pucara by continuing on to the regional archeological salon, which offers visitors a look at pieces from this culture and from the more famous Tiahuanaco Kingdom. (Although you may not be familiar with the Pucara, you will find a lasting legacy of this culture on the rooftops and mantles of homes throughout Peru: the Pucará bull.) Other cultures that you probably haven’t heard of are also represented here: the Colla, Lupaca, Pacaje, and Curacazgo. All of these civilizations and cultures settled in ancient cities and towns along the shores of Lake Titicaca (both the Bolivian and Peruvian sides) and have contributed to the area’s modern culture.
Carlos Dreyer was a German painter who settled to live in Puno, and ha was an avid art collector during his lifetime, eventually bequeathing his collection to the museum which he founded. (To the right is Carlos Dreyer, along with locals and the parish priest on Amantaní Island on Lake Titicaca. It was taken circa 1925.) Thus, there’s also an art gallery which mainly exhibits oil paintings from the colonial period. You’ll find colonial paintings in the religious gallery as well, covered in copious gold-leaf and displayed alongside silver religious items. (The regions on both the Peruvian and Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca were heavily mined for silver during the colonial era, thanks to astounding deposits and exploited, unpaid indigenous labor.) The final salons are dedicated to the colonial and to the republican eras, respectively, and provide a look at Peru’s modern history.
For those looking for a central place to stay, Pirwa has a hostel in Puno that’s just 2 blocks from the main square. We hope you’ll come visit us!