Juliaca to the northeastern shore

The opposite shores of Lake Titicaca are quite different. Between Puno and Desaguadero at the lake's southeastern tip, the plain is intensively worked. The tin roofs of the communities glint everywhere in the sun. Heading north from Puno, the road crosses a range of hills to another coastal plain, which leads to Juliaca. North of Puno is the first sector (29,150 ha) of the Reserva Nacional del Titicaca. The smaller, Ramis sector (7030 ha) is northeast of Juliaca, at the outflow of the Río Ramis that floods in the wet season. The reserve protects extensive totora reed beds in which thousands of birds live. On the flat, windy altiplano between Juliaca and Huancané you will see small, square houses with conical roofs, all made of blocks of earth,
putukus de champa
. After Huancané, the lakeshore becomes mountainous, with cliffs, bays and fabulous vistas over the water.

Ins and outs

Heading north and west, Juliaca is a major transport hub for paved roads to Cuzco and Arequipa and also has the only airport in the region. Transport along the north shore is less frequent, but that should not discourage you from travelling here. For information in Spanish, see www.juliacavirtual.com.

Juliaca

As the commercial focus of an area bounded by Puno, Arequipa and the jungle, Juliaca has grown very fast into a chaotic place with a large impermanent population, lots of contraband and more tricitaxis (
taxicholos
) than cars. Monday, market day, is the most disorganized of all. On the positive side, Juliaca provides access to the north side of the Lake as well as various other worthwhile attractions. It is less of a tourist town than Puno and is an alternative base for independent travellers who want to explore Titicaca beyond the gringo trail. It's freezing cold at night, so make sure you're wrapped up well in your recently purchased alpaca clothing.

You can buy wool and alpaca goods at the large Sunday
market
, La Dominical, near the exit to Cuzco. Another good place to find cheap alpaca sweaters is the
Galería Artesanal Las Calceteras
, on Plaza Bolognesi.
Túpac Amaru market
, on Moquegua, seven blocks east of the railway line, is a cheap black market that's great
value. The
Plaza de Armas
is mostly lined with modern buildings. On it stands the grey-stone cathedral, Santa Catalina, sombre inside and lit by candles and the yellow light through the windows. If you're unlucky enough to fall ill here, there's a first-class hospital run by the Seventh Day Adventists.

To get an overview of town and the surrounding altiplano, climb one of the hills that rise to the west. Follow the steps at the south end of Ayacucho to the hill with the antennae, from there you can continue along the stations of the cross to the Cristo Blanco statue. It is not safe to go in the evening.

Around Juliaca

A highly recommended trip is 34 km northwest of Juliaca to the unspoiled little colonial town of
Lampa
, known as the 'Pink City'. The patron saint of Lampa is La Virgen Inmaculada, whose fiesta is held 6-15 December. There is a splendid church, built 1675-1685, called Santiago Apóstol, containing a copy of Michelangelo's
Pietà
(the story goes that when the original in Rome was damaged, they came to Lampa to see how the repairs should be done). In addition to the replica of the
Pietà
there are many excellent paintings of the Cuzco School and an elaborately carved wooden pulpit.

Also of interest is the
Kampac Museo
, a small, private museum of Profesor Jesús Vargas, with an eclectic collection of sculptures and ceramics from the Lampa and Juli areas as well as other Peruvian cultures. The façade of the Municipalidad has large murals depicting local history. The building houses a second
Pietà
made of plaster. The two plazas in the town with native
quenual
trees are very well kept. It also has a small Sunday market. There are a number of places of interest around Lampa, the surrounding hills offer fine walking amid ancient terracing, small lakes are rich in bird-life including flamingos. Nearby are three Inca fortresses. A few km away is the Cueva del Toro with petroglyphs, further afield is a forest of Puya Raymondi.

The town of
Pucará
lies 63 km to the north, with pre-Inca ruins and its pottery. There are some restaurants along the main road. The sheep farm of San Antonio, between Ayaviri and Chiquibambilla, owned by the Prime family, who are descendants of British emigrants, can be visited.

Some 71 km northeast of Juliaca is the old town of
Azángaro
with a famous church, La Asunción, which is filled with
retablos
and paintings of the Cuzco school. There are good thermal springs at the village of
Putina
, 84 km northeast of Juliaca, 5½ hours by bus or truck.

Some tours from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca have the Isla Suasi as their initial destination. The route taken goes through Pucará, Azángaro and Muñani and two nights are spent at
Mallkini
, www.mallkini.com.pe.
This is an alpaca farm at over 4000 m, owned by the Michell family, the largest alpaca textile group in Peru. If you wish to see an
altiplano
farm, this is a first-class set-up. Guests are well-looked after and can take part in various activities such as riding, trekking with llamas and off-roading. You can also go independently and take advantage of Mallkini's packages; the ranch has six rooms and camping facilities.

Juliaca to Cuzco

The road Puno-Juliaca-Cuzco is now fully paved and in good condition. Bus services are consequently an acceptable alternative to the train, which runs at an average altitude of 3500 m. There is much to see on the way, but neither the daytime buses nor the trains make frequent stops. You would have to be using your own transport, or taking buses from town to town to sample what the places en route have to offer. The road climbs steadily after Juliaca, passing Pucará then running through the villages of Ayaviri and Santa Rosa (where knitted alpaca ponchos and pullovers and miniature llamas are sold, rooms are available). It then rises further, up to the pass at La Raya.
Ayaviri
is a lively town with a daily market. In the pleasant plaza are two puya raimondi plants.

The road and railway cross the
altiplano
, climbing to
La Raya
, the highest pass on the line; 210 km from Puno, at 4321 m. Up on the heights breathing may be a little difficult, but the descent along the Río Vilcanota is rapid. To the right of
Aguas Calientes
, 10 km from La Raya, are steaming pools of hot water in the middle of the green grass; a startling sight. The temperature of the springs is 40°C, and they show beautiful deposits of red ferro-oxide. Several communal bathing pools and a block of changing rooms have been opened.

At
Maranganí
, the river is wider and the fields greener, with groves of eucalyptus trees. At Km 147, next to a colonial house, is the
Maranganí Fábrica
 Tejidos
, a textile manufacturer using alpaca wool. Although little more than 10 years old, some of the machines are much older than that and all use punch cards (no computerization here). The textiles are exported all over the world. The administrator, Sr Walter Chung Valdez, is happy to show interested travellers around.

The Vilcanota plunges into a gorge, but the train winds above it and round the side of the mountain. At
Huambutío
the railway turns left to follow the Río Huatanay on the final stretch to Cuzco. The Vilcanota here widens into the great Urubamba canyon, flanked on both sides by high cliffs, on its way to join the Ucayali, a tributary of the Amazon.

Northeast coast of Lake Titicaca

The crossing from Peru to Bolivia via Huancané and Moho is the most remote, but nevertheless a highly recommended route between the two countries. As the road leaves Juliaca, it crosses a single-track bridge, which can get congested if opposing drivers do not give way. To Huancané the road is paved across the
altiplano
. The road then deteriorates, badly in places, although work has started (2005) to widen and improve it.

Huancané
(56 km from Juliaca, altitude 3825 m) is known as
tierra de chirihuanos
, for the wind instrument (like a
zampoña
) that is played here. It has a massive adobe church by a nice plaza. The town suffers from water shortages. There are good birdwatching possibilities 10 km southwest of town where the road crosses the Río Ramis, part of the Reserva Nacional del Titicaca. Ten kilometres east of Huancané, 1 km off the road to Moho, is the small town
Vilque Chico
, from where a road goes northeast to Cojata on the Bolivian border (Ulla Ulla on the Bolivian side). Several undeveloped archaeological sites can be visited from here;
Cotañi
with one
chullpa
is one hour's walk away and the more extensive
Quiñalata
, two hours' walking; ask for directions or hire a taxi in town. There are no lodgings in Vilque Chico, only a couple of very basic eateries. Past Vilque Chico, the views are especially beautiful.

At Jipata, the road splits, giving two ways of getting to
Moho: inland, over the hills, the route the buses take as it is shorter; or clinging to the lakeshore, with lots of bends, but beautiful views. Moho is known as the 'Garden of the Altiplano'. Maximizing the climatic benefits of the lake, they grow roses and many other flowers. The plaza has rose bushes, topiary hedges and a colourful fountain. The large, green Consejo Municipal is totally out of keeping with the rest of the plaza. Buses for Juliaca collect on the plaza. The main fiesta in honour of Señor de la Exaltación is held 13-16 September, celebrated with dances, bands, bullfights, etc. On a ridge top, two hours' climb from Moho is
Merka Marka
or 'old city', an impressive, undeveloped pre-Inca archaeological site, with gorgeous views of the lake and the
altiplano
, all the way to the glaciers on the Cordillera Apolobamba.

Conima
, a pleasant small town in a lovely setting overlooking the lake, has a nice plaza with a fountain, colourful flower beds and an old stone church tower. The main fiesta, San Miguel Arcángel, runs from 28-30 September. A 30-minute walk through worked fields leads down to a nice beach. Nearby is the Península de Huata with a stone monolith on the rigetop.
Cambria
, a village 2 km north of Conima is the access point for
Isla Suasi
, the only tourist project on the north shore. A fine, get-away-from-it-all hotel is the only house on this tiny, tranquil island. The microclimate allows for beautiful terraced gardens, which are at their best from January to March. The non-native eucalyptus trees are being replaced by native varieties. You can take a community rowing boat around the island to see birds or paddle yourself in one of the hotel's canoes. The island has six vicuñas, a small herd of alpacas and various domestic animals. The sunsets from the highest point are out of this world.

Rinconada

At 5200 m, Rinconada is a cold, isolated town near Ananea and Culijón mountain. Its population of about 25,000 is involved entirely in gold mining and the mines are all under a glacier. A glacier lake below the town is marred by the rock and sand dug out of the mines. You can see all the processes in extracting, refining and selling the gold (which can be found pretty cheaply in the local shops). There's no infrastructure for tourists: just four or five basic
hostales
, countless basic restaurants serving good food and, apart from gold, shops sell mainly mining equipment. Wrap up warm as it is cold by day and bitter at night (it's hard to sleep in the thin air).

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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