Puno (pop. 14,000) and the surrounding countryside are cradle of the Aymara civilization, and the Inca Empire’s legendary birthplace. Puno, located on the banks of Lake Titicaca, is a popular stopover for passengers heading to La Paz since the lake forms the natural border with Bolivia. The area’s most intriguing archaeological site is Sillustani (17 mi. from Puno) where mysterious, ancient, circular towers (chullpas) survive. Other attractions include the Uros Islands, built by the natives with the lake’s reed vegetation, Taquile Island (3 1/2 hrs, by boat from Puno) famous for textiles, and Amantani Island (north of Taquile), home of the Yatiri Indians, the Shamans of Lake Titicaca, who will read your future in coca leaves.
When to go
April-November is the best time to visit the highlands. This season has hot, dry days and cold nights (just over freezing) with May the best month. Winter months (December-February) are characterized by clear, dry mornings with heavy afternoon downpours. Daily temperatures are mild with slightly cooler nights.
What to do
• Sillustani: Mysterious circular towers on an enchanted peninsula in Lake Umayo.
• Uros Islands: Boat tours to an ancient tribe who still live as their ancestors did centuries ago.