Famed as the folklore capital of Peru, Puno is renowned throughout the Andes for its music and dance. The best time to experience this wealth of traditional cultural expression is during the first two weeks of February for the Fiesta de la Candelaria, a great folklore dance festival, boasting incredible dancers wearing devil masks; the festival climaxes on the second Sunday of February. If you’re in Puno at this time, it’s a good idea to reserve hotels in advance (hotel prices can double).
The Festival de Tinajani, usually around June 27, is set in the bleak altiplano against the backdrop of a huge wind-eroded rock in the Canyon of Tinajani. Off the beaten trail, it’s well worth checking out for its raw Andean music and dance, plus its large sound systems; ask at the tourist offices in Puno or Cusco for details.
Just as spectacular, the Semana Jubilar (Jubilee Festival) occurs in the first week of November, partly on the Isla Esteves, and celebrates the Spanish founding of the city and the Incas’ origins, which legend says are from Lake Titicaca itself. Even if you miss the festivals, you can find a group of musicians playing brilliant and highly evocative music somewhere in the labyrinthine town centre on most nights of the year.