A desolate altiplano landscape stands out on numerous hills on the lake. The people who once dominated the Lake Titicaca area were a warlike, Aymara-speaking tribe that later became the southeastern group of the Incas. Their nobility were buried in chullpas (funerary towers), which can be seen scattered widely around the hilltops of the region. The tallest reaches a height of 12m is the towers are at Sillustani which is very impressive. The cylindrical structures housed plenty of food, the remains of complete family groups and belongings for their journey into the afterlife. Immediately after a burial, the only opening was a small hole facing east, just large enough for a person to crawl through, would be sealed. The chullpas are well preserved in recent times, though the site can get busy at this time, the afternoon light is the perfect for photography. A few of the blocks are decorated; among them is the well-known carving of a lizard on one of the chullpas closest to the parking lot. Incan stonework can be seen on the walls of the towers, but is considered more complicated. A makeshift quarry and a ramp used to raise the stonework are among the site’s points of interest. For birders, this is one of the best sites in the area.
Sillustani is home to a wide variety of plants and Andean water birds, plus a small island with vicuñas (threatened wild relatives of llamas). It is partially encircled by the sparkling Lago Umayo (3890 m). Tours to Sillustani cost from $30 and leave Puno at around 2:30pm daily. You are allowed about 1½ hours at the ruins, and the round-trip takes about 3½ hours. You can also hire a private taxi for $80 an hour if you’d prefer more time at the site. In addition, you can save money by catching any bus to Juliaca and drop at the road splits ($3.50 for 25 minutes). From there, occasional combis ($3, 20 minutes) go to the ruins. It is a great vacation getaway, as Atun Colla offers turismo vivencia (homestays) from $20 per person per night. You can hike to lookouts, visit the tiny museum and eat dirt – this area is known for its edible arcilla (clay). Served up as a sauce on boiled potato, it goes down surprisingly well. The area also includes lesser-known archaeological sites.
- Uros Islands
The “Floating Islands” is another name for the Uros Islands, which are manmade islands constructed out of reeds. The Uros people take the reeds that naturally grow on the lake’s banks to make the islands by continously adding to the surface. They are named Floating Islands because these islands often float on Lake Titicaca. There are more than 40 islands populated by hard-working people who survive by fishing. Their handcrafts are wonderful, and the people are very hospitable.
- Taquile Island
Tourism is strictly controlled by the old people; they will redirect you to where to eat and sleep if you plan to stay there overnight. Isla Taquile is a very interesting island on the Peruvian side of the lake. Accommodation is very cheap, as is everything in Peru—about $3 per night. You can get to Taquile from Puno for about $10, and
there are daily cruises to the island. Do not miss this unique experience because these cruises will stop by a floating island, too.
- Island of the Sun (Isla del Sol)
This is best reached from Copacabana, on the Bolivian side of the lake, and is the biggest island on Lake Titicaca. It displays many Incan treasures and the Fountain of Youth. The Gold Museum is truly worth visiting on this island.
- Puno Town Centre
In 1757, the Puno Cathedral was built. It is among the many beautiful places to visit in this small town, but it is important to know that it has a cold climate. However, the sites are worth visiting during your stay.
- Amantani Island
Also called “Isla Amantani,” this island is more traditional than Taquile Island. Just as in Taquile, the elder people control the tourism. If you will be staying there overnight, you will wear traditional dress, and local people will help you learn their traditional dance. You will also enjoy the party that is organized there every night.
- Templo de la Fertilidad
Chucuito’s main site is Templo de la Fertilidad. Local guides have many interesting stories to tell about the carvings, like tales of maidens sitting atop the stony joysticks to increase their fertility. Its grounds are covered with stones ranging from a half meter in length. There are two attractive colonial churches and farther uphill from the main road is the main plaza, known as Nuestra Señora de la Asunción and Santo Domingo. To get a glimpse inside, you have to search for the elusive caretakers.
- Iglesia de Santiago Apostol
This is a lime-mortar church that contains lovely features like a life-sized sculpture of the Santiago (St. James) atop a real stuffed horse, multiple skeletons arranged in a ghoulishly decorative, skull-and-crossbones pattern, creepy catacombs, the Last Supper, secret tunnels; returning from the dead to trample the Moors and a domed tomb topped by a wonderful copy of Michelangelo’s Pietà is worth seeing. Excellent Spanish-speaking guides are also available daily.