There are three ways to travel between Lake Titicaca and the city of Cuzco: Plane, train, or bus.
LAN Airlines is the only flight service currently connecting the two areas, and requires a short transfer from the Lake Titicaca launching point of Puno to the transit city of Juliaca, about 30 miles north. A more scenic option is the overland route by train or bus. The 10-hour train trip has earned mentions as one of the best train journeys in the world, featuring a full lunch, afternoon tea, and special cars for dining and outdoor observation. The classic British Pullman luxury train does not depart every day of the week; departure dates vary depending upon time of year.
However, unless you’re a train enthusiast, you may prefer the more affordable luxury bus tour option. This journey also lasts about 10 hours, but includes several stops at sites of interest along the way. Our Destination Expert Stace Steele recently took the trip, recounted below:
The bus journey from the high-Andean plateau of Puno to the deep valleys of Cusco (or vice versa) departs at 7:30 a.m. and arrives at 5:00 p.m. (see photo of bus below). Along the way, you stop off at a variety of important sites that will provide an insight into the regional ancient civilizations. You also enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscape and will enjoy a delicious buffet-style lunch at a local restaurant serving typical Peruvian cuisine.
The first stop is at Pucara (2 hours from Puno), named for the pre-Inca civilization that inhabited the region 3,000 years ago; therefore, making it the oldest ceremonial site on the Peru side of Tiahuanaco. In Pucara, you visit the Litico Museum that displays a variety of artifacts from the Pucara pre-Inca civilization (both original and replica pieces).
The second destination is called La Raya (1.5 hours from Pucara), also known as Apu Chimboya (see photo below), which is the highest pass along the route at 14,219 feet above sea level (4,335 m). La Raya is the extensive, snow-capped mountain range viewed at this site, which both marks the divide between the Puno and Cusco regions and is the source for the important Urubamba River.
Once you've crossed the highest pass, you then enjoy a relaxing lunch in the small province of Sicuani while listening to a local band perform typical Andean music.
After indulging in some of the country’s finest cuisine, you travel on to explore the Inca city of Raqchi (40 minutes from Sicuani), also known as the Temple of the Inca deity, Wiracocha. This attractive complex is constructed from adobe and the volcanic rock collected from the local countryside.
The next and final destination before arriving to Cusco is the town of Andahuaylas (1.5 hours from Raqchi), which is famous for its St. Peter Cathedral that displays magnificent frescoes representing the life of the martyrs and mestizo-baroque architecture. After 10 years of being restored, this church is now 85% complete.
When leaving Andahuaylas, the remaining hour of the tour is one of the most picturesque as you follow the Urubamba River through the valley towards the Capital of the Inca Empire (see photo below). You arrive in Cuzco with plenty of time to settle into your hotel and take a rest before heading out to enjoy Cuzco’s fine dining options and lovely lit plaza.
Keen to see Lake Titicaca for yourself? Check out our 12-day Andean HighlightsDestination Experts about crafting the bespoke vacation of your dreams.