Puno doesn't win any beauty pageants—brown unfinished concrete homes, old paved roads, and dusty barren hills have dominated the landscape for years. It's a sharp contrast to Puno's immediate neighbor, Lake Titicaca. Some people arrive in town and scram to find a trip on the lake, but don't let the dreary look of Puno stop you from exploring its shores; it's considered Peru's folklore capital.

Puno retains traits of the Aymará, Quechua, and Spanish cultures that settled on the northwestern shores of the lake. Their influence is in the art, music, dance, and dress of today's inhabitants, who call themselves Children of the Sacred Lake. Much of the city's character comes from the continuation of ancient traditions—at least once a month, a parade or a festival celebrates some recent or historic event.

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