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Puno & Titicaca Lake

Puno, Peru

Puno is the capital of the department of Puno, located in the Peruvian high plane or the Collao plateau, on the edge of Peru and Bolivia. Puno is situated on the waters of one of the highest navigable lakes in the world, Titicaca Lake. It was founded with the name of "Villa Rica de San Carlos de Puno" in 1668, by the Viceroy Count of Lemos, to end with the problems of possession of the silver mines of Laicacota of the brothers Gaspar and Jose Salcedo. 

The city of Puno includes colonial architecture, as does the nearby town of Juli, famous for its four-16th and 17th churches. The ideal months to visit are from April to December; the rainy season is from January to March with strong sun during the day and cold at night. Acclimatization is necessary, to avoid high-altitude sickness. Avoid over-exertion the first day, eat easily digestible food and drink coca tea.

The city of Puno celebrates its founding during the first week of November and throughout the year, on Sunday mornings, the Plaza de Armas is the site of military parades, music and ceremonies. During Puno Days, on November 4 and 5, a lavish procession and masked dancers celebrate the beginning of the Inca Empire when Manco Capac and Mamá Occlo rose forth from Lake Titicaca.

Puno is the city of folclore, music and dance. In no other place in Peru so many different dances are practised as in Puno. In "la Fiesta de la Virgin de Candelaria" in the first week of February 70 local groups show their dances. She became the guardian angel of the city because of a miracle happened in the 16th century. The rebellious Kollavino Indians attacted the city and a army of Spanish soldiers showed up out of nothing. The Indians surrendered and scared away. The apotheosis of the festival is the 12th of Febrary when hundreds of groups pay their respect to dance in a long procession through the city, accompanied by the typical music of the Andes. In and around Puno more than 300 dances stood the test of time and are still practised.

Titicaca Lake

Lake Titicaca is the largest freshwater lake in South America, located between the two snowy mountain ranges of East and West Cordillera in the central Andes. The lake is 8,372 km2 wide, including both the deep main basin (Lago Mayor) and the shallow sub-basin (Lago Pequeno), and its altitude (3,812 m) is unrivalled among large lakes of this size class in the world.

The lake is very popular among tourists and scientists alike, who are amazed at the richness of its waters. It is a National Reserve and is home to numerous species of birds and waterfowl, a dozen species of fish, a variety of mammals, and seven amphibians, including a unique species of giant frog.

The Aymara people living in the Titicaca Basin still practice their ancient methods of agriculture on stepped terraces that predate Inca times. The highest cultivated plot in the world was found near Titicaca - a field of barley growing at a height of 4,700 m above sea level. At this height the grain never ripens, but the stalks furnish forage for llamas and alpacas, the American relatives of the camel that serve the Indians as beasts of burden and as a source of meat.

The remnants of an ancient people, the Uru, still live on "floating islands" of dried totora (a reedlike papyrus that grows in dense brakes in the marshy shallows).

From the totora, the Uru and other lake dwellers make their famed balsas - boats fashioned of bundles of dried reeds lashed together that resemble the crescent - shaped papyrus craft pictured on ancient Egyptian monuments.