Juliaca, 45 kilometers north of Puno and the teeming hub of Peru’s southern highlands, is a unfortunate collection of ramshackle buildings. The slogan of this working people’s paradise is mientra Puno danza, Juliaca avanza (“while Puno dances, Juliaca advances”). Travelers pass through here mainly because of the airport—the closest to Lake Titicaca—and the rail and highway connections to Puno, Arequipa, and Cusco.
It is also the launching pad for the quaint towns of Llachón and Lampa and the backroads route into Bolivia along the north shores of Lake Titicaca. There is no reason to stay in Juliaca, and if you can skip it, you should. All Puno travel agencies run airport shuttles, and it is worth starting your day early, so that you can pass through Juliaca on your way to Lampa or Bolivia.
The best hotels, restaurants, and services—as well as the train station—are near Plaza Bolognesi, which is graced by a colonial church, Iglesia La Merced. The Plaza de Armas, a few blocks to the northwest, has another colonial church, Iglesia Santa Catalina. There is a large Sunday market in the Plaza Melgar, several blocks from the center, where you can buy cheap alpaca wool sweaters. A more tourist-oriented daily market is held in the plaza outside the railway station. Beware of pickpockets in this area.
Hostal Luquini (Braceso 409 on Plaza Bolognesi, tel. 051/32-1510, US$7 s, US$10 d, shared bathroom) formerly Hostal Peru, is the best budget place to stay in Juliaca. The rooms are quiet, arranged around an open communal space, and are fairly clean with good beds. If you’re lucky, you can get a TV, although it won’t have cable, and there are some more expensive rooms (US$8 s, US$13 d) with private bathrooms.
La Maison Hotel (7 de Junio 535, tel. 051/32-1763, www.lamaisonhotel.com, US$19 s, US$29 d with breakfast) is a quiet, friendly place with 30 comfortable rooms. Though the orange walls and red plastic furniture are a bit much, the rooms are comfortable with good beds, skylights, cable TV, and spotless bathrooms.
At the Royal Inn (San Ramón 158, tel. 051/32-1561, hotel_royal_inn [at] latinmail [dot] com, US$25 s, US$33 d with breakfast), ask for the interior rooms, which are quieter and face a small courtyard. Rooms are decked out with cable TV, refrigerators, and heaters, and some even have whirlpool tubs for US$3 extra.
Good restaurants are few and far between in Juliaca and most are in the city’s best hotels. La Fonda del Royal Inn (inside the Royal Inn, San Ramón 158, tel. 051/32-1561, 6:30 a.m.–10 p.m., US$4–5) has an excellent selection of entrées that range from ceviche (made from both local pejerrey and coastal sea bass), pepper steak, gnocchi with alfredo sauce, and lomo al vino (steak in wine sauce). The restaurant itself is a welcome respite from the street, and the waiters hustle.
Across the street, Trujillo Restaurant (San Ramón 163, tel. 051/32-1945, US$5–9) has an endless menu of Andean and Creole food along with a full drink list that includes daiquiris. Confitería Meli Melo (Braceso 403) has good-looking pies and cakes.
Getting to Juliaca
Buses for the 45-minute ride to Puno leave from a terminal in the Plaza Bolognesi (US$0.50, 45 minutes) when full. A private taxi to Puno is about US$15. A range of buses for Cusco (US$3–7, six hours) and to Arequipa (US$3–5, five hours) leave from a terminal on the 10th block of San Martín. Buses leave for Lampa daily from 2 de Mayo, near the Mercado Santa Bárbara (US$0.70, one hour).
Juliaca has the only airport for Lake Titicaca, Aeropuerto Internacional Inca Manco Cápac (Aviación s/n, Santa Adriana, tel. 051/32-8974). A taxi for the 10-minute drive between Juliaca and the airport is US$2; cheap buses and colectivos leave from the Plaza Bolognesi. Buses leave the airport regularly for the one-hour drive to Puno (US$1.50). The office of LAN (San Ramon 125, 8:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Sat.) is a block from the Plaza Bolognesi.
PeruRail (www.perurail.com) has revamped the Cusco–Puno train service, which makes daily stops in Juliaca for either direction of travel. The rail station is across from the Plaza Bolognesi.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition