What to do & see in Puno, a charming port city on your Peru trip.
On your Peru trip, it can be tempting to opt for the most popular, Instagram-worthy attractions. I know because I fell for that trap. I was overjoyed to be visiting Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.
The reality of my Machu Picchu visit was crowded and disappointing. The flocks of tourists were inescapable, and everything from the lodging to the restaurants were overpriced and underwhelming. Luckily, I redeemed my trip soon after by renting a car and driving south to a city that isn’t used to the limelight: Puno, Peru.
Not many people have heard of Puno, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. This quiet city in Southern Peru is situated on the banks of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,556 feet in elevation.
Puno is often overshadowed by the likes of Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain, but there are countless reasons for travelers to take the road less traveled to Puno, a mecca for all things Incan food and culture.
Cathedral of Puno
To get the most out of your experience in Puno, you’ll want to start at the Plaza de Armas. This is the main area in town, and features a park and beautiful surrounding buildings and architecture.
The centerpiece of the Plaza de Armas is the Cathedral of Puno, a beautiful old cathedral built back in the 1700s. It is a perfect representation of Andean Baroque architecture.
What to eat in Puno
Puno has a truly one-of-a-kind food scene. The food that you can try in Puno is unlike anywhere else in the world, a unique fusion of Peru’s past and present. People don’t typically associate delicious food with Peru, but they should! The food scene in Puno alone is enough to warrant a visit by foodies.
Trout is the meat to try, since it is caught fresh from Lake Titicaca—one of the only types of fish to populate the lake. You’ll also find fresh alpaca at most restaurants, a Peruvian specialty. Don’t be dissuaded if these don’t sound appealing, since restaurants also have classic dishes like chicken and beef, as well as vegetarian options like quinoa soup.
A few of Puno’s top restaurants include La Table del Inca (pictured below), Mojsa Restaurant and Cafe Bar de la Casa del Corregidor.
Mirador El Condor
Next up, you’ll want to marvel at the city of Puno in all its glory. To do this, climb the countless steps to Mirador El Condor, a lookout point featuring a massive condor monument. Condors are a popular animal in Peru, featured heavily in Andean folklore and mythology.
The lookout point is incredible, you can see all of Puno and across Lake Titicaca into Bolivia. The long hike up the steps will definitely leave you winded, but the views will make it all worth it.
You can’t visit Puno without setting sail on Lake Titicaca. This stunning lake is the highest navigable lake in the world. Whether you take a fast boat our to Taquile Island or explore the port, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Lake Titicaca.
The most popular way to experience Lake Titicaca is by visiting the Uros Islands—a community of floating reed islands inhabited by over 1,000 people. The Uros Islands are made entirely of reeds, with inhabitants restacking reeds every 25 days in order to maintain their islands and lifestyle. Tours are available, as well as Airbnbs that permit overnight stays.
Lastly, remember to drink lots of water and take it easy to avoid altitude sickness. It’s easy to feel light-headed and dizzy when you’re this high up, so take care of yourself to ensure your trip goes off without a hitch.
Get more on Puno for your Peru trip from Jack and Gab Explore.