When traveling to Peru there are two places not to be missed, they are the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu and the largest lake in South America, Lake Titicaca. The journey between the two places is an interesting one and can be travelled by bus, car or train.
Let`s start at Machu Picchu, the Inca City undiscovered by the Spanish so it remains largely intact and is one of the seven wonders of the world. Thousands of visitor’s flock every year to marvel at the ingenious of the Inca Architecture and hear stories of the Inca civilization. Getting to and from Machu Picchu is an adventure in itself, Perurail offers different services daily, from the extremely luxurious Hiram Bingham service featuring an elegant dining car, a bar car and an observatory where you can enjoy an open air carriage while drinking a traditional Peruvian cocktail and listening to live music, modeled on the famous Pullman trains of the 1920´s this delightful train is a once in a lifetime experience. A bit more economical is the Vistadome train, on this train you won’t miss any of the luxury. The Vistadome features panoramic windows, leather seats and a fashion show to help you spend your money. The most economical train to Machu Picchu is the Expedition train, designed with the Inca Culture in mind, this train still has some luxury features but at better prices.
If the train is not your thing there are alternatives like the Inca Trail, a four-day hike that will end at the Sungate, the gateway to Machu Picchu. Or there are many operators in Cusco that offer Machu Picchu by car, this is a relatively new service and takes around four to five hours to reach Machu Picchu from Cusco.
After you have finished with Machu Picchu and Cusco you may travel South to the lakeside town of Puno. Once again you may use the services of Perurail to travel from Cusco to Puno. The Andean Explorer is an award winning train, designed again in the 1920 Pullman style, this train leaves from Cusco City and travels over the Peruvian highlands to reach Puno some ten hours later. Other options for traveling from Cusco to Puno is by luxury bus that stops at attractions along the way like Andahuaylillas to see La Capilla de Andahuaylillas, a beautiful 17th Century church featuring painting from the Cusco School. You will also visit the temple of Raqchi and the museum at Pucará before arriving into Puno in the late afternoon. If you are after a luxury private car trip from Cusco to Puno many agencies offer this service, the cost is high but it is the fastest option to travel to Puno.
Once you arrive into Puno there are many and varied tourist options. For the most part tourist go to Puno to see the floating Islands of the Uros people. The Islands are made from layer upon layer of totora reeds, a dominate plant in Lake Titicaca. The islands are home to the Uros Indian people who have lived on these islands for many centuries. There are forty-eight in total but only a few can be visited by tourists. The islands have a school and the children can be seen rowing to school on their reed boats every day.
There are other islands worth a visit in Lake Titicaca, the first is Taquile Island, a rock island located twenty-five kilometers from Puno harbor. This peaceful island offers homestays with local families in basic accommodation with some meals included. Taquile is a very fertile island with good soil which allows the local people to grow many crops such as potatoes, corn, beans and quinoa. The islands are very traditional and with no electricity they rely on solar power and if you decide to stay overnight it is a good idea to take a torch with you. Be warned that there is a very steep climb to reach the town and at a very high altitude the climb can sometimes be tough going, but worth it for the amazing view at the top. Taquile Island is famous for its knitted hats and gloves, which are available for sale and a great memento to take home with you.
Nearby is Amantani Island, another rock islands and the largest on Lake Titicaca. Featuring two small hills where you can visit the temple of Pachamama and the temple of Pachatata, there are also ancient terraces well worth a visit. The island has many festivals throughout the year featuring colorful clothing made from locally woven fabrics. Amantani also offers homestays for tourists a very affordable prices.
Apart from the islands on Lake Titicaca, there are excursions that you can do from Puno. Around an hour’s drive from Puno is the towers of Sillustani, these towers are on the shores of Lake Umayo and overlook Lake Titicaca. This cemetery is more than 500-year-old and built by the Colla tribe who dominated the region before the Incas, well worth a visit but remember to take warm clothes with you as it can get very cold.
At the very south of Peru, Puno is also where you would want to catch a bus further south and onto Bolivia. As you can see the journey from Machu Picchu to Puno is a very interesting one filled with interesting sights and well worth your time.