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From the floating Uros islands to the remote Taquile island you can enjoy stunning views and have a great local experience with booking a homestay on one of the islands. The starting point for this kind of trips in Peru is Puno – here are my recommendations for this town in the “Puno Travel Guide”.
For more information about the country you should read my Peru travel guide.
This article is part of a whole series of free guides for Backpacking in South America.
Things to do in Puno
Like already mentioned it's all about the lake because – to be honest – Puno itself is not a picturesque town at all like e.g. Cusco. Due to the fact that there is not much to see or discover in the city itself you should rather use your time there to relax and enjoy some good, cheap peruvian food.
Discover the main squares & view from above
Ok, you should at least go for a little walk through the innercity – best at daytime and I'd suggest to stick to the city center because Puno is not that safe like Cusco. Saying this you should have an eye on your belongings and only put out your camera when you need it – for example at the Plaza Republicana / Plaza de Armas where you'll find the beautiful cathedral of Puno.
There is also the possibility to head to a mirador called “Kuntur Wasi” where you'll find a big Condor statue and have a nice view over Puno – at the time I was there it was not safe to go there. If you want to do that: take a taxi and go in a group.
Floating Uros islands (around 10€)
One of the main attractions are the artificial islands of the Uros – here everything is made out of reed. Initially the Uros used to build a huge amount of these islands to protect themselves, for example from the Incas. If there was trouble ahead they just went on the islands and their reed boats and kept on living on them in the middle of the lake titicaca.
Nowadays only a few hundred are still living there and obviously their main income is tourism. Nevertheless the history behind and the islands in general as well as the way of living are quite interesting and worth a visit.
Amantani island & homestay with a local family (as part of the 2 day tour: 28€)
A very popular tour is the combined 2 day trip to the Uros, Amantani & Taquile islands. You'll spend the most of the time on the big Amantani island where you will be hosted by a local family in their house. Though the people there are also used to that it is still an interesting experience: you see how people live on these islands without having electricity and all the other comfort you are used to (like a hot shower). Moreover the family will cook for you (yum, yum!) and you have the chance to enjoy a stunning sunset at the top of the mountain in the center of the island.
The day finishes with a “party” in the communal hall – you have the chance to wear a typical dress and dance to the local music (I found it a bit too obvious staged for tourists but at least you get some nice pictures of yourself).
Taquile island (as part of the 2 day tour: 28€)
Compared to Uros and Amantani, I found Isla Taquile to be less touristy and pretty relaxed. The reason for this: tourism is strictly controlled by the island elders to keep the culture.
Also here it is possible to stay overnight and I would assume the experience to be much better than on Amantani where the families do it since more than 20 years.
Tip: If you stay at the Inkas Rest (see below) you should use the chance and organize your tour to Taquile through Alfredo, the Hostel owner. Due to the fact that he employs some guys from the island he has good contacts and makes it possible to have a very authentic experience for a fair price (even more cheap than through an agency).
Like already mentioned it is not a bad idea to checkout some restaurants because food here is tasty and much cheaper than in Cusco. Moreover restaurants are more basic and often the locals outnumber the tourists. As I only stayed for 2 full days I can only give recommendations for 2 really good restaurants. Both have been -again- tips from Alfredo who knows all the good & cheap locations in town.
Less fancy, more tasty and very budget friendly. This is a place where locals like to eat out on sundays to treat themselves. I guess that should be enough to swing by and enjoy typical peruvian food, a simple snack or even the legendary cuy (yes, I tried it there).
For a main dish and a drink you pay around 6-8€.
Address: Moquegua 201
Pizza in Peru? Yeah, after I ate so much yummy local food a break was needed. And you know what: Pizza is not a bad option at all. Equipped with a brick oven the Jutmay is the place to go for some peruvian style pizza in a cozy atmosphere. Again your wallet will be happy afterwards – Pizza & great lemonade for just 5€!
Address: Libertad 352
Where to sleep
After being in quite big Hostels before I really enjoyed staying in the Inka's Rest. This Hostel is possibly the best option you can find in Puno: family owned and operated you can feel a bit like at home. During my time I was staying in a private – which is still a good budget option as long as you are in Peru (if you plan to go to Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Chile you should use the chance in Peru).
Alfredo, the owner, is your man down there: be it bus tickets, restaurant recommendations, tours or some funny chats – he really cares about his guests. Moreover the breakfast has been surprisingly good: pancakes, rolls, jam, butter, bananas, tea, coffee and juice are a nice selection.
Positive: special taquile tours, great service, living rooms for each dorm and private, breakfast
Downsides: Internet is quite slow but good enough for basic stuff
Prices: Dorm from 6€, Privates from 15€
Address: Pasaje San Carlos 158, Puno
Have you ever been to Puno? Anything to add to the Puno Travel Guide? Tell us more!
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My accommodation in Puno was supported by Hostelbookers.com – they helped me to show you South America on my #HolaGringo trip.
All the content I provide from my travels is completely my own – this goes for opinions and views as well as for recommendations.