The first impression you get when you arrive this city is of a sprawling, somewhat unappealing city surrounded by an extraordinary landscape. Puno has a few colonial churches and an incredible number of religious festivals .
Because it is Peru’s only major city on the shores of Lake Titicaca , most travelers pass through here en route to more interesting destinations. As a result, there is a good range of hotels , restaurants , and agencies .
Great efforts have been made to improve Puno’s attractiveness. The wooden lake boats, powered by converted car engines from the 1950s, are safer now that they are equipped with life jackets, fire extinguishers, and cell phones. They also float higher out of the water with an enforced limit on passengers. The terminal on the edge of town brings all of the major bus companies together and is just a few minutes’ walk from the port, where boats leave for Amantaní and Taquile Islands .
During the early days of the Peruvian viceroyalty, Puno was a stopover for those traveling between Arequipa  and the Potosí mine, in present-day Bolivia. But in 1688, a silver mine was discovered at nearby Laicota and the town was renamed San Carlos de Puno. During this time, important churches were built in Puno and around the shores of Lake Titicaca , with mestizo facades similar to those in Arequipa .
By Air: Unfortunately, Puno does not have an airport. The closest is Aeropuerto Manco Cápac (tel. 051/32-2905) in Juliaca , about 45 minutes north of Puno. LAN (Tacna 299, tel. 051/36-7227, or Lima tel. 01/213-8200, www.lan.com ) flies the routes Lima–Juliaca and Juliaca–Arequipa several times a day. LAN also has a Cusco–Juliaca flight.
By Bus: Puno’s Terminal Terrestre (1 de Mayo 703, intersection with Bolívar, tel. 051/36-4733 for schedule questions, US$0.30 entry), opened in 2001, has greatly improved the pleasure of busing into Puno. It is safe, with restaurants, snack bars, and even a clean, though noisy, hostel. From here buses arrive from and depart for Juliaca , Arequipa , Tacna, Cusco , Lima , and La Paz, Bolivia (through both Desaguadero and Copacabana). The travel times given here are correct; if a bus company promises you a dramatically shorter ride, do not believe it. We also do not recommend traveling at night.
If you’re going to spend a day riding to Cusco , why not make a trip of it? There are two tourist buses that include a huge buffet lunch, English-speaking guide, and stops at most of the major ruins on the way. Inka Express (Tacna 255, tel. 051/36-5654, www.inkaexpress.com , US$25) makes stops in Pukará and La Raya  before having a buffet lunch in Sicuani . The bus then continues to see the extraordinary Inca ruins at Raqchi  and the exquisite colonial church at Andahuaylillas . The buses generally leave Puno at 8 a.m. and arrive at 5 p.m., and include hotel pickup and drop-off. Some buses even have onboard oxygen tanks for altitude problems. A similar service is offered by First Class (Lima 177, tel. 051/36-5192, or Sol 930 in Cusco, tel. 084/22-3102, firstclass [at] terra [dot] com [dot] pe, US$20).
Ormeño (tel. 051/36-8176, www.grupo-ormeno.com ) has a direct, seven-hour bus to Cusco. Another recommended company is Imexso (tel. 051/36-9514), which has nice buses with TVs and bathrooms leaving at 8:30 a.m. (US$6, with snack) or 8:30 p.m. (US$4, without snack).
There are many options for the five-hour trip to Arequipa . Both Ormeño and Cruz del Sur (tel. 051/36-8524, www.cruzdelsur.com.pe ) have buses that leave at 3 p.m. (US$5–6). Several buses stop briefly in Arequipa during the brutal, 20-hour push to Lima . Cruz del Sur’s Lima bus costs US$35, and Ormeño has a bus that leaves at 3:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. Cial (tel. 051/36-7821, www.expresocial.com ) also has decent buses that leave twice a day for Lima. To drive to Tacna, through Moguegua, your best option is San Martin (tel. 05/36-3631), which has a bus twice a day.
By Train: One of the highest passenger trains in the world runs between Cusco  and Puno. The views along this route are fantastic, though the train rolls right by a series of interesting ruins. It does stop briefly, however, at the high pass of La Raya , 4,314 meters, where a colonial chapel stands alone in the middle of the high plateau. Tickets can be bought at the station in Puno (La Torre 224, tel. 051/36-9179) or reserved online through PeruRail (www.perurail.com ).
By Boat: Two luxury boat companies offer interesting, though expensive, options for traveling between Puno and La Paz in a single day.
Crillon Tours (available in Puno through the Arcobaleno agency) takes passengers from Puno to Copacabana by bus, from Copacabana to Isla del Sol to Huatajata, Bolivia, by high-speed hydrofoil, and then on to La Paz (US$189). The total journey is about 13 hours. At Huatajata, Crillon also operates the five-star Inca Utama Hotel & Spa and La Posada del Inca, a restored colonial hacienda on Isla del Sol. Crillon has offices in the United States (1450 S. Bayshore Dr., Suite 815, Miami, FL 33131, tel. 888/848-4222, daruis [at] titicaca [dot] com) and in La Paz (Camacho 1223, tel. 591/233-7533, titicaca [at] gaoba [dot] entelnet [dot] bo) and an informative website at www.titicaca.com .
Transturin has buses and slightly slower mini-cruise ships, or catamarans, working the same basic route though docking at Chúa, Bolivia. This can either be a day tour or include a night aboard a catamaran docked at Isla del Sol. It has offices in Puno through Leon Tours (Libertad 176, tel. 051/35-2771, leontours [at] terra [dot] com [dot] pe), in Copacabana (6 de Agosto s/n, tel. 08/62-2284), and La Paz (Mariscal Santa Cruz 1295, 3rd Fl., tel. 912/31-0647, sales [at] turismo-bolivia [dot] com); its website is www.transturin.com . Transturin also offers day trips from Puno to La Paz, visiting Isla del Sol (US$155), and a variety of all-inclusive package tours.