The road from Chucuito to Juli, 84 kilometers from Puno, heads off from the meandering shores of Lake Titicaca through the town of Platería, a village once known for its silverwork, to Acora, and finally to Ilave, a crossroads town that has more commerce than colonial architecture.
The road returns to the lake at Juli, which was once a stopping point for silver caravans between the coast and the Potosí mine in present-day Bolivia. This was also an important center for the Jesuits and Dominicans, who trained missionaries here to work with the native Guaraní in Paraguay.
The town’s principal attractions today are its churches from the 16th and 17th centuries: San Pedro Mártir is on the plaza and has an interesting Renaissance facade, baroque altar, and paintings by Italian master Bernardo Bitti. Beautiful windows made of a translucent stone called piedra de huamanga can be found at San Juan Bautista, down the street, along with a carved altar, 80 paintings from the Cusco School, and beautiful carved sacristy door.
Santa Cruz de Jerusalén has magnificent doors and excellent views of Lake Titicaca. Iglesia de San Juan de Letrán, in the Plaza San Juan, was restored in 2007 and has a stunning interior that is worth a look. Nuestra Señora de la Asunción offers an eerie glimpse at a church in ruins with a fine remaining door, tower, and arch outside in the atrium. There is a colorful fair in Juli every Thursday.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition