Four Ways to Travel Between Cusco and Lake Titicaca
One of the most popular travel circuits in Peru combines the Inca attractions in the region of Cusco (which includes Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, and the City of Cusco) and Lake Titicaca in the south of the country. The distance between the two is about 350 kilometers (220 miles), with the route crossing some of the Andes’ most remote and spectacular scenery.
But how do you get from Cusco to Lake Titicaca? Paul Jones, an expert in vacation packages in Peru, takes a look at four ways to travel between Cusco and Lake Titicaca.
1) By Rail with the Andean Explorer Train
Following one of only a handful of commercial train routes in Peru, the Andean Explorer Train is the most exquisite way to get from Cusco to Puno. Evoking memories of a slower, more romantic age of travel, the train journey takes ten hours and offers a unique travel experience with first-class service. The carriages are built in the style of the classic Pullman trains from the 1920s, and offer guests comfortable, oversized seating in well-appointed carriages. At the rear of the train is a combination bar and observation car, where large windows and an open rear door allow for expansive views of the rugged Andean landscape.
The journey includes a three-course gourmet lunch served at your linen-covered table, along with a selection of wines. If you prefer, tea and coffee are also available. Passengers can stretch their legs at the halfway point of La Raya (also the highest point on the route, at 4,300m/14,100 feet), where the train stops for a short maintenance break. Tickets for the Andean Explorer Train cost US$235 per person (one way). From November to March, the train operates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. From April to October the train also operates on Fridays.
2) By Air
Of the four ways to travel between Cusco and Lake Titicaca, flying is the most convenient and, of course, the fastest. The closest airport to Lake Titicaca is located in the city of Juliaca, a somewhat dusty town rarely visited by foreign tourists. From Cusco’s Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport (CUZ), the flight to Juliaca’s Inca Manco Cápac Airport (JUL) takes approximately one hour. LAN Airlines offers one direct flight per day, though schedules and prices for the route change regularly. From Juliaca Airport, you need to travel an additional one hour by road to Lake Titicaca. A one-way ticket costs approximately US$175, but prices can vary in the high season.
3) By Tourist Bus
The tourist bus is by far the most popular of the four ways to travel between Cusco and Lake Titicaca. With a travel time of two hours less than the train (eight hours), the tourist bus is an efficient and interesting way to travel the route. Incorporating stops at points of interest en route, the tourist bus can also be considered an extension of your trip, allowing you to see a few of Peru’s lesser known archaeological sites whilst taking in some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. With tickets starting at US$50 per person (including entrance tickets and lunch), the tourist bus is also one of the most affordable ways to make the journey from Cusco to Puno. Points of interest along the way include the colonial town of Andahuaylillas, the Inca archaeological site of Raqchi, the mighty Temple of Wiracocha, La Raya, and the archaeological site of Pukara. A buffet lunch of traditional Andean cuisine is included in the town of Sicuani, the midway point. Inka Express, Tour Peru, and First Class Buses all operate a tourist service on this route.
4) By VIP Bus with Cruz del Sur
Earlier this year, Cruz del Sur, one of Peru’s largest and most successful bus companies, began to operate a standard bus service from Cusco to Puno. Cruz del Sur operates more than 300 double-decker luxury buses, which are considered the most modern fleet of any bus company in Peru. Their buses offer two levels of cabin classes, comfortable reclining seating, an on-board host, wifi (within range of a cell phone signal), and snack services. For your security and safety, all buses are monitored for position and speed violations by GPS tracking, and drivers are randomly breath-tested for alcohol levels. Cruz del Sur’s VIP service offers the ultimate in comfort, with oversized, full-reclining leather seating, extra space, and hot meals. There are two daily departures: 08.00 – 14.30 hrs and 22.00 – 04.30 hrs. Ticket prices start at around US$30 per person. Of the four ways to travel between Cusco and Lake Titicaca, the Cruz del Sur option is the cheapest – and perhaps even the easiest – option.
This article, “Four Ways to Travel Between Cusco and Lake Titicaca,” was brought to you by Totally Latin America, experts in package vacations in Peru. Contact a Peru travel professional today for more information on our selection of packages.