Hidden wonders off the beaten track in Puno, Peru


Like few cities in Peru, Lampa has managed to keep its main square and nearby streets intact thanks to the labor of a patronage comittee. They have preserved their valuable past and have not allowed for the construction of modern buildings in the historical center, where houses maintain their old facades which give them a unique character.

Lampa’s church deserves special attention. On the outside, it presents an harmonious stone architecture and a dome covered with glazed ceramic tiles in tones of green (which used to be made in the area). On the inside the church has unexpected surprises that narrate its exquisite history.

We enter the La Piedad chapel, between paintings of the Cusco school (which show the life of Santiago Apostol) and sculptures made with leather, and we are marvelled with what we see. The name of this chapel is due to the aluminum sculpture of Michelangelo’s Pietà, which, together with the one found in the municipality of Lampa, are the only two replicas of this famous sculpture.

But this is not the most impressive thing. Inside is also the the mausoleum of Enrique Torres Belon is found. He was a prosperous miner who contributed to Lampa’s culture and ordered for the mausoleum to be built to for the bodies of he and his wife. Surrounding them are more than one thousand skulls and bones that are part of the remains of the catacombs. This striking image is accompanied by a phrase that says: “As you are, I was, and as I am now, you will be.”

Amazed by the treasures that Lampa holds, we continue down the stone paths to the municipality to see the other replica of La Piedad, this one made of plaster. During this visit, we find new surprises. There are photographs of the great artist Victor Humareda hanging from the wall as a tribute to him, who also used to live in this town.

Rock formations in Tinajani. (Photo: Magalí del Solar/El Comercio)

Forests and Queñuales
Nature also plays its part in this place and the so-called Andean Circuit offers visits to towns such as Ayaviri and Pucará, as well as the queñual forest, which are high-altitude trees, and the monumental landscape of the Tinajani canyon.

The complete circuit lasts for about six hours and also includes a stop in Pucará which is an ancestral artisan town where Gestur Puno has resumes the practice of making little ceramic bulls in small workshops.

Stone giants
Imense stone sculptures announce the arrival at the Tinajani canyon, where the wind has patiently sculpted what our imagination cannot even begin to envision. The tall cliffs look majestic and form a great stone forest with ancient formations of red sediment that are millions of years old, from when this place was completely covered in water.

The day moves forward, the wind blows and the different colours of the rocks transform to give a marvellous spectacle when the last rays of sunshine fall on the sediment. From in between its lonely cliffs, there appear herds of sheep whose white wool contrasts with the colourful clothes of the girls who cross the highlands. We hear Cesarego, the only master and guardian of these lands who, with a big smile, announces his presence and lets us know who lives around here.

At the end of the last stretch, around the corner, we arrive at a puya forest, where this peculiar flowering plant grows. It is the tallest bromeliad in the planet (a plant family that includes pineapple) and its flowers grow up to 10 meters. Once in a lifetime, when it is approximately 100 years old, it sprouts 5,000 flowers at a time, to later die scattering its last seeds.

Michelangelo’s Pietà in Lampa
There are two replicas of Michael Angelo’s La Piedad: one made of aluminum in the ossuary and the other made of plaster in the municipality of Lampa. The replica was achieved thanks to the friendship between Torres Belón and Dr. Gino Bianchini with the commitment that once the statue was finished, the cast be destroyed. This never happened and, when the original sculpture was damaged in Italy, emissaries from Rome came to Lampa to take measures for the restoration.