Puno, Uros and The Floating Islands

In this post I writte about my trip to Puno, with its main local attractions and the Islands of Uros. I was there during my travel through Peru and Bolivia. Puno is a city based on human scale and the attractions can be reached by walking. The furthest interesting place from the historic center (which is around Plaza de Armas), is the area where there a pier and a marina on the shore of Lake Titicaca. If you are used to walking, it will take you about 30 minutes to get to the pier on foot.

How we got to Puno

We came to Puno from the small town of Copacabana, in Bolivia. There are very comfortable buses that comes from La Paz and Copacabana or from Cusco in Peru. Both Puno in Peru and Copacabana in Bolivia are on the shores of the Lake Titicaca. It is a huge lake and is about 4000 meters high. Lake Titicaca is the one that is on the highest altitude on earth. In Juliaca City, nearby Puno, there is an airport. It can be of use if you do not want to continue your travel by bus. There is also a luxurious but slow train that runs some days a week between to Cusco and Puno City.

Best location to stay in Puno from my point of view

Puno is not an expensive destination, and you can have great accommodations for very affordable prices. The best hotels are around the main square, Plaza de Armas, and it is the best area to stay.
Differently from Copacabana, Puno in Peru has better tourism infrastructure and better hotels, I would say very good hotels. However it does not make sense to compare Puno with Copacabana. Both cities are worthing a visit. From Copacabana in Bolívia, you have better and wounderful views of the Lake Titicaca. Copacabana is less developed as city what give to the visitor a feeling of adventure. On the other hand, Puno has some attractions that Copacabana in Bolivia does not have, such as the Floating Islands of Uros and other things.

Our first night in Puno

We arrived Puno at night, in October 27th, maybe around 22 hours at the bus station and we were approached by a man who seemed that he wants to offer taxi ride. In fact, more than transport to the hotel, it was a city tour and a tour to Uros floating islands that he wanted to sell. No problem with this, he was very polite and friendly. We took the taxi he offered, but the tour to Uros we decide to arrange it later. The city tours we did not want it.

We took the taxi to the hotel Plaza Mayor, with a level of comfort almost similar to a  Hilton hotel, and it was expensive! It was too close to Plaza de Armas, in the clean and well preserved historic center.

I had reserved this hotel before I left the Copacabana in Bolivia. After checkin and leaving luggage in the hotel, we went to eat a pizza in a bar that was open on a narrow street. There was TV with old music videos, maybe from the years of 1980 or 1990, candlelight and the pizza was great. It was a bar with an interesting decoration.

Upon returning to the hotel, we had to reserve another hotel for the next day in Puno, because this hotel had no more rooms available for the next day, and so I did. We decided to take a medicine pill for "Soroche" because the altitude doesn't make us feel well all the time.

Going for a walk in Puno and exploring the city

The next day, October 28th, we woke up early in the morning and we took a bathtub bath in the very comfortable hotel. It must be said that in Puno things are not expensive.

In this hotel, the booking was made without breakfast included in the fare. To take the coffee in the hotel there would be an addition of 15 Nuevo Soles, perhaps per person. Nuevo Soles is the Peru currency.
Casa del Corregedor
We choose to have breakfast in another place while exploring the city. It was a great choice, we had breakfast in a bar that had as decoration flags from various countries on the ceiling. My wife ate pancakes with honey (American type) and I ate a grilled ham and cheese sandwich that was a little different or with special preparation and maybe with more ingredients.

After having breakfast and walking a little on one narrow main street of the city centre with lots of shops and travel agencies, we returned to the hotel to checkout and take the suitcases to the other hotel, where we would spend our second night in Puno. The other hotel was nearby, a few blocks away. We arrived a bit early for checkin time and we were about to ask the hotel concierge to store our luggage till checkin time. Anyway the very friendly staff immediatelly accommodated us in our room, even before the checkin time.

It was Cazona Plaza Hotel, very close to the main square, very good and beautiful hotel, with a central atrio, a beautiful and cosy lounge, beautiful apparent stairs, although it has elevator.
Having left our suitcases in our room with en-suite, by the way very good with bathtub, we went out for another walk.

We walked a few meter and got to the main square, Plaza de Armas. Very close to the main square, we see that a group of locals were adorning the street ground with colorful petals of roses for a celebration. It was for the procession of Senor de los Milagros and Nossa Senhora de la Candelaria. It is was catholic celebration.

It was also the day of the city's Anniversary, and there was parties in the street during all day, including student parading and representing its schools. There was also group of dancer performing local typical dances.

Still in the morning, we also visit a travel agency and arranged for a tour to Uros or the so called  communities living on floating islands over Lake Titicaca. The tour costed 30 Soles, with an inclusive taxi ride to take us to the pier and to return to the hotel.

We choose the midday tour, and we waited in the Plaza hotel after the checkin, until 12:10am. Nobody had come to the hotel to take us to the tour. So we asked the hotel receptionist to call the travel agency and question why the delay . After a while two young women wearing heavy  makeup came to the hotel and they told us that there was not enough number of people start the tour, and that we would have to wait for the 4:00 p.m. tour on the same day.

Well, It was not what we wanted, but what to do? If we were lucky we could also see the sunset on the lake, but it was getting cloudy in the end of the day and at night it rained.

Since the tour was delayed, we had about 3 and half hours to walk around. Se we decided to explore the city once more, and went for a walking. We passed through the main square, and went to lunch at the House of the Corregidor (Casa del Corregedor), a place we found when tracking the attractions  that were on a tourist map. The main churches were closed because of the party. The House of the Corregidor is a very interesting place, and there we ate delicious palta sandwiches. Palta for those who don't know it, it's avocado in spanish.

In the same place, we bought a souvenir, which was a miniature of reed boat. It was on the second store of the building where they sell lots of things related to the local culture and souvenirs.

Afterwards, we were also walking to see the piers and Lake Titicaca, taking advantage of the sun and on the way we bought another miniature of a reed boat. During the course we went along a long avenue towards the pier. When arriving at the locations of the pier, we saw an interesting market with lots of thing for sale, such as typical clothes, casual clothes, crafts, souvenirs and etc.

Visiting The Floating Islands of Uros

After visiting the pier areas, we go back to the hotel taking an small car powerd by a motorcycle. We waited for a while, and then again nothing of the agency young women shows up. We asked the hotel receptionist to call the agency again, and this time they came.

They take us to the boat pier by car, and from there we took the boat to the islands of Uros. It was in the same place we had been before. It was a motorboat that could take lots of people, and there was a tour guide who was talking about the islands and its culture. The Uros are indigenous people from Peru and Bolivia, who have their own language and culture. Each community are set in a different island, next to each other. On the whole, there are more than 40 floating islands.
Uros | Floating Islands
Arriving there, on one of the Floating Islands, the President of the Island we landed called I and my wife to meet his small house, a kind of tent made of reed and tried to sell us pieces of embroidery made by his wife. It was really gorgeous but expensive. He explained that there are countless islands, and that each week there is shift regarding the island that will receive travelers and tourists. The aim of the shift is to give the same the opportunity to each island to receive travelers and to sell their craft articles. The other motive of this practice is that, the people of each island has to have a time to take normal life, when the visitors go to the another island.

We ended up buying another reed boat, which according to my wife is even more cute than the others two that we bought.

When visiting the floating island, we got our passport stamped, meaning, it was just a symbolic stamp that costs $1 Nuevo-Soles. We also took a ride on a boat made out of reed. (Totoro boat). In that communities, almost everything is made out of reed. The floating island is made of reed, the tents and the boats. The Totoro boat was pushed to navigate by the island's president's speedboat and each of us paid $10 nuevos soles for the ride on the reed boat.

So it began to darken, it was getting too cool, and we decided to enter the same motorboat that brought us to the island, and the same one that will return to the wharf of Puno. When getting to the Puno´s pier again, we took a taxi and went back to the hotel.

We had a little rest, and then we went to dinner again at the same place we had lunch at Casa del Corregdor. We ate sandwiches and drunk "chicha morada", a juice made of a black corn much found to sell in Peru. When we left the place, it was raining hard. Getting to the hotel, we slept early, and we were freezing when we got to our room. The heater got too heated overnight, and we had to shut it down in the middle of the night. In the middle of the night, I had a little anxiety because of the altitude and the heat.
Also in that night, when walking back to the hotel, we heard loud sounds of music, and the noise of the party went through the night, probably till the dawn, but it didn't bother us because the sounds it was coming from somewhere  somewhat far from the hotel.

Another morning in Puno

The next day, we would fulfill our own itinerary and travel plans in Puno and went back to Cusco.

We woke up early in the morning and after having a bath we had our breakfast in the hotel. Ana took a bathtub, and when I went for the bathtub there was not enough hot water, it was just a little warm. I gave up the bathtub and took a shower. No sooner had I finished my shower the hot water decided to show up again! (laugh)

So, It was time to have breakfast at the hotel, and the lady at the hotel restaurant asked in German if Ana wanted eggs. Ana thought it was odd to speak with her in german, without understanding why. Then the lady asked again in french, and then in english (laughter). So Ana said, can you speak in spanish please, that for me it is easier to understand (laughter). The breakfast of that hotel it was excellent, actually all the hotel as a whole it was great, very pleasant and beautiful. The only issue it was the temporary lack of enough hot water exactly when I wanted to take a bath in the bathtub.
Crossing the Andean Plateau
After breakfast, we return to the hotel room and booked again a hotel in Cusco.

In search for a ticket to go to Cusco

Then we went out to find a travel agency to get a bus ticket, preferably of the Cruz del Sur busline company that are considered the best in terms of comfort and it is considered safe. But there was ticket available only for buses that would departure in the night, at 22:00 or 10pm.

So we decided to go back to the hotel and when passing through the main square, we decide to visit the cathedral. A mass for the benefit of the soul of someone who deceased have had just happened, anyway we could see the interior of the beautiful cathedral.

Returning to the hotel we attempted to reserve a flight that departures from Juliaca City (It is the equivalente name for Juliet in spanish) to Cusco, but it was no longer possible to arrive at the airport of Juliaca on time. Even if we took a taxi to Juliaca, it would be still impossible to arrive on time.

So we decided to get our suitcases and go to Puno's Bus Terminal and try to get whatever is the busline that was available to get to Cusco.

Arriving there, in the Bus Terminal, we visited several ticket windows, to find a bus that  would travel during the day, so that we could see the scenery of the Peruvian High Andean Plateau, between Puno and Cusco. (The spanish word for Andean Plateau is Altiplano). When we was in search for the ticket, a man who took care of a ticket window of some company, came toward us and offered help, certainly to sell his tickets. Well, it was what we needed, we bought from him the bus tickets to Cusco. We took a bus that was coming from La Paz. The bus was quite comfortable, with only three ample armchairs on each row of seats. A bus where almost or maybe all other passengers were foreign travelers like us.

 Crossing the Peruvian Andean Plateau

The High Andean Plateau landscape is interesting, being made of large flat areas with mountains in the far background, perhaps it is about 3600 meter high. There is an old railroad that connect Cusco to Puno. The PeruRail and Belmont group runs renovated and luxuriosos trains journey, at a considerably high price if compared with bus ticket prices. The trains are not fast and the journey takes about 10 hours at the price of about $250 dólares. We could see the railroad next to the asphalt road.

During the journey, from half to the end, I had sickness and vomited a lot. I don't know if it's due to the altitude sickness. It may also have been effect of some type of rotavirus that makes me feel nausea, since my wife felt nothing. Anyway, If you throw it all out, it is going to feel better again. However, in my case, I must have puked about six times, because sometimes I needed to take water. Then I came to normal again (laugh).

Arriving in Cusco in the night

Eventually, we arrived in Cusco at night and took a taxi, which had to take a giant lap because the main square was closed. There was a celebration with fireworks.
The guesthouse or Inn we reserved, Hostal Sweden 1 (Hostal means Inn in spanish) it was quite interesting and it was on a steep slope, which descends to the Plaza de Armas (main square). Actually, It was very close to the square.
The taxi driver got a little lost over the place and did not know for sure where the inn was located and got off to ask information to somebody. We waited in the taxi and then we got off for a while. In the meanwhile we was suddenly frightened because a pickup truck stopped behind us and lit headlights kind of blinding us if we looked at the pickup truck. Eventually, the driver came back with the direction and everything was fine.
So we had checkin in the inn. After a while we went out and searched for a drugstore to buy a medicine in case the vomit came back. But everything was fine, and fortunately, I felt good till the end of my long trip to Peru and Bolivia. You can read more about Cusco in another post.

I would love to read your comments !

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