Puno is located in South Peru, and is known for Lake Titicaca. This lake is situated 3,800m above sea level, making it the highest navigable lake in the world.
We traveled by tourist bus (the Inka Express) from Cusco to Puno which took 10 hours. Along the way we had various stops such as Andahuaylillas “the Sistine Chapel of America”, some ancient inca bridges, Raqchi “Temple of Wiracocha”, Sicuani for a buffet lunch, Raya Pass and Pukara. We arrived at Puno at 5pm and walked to our accommodation, the Olimpo Inn. Our room was spacious and the shower was hot (although it appears in Peru only at night). We stayed 3 nights here which cost $230 soles (approx $95 NZD).
We spent the next day exploring Puno but there really wasn’t a lot to see. We walked into the Plaza de Armas and the church. We stopped at cafe bar de la Casa del Corregidor for a coffee and then strolled along Lake Titicaca. The lake was pretty dirty with rubbish all around the shore, but this didn’t seem to put people off. We saw flamingoes, which is apparently a rare sight. We enjoyed an Alpaca burger at Pacha (which we thought was the place with molecular cocktails, however this was a few blocks away). We later went to Pacha Mixology for the amazing looking molecular cocktails and dinner. Personally, the cocktails looked better than they tasted but Max enjoyed them.
On another note: Peru hasn’t mastered italian food. The pizzas are dry and flakey with very little flavour and a lot of grease. The spaghetti bolognese and lasagna use tiny bits of meat instead of mince and the sauce was not a traditional tomato paste, which was quite bizarre.
The next day we did a tour of the Uros floating islands and Taquile island. We booked this through our hotel, costing $50 soles each (approx $21 NZD), including lunch. The floating islands were really interesting. They are constructed using the roots of the reeds which grow in the lake, tied together and anchored to stop them floating to Bolivia. We took a reed boat ride (an additional $10 soles each-approx $4 NZD) to see a bit more of the floating islands. It takes 10-12 months to build an island and there are over 40 islands on the lake. Each island has a president (the island we went to had one family on it and the father was the president). There is an overarching leader who is elected every 4 years to govern all the islands. We then went to Taquile island, which reminded us of the poorer parts of New Caledonia. The walk to the Plaza was steep but quite short. There wasn’t a lot to see/do/buy on the island. Note: if you plan to take photos of the locals, you must tip them. We went to a local family for lunch (quinoa soup and grilled trout) and for demonstrations of their weaving, knitting and how they make a natural shampoo (which apparently stops grey hairs…APPARENTLY). The majority of the tour was spent on the boat, which was a bit boring, but there is no other way to get to these islands.
Copacabana is the other side of Lake Titicaca, on the Bolivian side. There are 12,000 people in this small town but the atmosphere is completely different to that of Puno.
We opted to stay somewhere a bit nicer (La Cupula for $55 USD per night), which was worth it for the hot tub and a beautiful view. There was a kitchen, however, we checked out the market and it was not ok (meat outside hanging in the sun and offal everywhere) so we ate out at the hotels restaurant which had a very good vegetarian lasagna, but a not so good meat lasagna.
The next day we found an Irish cafe for breakfast where we had Italian coffee (soooo good) and I had beans on soda bread and Max poached eggs on soda bread, which was $30 bolivianos each (approx $6 NZD). We went to Isla del Sol via boat which was $25 bolivianos each one way (approx $5 NZD), which took 2.5 hours, arriving at 11am. The island reminded us very much of Australia with all the eucalyptus trees, red dirt and clear water. We took the coastal route (as we had seen enough ruins for a while) and joined on the main route around ⅔ of the way down the island. The locals were a lot friendlier than in Taquile island, although you need to pay for each segment of the island you visit (north $15 bolivianos, central $15 bolivianos and south $10 bolivianos-in total approx $8 NZD). The walk took us about 2 hours, with me thinking there was an early boat back, but we had to wait until 3.30pm. The boat back cost a further $25 bolivianos each (approx $5 NZD), which took 1.5hours. Again a lot of time spent on the boat, but it was a nice walk. Some companies do offer a return ticket for $35 bolivianos (approx $7 NZD) but most drop off and pick up from the north end. Also note that you need to remember the boat name as there are numerous companies, and you may end up on the wrong boat, and having to pay again.