Puno is a city in southeastern Peru, located on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake, at 3,860 m (12,421 ft) above sea level. It is also the capital and largest city of the Puno Region and the Puno Province. The city was established in 1668 by viceroy Pedro Antonio Fernández de Castro as capital of the province of Paucarcolla with the name San Juan Bautista de Puno. The name was later changed to San Carlos de Puno, in honor of king Charles II of Spain. The city boasts several churches dating back from the colonial period, they were built to service the Spanish population and evangelize the natives.
Today, Puno is an important agricultural and livestock region; particularly of South American camelids (llamas and alpacas) which graze on its immense plateaus and plains. Many homes in Puno, much like surrounding cities, are half-finished. This is done so that the inhabitants do not have to pay taxes. Much of the city economy relies on the black market, fueled by cheap goods smuggled in from Bolivia. Puno has been designated to become a Special Economic Zone or "Zona Económica" by Peru's president, Alan Garcia. Puno is served by the Inca Manco Capac International Airport in nearby Juliaca.
Puno's geography and layout is unique, it is practically squeezed into a the available land between the shores of Lake Titicaca and the small mountains surroudning the city. There is less than 2 miles distance of flat land between the shores and the foothills, which has caused the growing city to continue to expand upwards onto the hillsides, sprawling along every available, or nearly habitable plot of land on which a dwelling can possibly be built. As a result the town's less developed and poorest areas, which are high on the hillsides, often have very steep street, which are generally not paved and cannot be accessed by automobile.
Puno is known as the "Capital folklórica del Perú" (folkloric capital of Peru) due to its wealth of artistic and cultural expressions, particularly dance. They are most notable during the celebrations of the Feast of the "Virgen de la Candelaria" and the Regional Competition of Autochthonous Dances. Puno's access to Lake Titicaca is surrounded by 41 floating islands. To this day, the Uros people maintain and live on these man-made islands, depending on the lake for their survival and are a large tourist destination.
Puno is the first major hub in the constant migration of indigenous peoples of the Andes to the larger cities of Peru. It is the largest city in the Southern Altiplano and is the recipient of new residents from surrounding smaller agricultural communities of poorer classe of people seeking better opportunties for education and employment. As such, Puno is serviced by several small Institutes of Technology, Education and other technical or junior college type of facilities. Additionally it is home to what is commonly referred to as the la "UNA" or the Universidad Nacional del Altiplano, which was founded in 1856.