8 Best Sights in Puno, The Southern Andes and Lake Titicaca


Etchings of flowers, fruits, and mermaids playing an Andean guitar called the charango grace the entrance of this 17th-century, Spanish baroque church. Sculpted by Peruvian architect Simon de Asto, the stone facade is one of the most eclectic of any church in the area. Decorations in the comparatively plain interior mainly consist of a silver-plated altar and paintings from the Cusco School.

Cerrito de Huajsapata

A statue honoring Manco Cápac, the first governor and founder of the Inca Empire, sits on this hill overlooking Puno. Legend has it that there are caves and subterranean paths in the monument, which connect Puno with the Koricancha Temple in Cusco. It's technically a 10-minute walk from town, four blocks southwest of Plaza de Armas, but it's all uphill and a bit off the beaten path. A few robberies have been reported, so stick with a group or take a taxi.

Conde de Lemos Balcony

An intricately carved wooden balcony marks the home where Viceroy Conde de Lemos stayed when he arrived in Puno to counter rebellion around 1668. Behind the cathedral, it is today home to the National Culture Institute of the Department of Puno.

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El Yavari

The restored Victorian iron ship was built in Birmingham, England, in 1861. It was subcontracted by the Peruvian Navy to patrol the waters of Titicaca, so it was dismantled and its 2,766 pieces and two crankshafts were loaded onto a freighter and shipped to the Pacific coast port of Arica, which was then in Peru but which today belongs to Chile. Mules and porters carried the pieces 467 km (290 miles) through the Andes Mountains to Puno. The journey took six years, and it was Christmas Day 1870 before it was reassembled and launched on Lake Titicaca. Now a museum, it's docked at the end of a pier by the Sonesta Posada del Inca Hotel. After remaining idle for 40 years, the vessel took a trial run in 1999 after volunteers rebuilt its engine.

Iglesia San Juan Bautista

This 18th-century church has been entrusted with the care of the Virgin of Candlemas, the focus of Puno's most important yearly celebration in February, the Festival de la Virgen de la Candelaria. The statue rests on the main altar. Worth passing by at night to see the neon exterior lighting.

La Casa del Corregidor

Reconstructed more than five times, this 17th-century colonial building, once a chaplaincy, now houses a fair-trade café, a library, and a few upscale handicraft stores. It was originally home to Silvestre de Valdés, a Catholic priest who served as a corregidor (a Spanish official who acts as governor, judge, and tax collector) and who oversaw construction of the nearby cathedral. The house had a long history of changing owners until its present owner, Ana Maria Piño Jordán, bought it at public auction.

Museo Carlos Dreyer

An exhibit of 501 gold pieces called the "Great Treasure of Sillustani" has helped to make this one of the most important regional archaeological museums in southern Peru. The intimate museum is named for famed Puno painter and antiques collector Carlos Dreyer Spohr, whose oil-on-canvas works you can view here, in addition to exploring exhibits of pre-Hispanic and colonial art, weavings, silver, copper works, delicate Aymara pottery, pre-Inca stone sculptures, and historical Spanish documents on the founding of Puno. Plan to spend about an hour here.

Conde de Lemos 289, Puno, Peru
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Rate Includes: S/15, Closed Sun.

Museo de la Coca y Costumbres

A hidden gem, this museum pays tribute to the infamous coca leaf and Peruvian folklore. The quaint museum includes a folklore exhibit as well as everything you'd ever want to know about the coca leaf. Presented in English and Spanish, displays are well constructed with educational videos and photographs. The mission is not to promote coca but merely to share the plant's history and culture. The folklore exhibit displays elaborately constructed costumes worn during festivals and shares the history behind the dances. Visit the store and purchase some coca-based products or have your future read in the leaves.