Cusco to Puno – Peru

After returning to Cusco from Urubamba and the Sacred Valley, it was time to head off on the next leg of our Peruvian adventure – south to Puno and Lake Titicaca.   Puno is located 240 miles southeast of Cusco and is close to the Bolivian border.  One of the main attractions of the area is Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America and also considered the highest navigable lake in the world, with a surface elevation of 3,812 metres (12,507 ft).

We looked at our options for getting there from Cusco (fly, train, or bus) and decided again to travel by bus.  There are several tour companies that make the 240 mile journey, stopping at several spots along the way to see the sights.  We decided this would give us the best option to see more of Peru.  We chose the bus company Inca Express to make the trip.

We boarded our bus in Cusco at 7:30am and headed south towards Andahuaylillas (45 km south of Cusco) for our first stop.

A view on our way to Andahuaylillas.

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We soon arrived in Andahuaylillas around 8:15am and made our way to the baroque church which is dedicated to Saint Peter the Apostle and is nicknamed “the Sistine Chapel of America” because of the magnificent frescos that adorn its walls.

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The church was built by the Jesuits in the 16th century. Like other Spanish and religious constructions of the time, it was built on top of a huaca, or sacred place for the Incas. Made out of adobe and brick, the church is a small structure consisting of one nave, apse and bell tower.

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Outside, on the west of the front patio, there are three carved crosses that represent the trinity as Catholic symbol (Father, son and holy spirit).

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The patio itself was interesting, made of colored stones set in patterns.

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Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos inside the church.  Although the church looks rather plain from the outside, inside the walls and ceilings are covered with Baroque art with a great quantity of decorations.  It has numerous and beautiful paintings and its altars and wood carvings are beautiful pieces elaborated in gold leaf.

After spending about 45 minutes at the church, it was back on the bus to head to our next destination – Raqchi.  A shot of the countryside on our way to Raqchi.

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Near Raqchi we saw some local Peruvians working in a nearby field.

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We arrived at the Raqchi Inca temple (121 km from Cusco) around 10:30am.  This temple is the temple of the God Wiracocha.  According to the old chroniclers, it was built by the Inca Wiracocha in honour to the Superior God invisible for the Andean people: “Apu Kon Titi Wiracocha”.

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This Inca temple is 100 meters in length, 26 meters in width and 14 meters in height. Divided in two halves, each of these still retains the base of eleven giant columns. The base of the walls consists of Imperial Inca stonework with a top section of adobe.

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One of the remaining eleven columns.

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Adjacent to the temple, there are many storehouses which were used for various military and religious purposes.

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Surrounding the temple is a small town of about 80 homes, whose residents lead a precarious life producing pottery and farming for self-consumption.

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A huge cactus plant among the ruins.

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A few more shots of local Peruvians in the area.

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A shot of bulls on top of a local house in Raqchi.   In order to honor Pachamama (or Mother Earth), the natives celebrate a ceremony in which they make lacerations on a bulls skin to make it bleed (without killing it), then put hot peppers (rocoto) on the bull’s nose and set it free. This makes the bull run freely towards the sacred mountains while spilling its blood on the soil, which was believed to make it fertile.

In order to obtain fertility, some people put little ceramic bulls on their roofs when the houses are first blessed. This sculpture is known as Torito de Pucará.  The bull represents happiness, wealth and fertility.

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We left Raqchi a little after 11:00am and headed on towards our lunch spot of Sicuani.

A view of a small village we passed through on our way to Sicuani.

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A field of purple flowers seen along the way.  We saw this plant being cultivated in different areas but I’m not sure what the plant is.

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We arrived at Sicuani around 11:50am.  Sicuani is a relatively large highland town. The town is a major intersection, with the road to Puno/Arequipa passing through here. This town is surrounded by some very pretty hills. We had a wonderful traditional Peruvian lunch buffet at a restaurant here.  Arriving at the restaurant.

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A view from inside looking out through the huge windows towards the mountains.

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The family enjoying lunch.

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We were entertained with some traditional Peruvian music during our lunch.

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We headed on our way after lunch at around 12:45pm towards La Raya, 15 minutes up the road.

Views along the way up to the top of La Raya Pass.

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La Raya is the highest pass on the route between Cusco and Puno at 4,335 meters (14,232 feet) above sea level.  Abra La Raya (La Raya Pass) is the watershed between the valley that drains into Lake Titicaca and the valley that leads down to Cusco and to the Sacred Valley.

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At the top of the pass were some local vendors selling their wares and a local Peruvian woman with her llama.

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A shot of Lisa and the kids at the top of the pass.

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After our brief 20 minute stop at the top of the pass, we started our journey down the other side of the pass.  Here’s a couple of shots of some alpaca seen grazing along the roadside.

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A couple of local cemeteries along the road.

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More local Peruvians working in the fields.

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Another shot of the mountains.

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At around 2:45pm we arrived at the small village of Pukara located 61km north of Juliaca.  We visited the Museo Inka Aymara here.  Unfortunately, I don’t have much in my notes about the museum.I do know it contained monoliths and stelae (carved and sculpted in granite) of various sizes, as well as pottery, human bones, and skeletons.

Here is a shot of a mummy.

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This is a shot of a replica of the tombs used back during pre-Inca times.

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They had a few vicuna near the museum.  Vicuna are in the llama family and are quite slender.  Its wool is only either white or brown and is very fine.

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A few more shots of the streets and of the carved bulls I mentioned earlier.

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We left Pukara for our final leg of the journey to Puno.  The clouds got darker and it started to rain as we headed towards Puno.

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Lake Titicaca soon came into view as we arrived into Puno.

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We arrived around 5:00pm and headed to our hotel to relax before spending the next couple of tours touring Puno and Lake Titicaca.

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