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Juliaca and nearby attractions
Juliaca is the largest city in the department of Puno, and is the major commercial centre in the southern highlands. However, it is also very unattractive, and competes with Chimbote on the northern coast for the title of most unpleasant city in Peru. Most of the buildings in the city are very ugly and appear to still be under construction, and the bitter cold winds make being out at night almost unbearable. Very few travellers do any more than pass through here, and that is generally a very wise choice. However, it is occasionally necessary to enter the city for transport connections (the airport for Puno is here, for example, although even when taking a flight there is no need to enter the city), and visiting some of the highland towns is only possible via Juliaca.
There are no real attractions in Juliaca itself, although the colonial church on the Plaza de Armas is of minor interest. There are a couple of markets selling alpaca goods more cheaply than in Puno, including a market on Plaza Bolognesi.
Unlike most Peruvian cities, the Plaza de Armas is not the main centre of the city, even though the main church and the town hall are here. Most restaurants, hotels and banks are located around Plaza Bolognesi, where the train station is. Jr. San Román and Jr. Nuñez, off the Plaza Bolognesi, are the main streets.
The area around Juliaca is full of very traditional altiplano towns. This bleak, uninviting landscape has its own harsh beauty, and is worth visiting to understand the highland people. There are several interesting towns near Juliaca, which make for a nice day trip, including Azángaro, with a pretty church, and Putina, with thermal baths. 170km north-east of Juliaca, entering the jungle area of the Department of Puno, is Santa Lucía, where there is the 70m-high Hatún Phausa waterfall.
The most interesting town, however, is Lampa, about 45 minutes from Juliaca. Lampa is known at the Pink City as many of its houses are painted a light ochre colour. Enrique Torres Belón, president of Peru’s congress in 1957, came from Lampa, and ensured that the town received much state funding. Lampa now has a good hospital and sports facilities, despite these being rarely used.
The main attraction in Lampa, the Templo de La Piedad, is also the result of Torres Belón generosity. In 1960, he built a beautiful, marble-covered chapel (where he and his wife are now buried) and got the Vatican to send a plaster model of Michelangelo’s wonderful statue of La Pietá to Lampa. The agreement was that after casting an aluminium copy of the statue, the mould would be broken. Of course, the aluminium copy was made and the statue of La Piedad is now on display in the chapel, but the plaster mould was preserved. This is now on display in the municipalidad – the town hall – and can be visited. The church in Lampa, where the Templo de La Piedad is housed, is very beautiful and worth a visit in its own right. There is a wonderful carved pulpit and a lovely nave. The church also has some good Cusqueña school painting, and the catacombs can be visited. The church was completed in 1650. If the church is closed, ask in the town hall.
The area around Lampa is also important archaeologically, and there are many ruins worth visiting. Most of these are chullpas, funerary towers similar to those found at Sillustani. The most interesting sites are the Chullpas de Huaytapata, 15km from Lampa, the Cueva del Toro, where there are some ancient cave paintings, 4km from Lampa, and Ceja de Miraflores, where there are also some chullpas. However, this site is a bit further from the town. Other sites in the area include the Chullpas de Catacha, halfway to Juliaca, Chullpas Cerro de Aukimi, Chullpas de Sutuca, Chullpas de Marno and the Fortaleza de Lamparaken, a Colla site. Jesus Vargas Quispe, owner of the Kampac museum, has transport and can guide you round the sites.
Lampa also has a couple of other sights worth seeing. The Puente Colonial is a colonial bridge spanning the river. The Museo Kampac (*), 2 blocks from the church down Jr. Ugarte, has a collection of Inca and pre-Inca ceramics. The museum contains a wonderful stone Inca Qero. If the museum is closed, as it often is, knock at Ugarte 462. There is also a small chinchilla farm run by the ministry of agriculture in the town.
Lampa has a couple of basic hostels, including the Hostal Lima at Jr. Lima 139, and a couple of places to eat. Combis to Juliaca leave every few minutes from 2 de Mayo.
Although Lake Titicaca is one of Peru’s main tourist attractions, very few people ever visit the north-eastern shore. There are many typical towns and villages here, and it is also possible to enter Bolivia this way. There are plenty of combis from Juliaca to Huancané, one hour from Juliaca, from where there is transport to Moho, close to the Bolivian border. Moho is known as the garden of the altiplano, and has a milder climate than on most of the lake. There are now immigration control points on both sides of the border, so paperwork does not need to be organised from Puno anymore. However, check what the current situation is if you intend to cross into Bolivia via this route. It is also possible to head into Puno’s jungle region from Huancané, although there are very few transport facilities here.
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