The city of Puno is the gateway to Lake Titicaca so the chances are you will have to spend at least a few hours or a night or two here while visiting the lake. Let’s be clear from the outset. Puno is not an attractive city. On first impressions you might be inclined to leave as quickly as possible, but scratch under the surface and you will find a city of remarkably friendly locals who want you to have a great time and are happy to point you in the right direction.
One day is more than enough to visit Puno’s best historical, religious and cultural points of interest. We recommend you do a self-guided Puno tour on foot. Here’s our list of top things to do in Puno.
This stone archway was built in 1847 to commemorate Peruvian soldiers who died in the Battles of Junín and Ayacucho during the Wars of Independence against Spain. The structure itself is rather plain but it is decorated with colourful coats of arms and has a good view over downtown Puno.
Entrance fee: Free
Address: Jirón Independencia (2nd block) and Jirón Coronel M Rios.
This park was created in 1901 to honour local man Dr. Manuel Pino who was regarded as a hero in the war against Chile. You can see a large statue of him in the centre of the park. This is a great spot for people watching. Grab a bench and watch as scenes of Puno daily life unfold before your eyes…
Address: Jirón Lima and Jirón Arbulú, three blocks from the Main Square.
Virgen de la Candelaria Sanctuary
The ‘Virgen de Candelaria’ is the patron saint of Puno and is highly revered by locals. Supposedly, she became the patron saint following the victory of Spanish soldiers over local tribes in the 16th century. The famous Candelaria festival is one of Peru’s biggest festivals and is held in her honour in February every year.
This church is also known as the San Juan Bautista Church and was originally built as a simple adobe chapel. It was remodelled in the gothic style in 1886 and in 1988 it became the official sanctuary of the Virgen de la Candelaria.
Opening hours: 8.30AM – 12.00PM Sunday – Fridays. Saturdays 08.30AM – 12.00PM.
Entrance fee: Free
Address: Jirón Lima just opposite Parque Pino, Puno.
Jirón Lima is Puno’s main drag. All Puno tours should include a visit to this pedestrian street lined with tourist shops selling souvenirs, cafes and restaurants. It also links Parque Pino to the Main Square.
Like most towns and cities in Peru the Main Square is the centre of the city and is nice to visit on your way to the Cathedral.
The Catedral Basílica San Carlos Borromeo or Puno Cathedral is an Andean Baroque catedral right on Puno’s Main Square. The inside of the Cathedral is quite plain compared to some other churches in Peru but it has a certain charm with sun streaming through the window, two side altars and well-preserved stonework.
Opening hours: 7.00AM – 12.00PM and 15.00PM – 18.00PM Seven days a week.
Entrance fee: Free
Address: Main Square Puno.
Casa del Corregidor
We fell in love with the colourful bright yellow Casa del Corregidor just across from the Cathedral. This is one of Puno’s last examples of colonial architecture, so is a historical protected monument and is well worth a visit. Stop off for a coffee in the sunny patio or visit by night for tapas and a local craft beer.
Opening hours: 09.00AM – 11.00PM. Seven days a week.
Entrance fee: Free
Address: Jiron Deustua 576, Main Square Puno.
Conde de Lemos Balcony
Puno lost many of its colonial buildings over the last hundred years. The Conde de Lemos Balcony is one of the last remaining examples of the traditional colonial balcony in Puno and is right across the road from the entrance to the Carlos Dreyer Museum.
Carlos Dreyer Museum
Carlos Dreyer was a German Painter who settled in Puno and collected art and artefacts throughout his life bequeathing them to the museum. This is the most complete museum in town with a great selection of cultural and historical artefacts from the Puno region and is a great place to visit if you want to delve a little deeper into the local history.
The big draw is the Sillustani exhibit which showcases the famous Lizard Chullpa and various artefacts (including over 500 pieces of gold) found at the nearby Sillustani burial site. There are eight galleries in the museum and each houses information and artefacts about the different cultures including the Incas, Tiwanaco, Moche and Chimu civilizations.
Opening hours: 09.30AM – 19.30PM Monday – Saturdays.
Entry: S/.15 (Approx. US$5)
Address: Corner of Jiron Deustua and Jiron Conde de Lemos, just off the main Square in Puno.
Sillustani Funeral Towers
The Sillustani Chullpas or funerary towers are a 45 minute drive from the city of Puno on the Lake Umayo peninsula. The ancient Colla tribe reigned over this region in the 15th century and buried their nobility in tall round funerary towers called ‘chullpas’.
The tallest tower is the famous Lizard Chullpa which is 12 metres high. The dead were buried along with their families, food and belongings for their journey into the next world. The views from the site are stunning.
Note: The easiest way to visit Sillustani is with a tour. Most tours leave Puno at 2.00pm every day and cost approx. US$16. While the light for photography is best late afternoon, the site does get very crowded. Another option is to hire a private taxi to take you to the ruins in the morning and wait for you while you visit for a less crowded experience.
Don’t miss a visit to the stunning Fundo Chincheros, a traditional Peruvian ranch on 125 hectares of the Altiplano just 20 minutes outside Puno. They offer a lovely range of alternative rural tourism activities well off the beaten Titicaca tourist trail.
Try your hand at horseback riding one of their lovingly-cared for Peruvian Paso horses across the pampa for a few hours. Enjoy a relaxing half day visit to learn about their Andean farm acitvities, visit a large herd of llamas and alpacas, walk their cactus forest trail and indulge in an outdoor BBQ as you admire the countryside.
They also offer accommodation in the ranch itself and you can read more about it here.