Puno was my first stop in Peru after crossing the border from Bolivia. Like Copacabana in Bolivia, Puno is located next to Lake Titicaca. However, Puno is considerably larger with a population of more than 100,000.
Cruising to the islands of Uros and Taquile is a popular activity for travelers in Puno. A few people had warned me that these cruises were touristy, but I wanted to visit the islands anyway.
Uros is a group of floating reed islands occupied by the Aymara people. My tour group cruised to one of the islands, where we met an Aymara family who showed us how they built homes and rafts out of reeds.
We then headed to Taquile to meet a Quechua family. They showed us how they wove and knitted traditional clothing and performed a couple of dances. For the last dance, the youngest member of the family–an adorable young boy–invited me to join. Soon, most of tour group members were out of their seats and stepping to the music.
The family also served us a delicious lunch of quinoa soup (one of my favorite foods from Bolivia and Peru) and trout, a Titicaca specialty.
We ended the day by walking by the lake. Just like in Bolivia, the views of Titicaca were beautiful.
My cruise was indeed touristy, so you should probably skip it if you’re looking for a more authentic experience. Nonetheless, I enjoyed getting a peek into the histories and cultures of Uros and Taquile.
While Puno isn’t as charming as Copacabana or Isla del Sol, it was worth visiting simply for the addicting empanadas at Ricos Pan. For dinner, I wolfed down cheese and chicken empanadas at a location a couple of blocks from my hostel. They were greasy, fatty, and so, so satisfying.
I attempted some “exercise” by walking around the city center, but I spotted another Ricos Pan a few blocks away. Even though I had eaten just minutes before, I had to pick up another cheese empanada. I don’t care if it’s sad that empanadas are among my fondest memories from Puno; I have no regrets.