Just down the road from Sillustani are a series of traditional country homes. While only an hour or so from Puno, it is a different world. The whole region is known as the altiplano, which translates to “high plain.” The altiplano stretches from northern Chile and Argentina, through Bolivia and up along the Andes into southern Peru. The average altitude is 12,300 ft.
Traveling along Route 3 from Puno to Cusco, there is a stark, barren beauty everywhere you look. Homes and villages are interspersed along the way.
Pucara is a small town of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants 67 miles north of Puno.
For such a small town, Pucara is widely known throughout the region for the pottery that is produced there. In particular, toritos, the little pairs of bulls that are found on rooftops from Puno to Cusco originated here. The toritos are said to be symbols of luck and fertility.
The Plaza de Armas in Pucara is an attractive little square dominated by Iglesia Santa Isabel. Santa Isabel was built by the Jesuits in 1767 in the typical Andean Baroque style that is so common throughout the altiplano.
North to Abra la Raya
North of Pucara there are a series of small homes and villages along Route 3. This high plains slowly grow into much taller peaks in the distance.
After passing Santa Rosa, it was just a little bit further to the Abra la Raya pass. This is where the Puno Department ends and the Cusco department begins. The pass is at an altitude of 14,172 feet, which I believe is the highest I've ever been.
The waters which flow from the mountains in the La Raya range ultimately form the headwaters of the Urubamaba River which ultimately flows through the Sacred Valley and around Machu Picchu.