Noted for its traditional handicrafts, dances and fiestas, Puno is considered the folkloric capital of Peru. Its festivals are celebrated with spectacular pre-Columbian dances and costumes.
I was there once for Puno Week, celebrated with fantastic pageantry during the first week of November. The event to book clients for is the re-enactment of the founding of the Inca Empire. In full royal attire, the festival’s designated king and queen (one qualification for this honor is fluency in both the Quechua and Aymara languages) come into the harbor on a royal float, escorted by dozens of local people in little reed boats. They lead a procession from the shore to the town stadium, where troupe after troupe of local dancers and panpipe musicians from the villages and towns all over the region, each in traditional dress, take to the field in a whirl of pattern and color.
Another, and even more spectacular event celebrates Puno’s patron saint, the Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria, during the first two weeks of February with more than 200 groups of dancers; the principal festival dance is the diablada or “devil dance,” hailed for its spectacular costumes and grotesque masques. Over the main weekend, pre-Columbian dances take the stage on Saturday, colonial dances on Sunday, and the grand 12-hour Folkloric Parade on Monday; street dancing is a daily affair.