The southwestern shore and into Bolivia

The road from Puno towards Bolivia runs along the western shore of Lake Titicaca, so the villages described below are easily reached by public transport. Anybody interested in religious architecture should visit these villages. They are all on the main road except Zepita, which is beyond the turn-off to Yunguyo.

Chucuito

An Inca sundial can be seen near the village of Chucuito (19 km), which has an interesting church,
La Asunción
, and houses with carved stone doorways. Visits to Chucuito usually include the Templo de la Fertilidad,
Inca Uyo
, which boasts many phalli and other fertility symbols. The authenticity and original location of these objects is the subject of debate. The locals tend to expect a tip for every and any thing. Nearby, are cave paintings at
Chichiflope
.

Ilave

On the road to Juli is Ilave, where the old road for Tacna branches off. It is typical of a gaunt
altiplano
town, with a good Sunday market where you can buy woven goods. It is growing rapidly and is an important commercial centre, a small version of Juliaca. This town received a lot of press in 2004 when the local population lynched the corrupt mayor and besieged the police station.

Juli

The main road then bypasses the little town of Juli, 83 km southeast, a pleasant town. Known as the 'Rome of Peru', it is built on a saddle surrounded by seven hills, which offer good walking with lovely views of the lake. The town has some fine examples of religious architecture in its four churches.
San Pedro Cathedral
,
on the plaza, is the only functioning church and has been extensively restored. It contains a series of paintings of saints, with the Via Crucis scenes in the same frame, and gilt side altars above which some of the arches have baroque designs. The other churches are museums.


San Juan Letrán
, has two sets of 17th-century paintings of the lives of St John the Baptist and of St Teresa, contained in sumptuous gilded frames. San Juan is a museum. It also has intricate mestizo carving in pink stone. A long flight of shallow steps leads past the Centro Comunal and schools to the
church of Santa Cruz
, which was destroyed by lightning and is closed to visitors, but there is a view of the lake from the plaza in front. The fourth museum church,
La Asunción
, has been restored in recent years. The great nave is empty, but its walls are lined with colonial paintings with no labels. The original painting on the walls of the transept is fading. Its fine bell tower was damaged by earthquake or lightning. Outside is an archway and atrium which date from the early 17th century. Needlework, other weavings, handicrafts and antiques are offered for sale in town.

Pomata

A further 20 km along the lake is Pomata, a quiet, attractive town overlooking the lake. The
church of Santiago Apóstol
, is built of striking red sandstone (1532, started by the Jesuits, finished by the Dominicans). If the
colectivo
does not enter town, get out by the barracks (
cuartel
) and walk up. It stands on a promontory above the main road and has wonderful carvings in Andean mestizo baroque of vases full of tropical plants, flowers and animals in the window frames, lintels and cornices. The windows and font are of alabaster. The beautiful interior contains statues, painted columns, a Spanish tiled floor, paintings of the Cuzqueña school and a cupola decorated with figures whose florid, stylized bodies have linked arms. Beneath the Altar of El Señor del Sepulcro is an altarpiece covered in all the tools used in the construction. At
Zepita
, near Desaguadero, the 18th-century Dominican church is also worth a visit.

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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