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Traveling from Cusco to Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is easily accessible from culture soaked Cusco after your Machu Picchu adventure.
by Jon Hudson

A visit to the beautiful Lake Titicaca, one of the main destinations in Southern Peru and Bolivia, is easily accessible with culture soaked Cusco before or after your Machu Picchu adventure. As a matter of fact, there are four main ways to travel from Cusco to Lake Titicaca, or in the opposite direction, from Lake Titicaca to Cusco.

The lake itself is the largest in South America and is the highest navigable body of water in the world. Nevertheless, what makes the lake so unique are the people and cultures living on its islands. For instance, the amazingly crafted Uros Islands have been built out of locally grown reed following a process that has been passed down for generations among the Uros people. The distinct textiles and traditional folk dances found on Taquile Island are also one-of-a-kind.

The lake is easily accessible, with four primary transport options connecting Cusco to Puno, the principle city in the area. Explore below how to get to Lake Titicaca from Cusco by:

Article last updated by Melissa Dreffs, May 2020

By Bus

The bus ride from Cusco to Lake Titicaca takes between 8 and 9 hours, making various stops along the way at archaeological sites, lookout points, rest stops and a restaurant.

Tourists traveling on the bus from Cusco to Puno will enjoy bilingual, guided stops at the following locations along the route:

  • Andahuaylillas: Known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Americas,” this church features an exhibition of colonial art work dating back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  • Raqchi: This is the first temple dedicated to Wiracocha, the supreme God of the Incas. After visiting the temple, check out the small market near the entrance for souvenirs.
  • La Raya: The highest point along the route, reaching 14,222 feet or 4335 meters, guests are able to appreciate snow-peaked mountains, alpacas and the amazing scenery of the Andean countryside.
  • Pukara: Dedicated to an ancient archaeological complex, the Lithic Museum of Pukara features artifacts dating as far back as 4,000 B.C. Additionally, there is time to try locally-grown, organic coffee or the more uncommon exotic coffee, using beans that have been passed through the digestive system of the coati, a mammal native to the Amazon Jungle.
Pros
  • The most budget-friendly option
  • Interesting stops visited
  • Passing through the scenic highlands
  • Lunch and all entrance fees included
  • Daily departures
Cons
    • Not a luxurious option
    • Large tour group with one bilingual guide
Raqchi ruins with blue sky in the background

Raqchi. Photo by Alejandra Izquierdo from Peru for Less.

By Train

The train from Cusco to Lake Titicaca is longer than the bus ride, lasting just over 10 hours. While the bus features first class accommodations for a vehicle of its variety, the first class accommodations on the train are significantly more opulent with lounge-chair seating, fine china and silverware used for first-rate, delicious meals. The train makes no stops, but there is a separate lookout-car where guests can leisurely enjoy the scenery of the Peruvian highlands.

Pros
  • Luxurious
  • Seeing the highlands along the way
  • Lunch included
Cons
  • No stops along the way
  • Most expensive option
  • Only departs three times per week*

*The Peru Rail Titicaca Train from Cusco to Puno departs every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday while the return train from Puno to Cusco departs every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.

View of the Titicaca Train passing through the highlands with mountains and blue sky in background

Titicaca Train. Photo by Paul on Unsplash.

By Plane

To travel from Cusco to Lake Titicaca by plane, you can catch an hour long flight to the Juliaca airport. Our favorite hotels in Puno are located just over one hour from the airport by car. There are one or two direct flights departing Cusco daily, depending on the season. These flights arrive to Juliaca in the late morning or early afternoon, rather than in the evening like the other options.

Pros
  • Shortest travel time
  • Budget-friendly
  • Daily departures
Cons
  • Skips over the beautiful overland route
  • No meals included

Aerial view of Lake Titicaca with mountains, town, and lake.

Aerial view of Lake Titicaca. Photo by pydum on Flickr.

By Car

The fourth option to reach Lake Titicaca from Cusco is by a private transfer. This direct route lasts between 6 and 7 hours.

Pros
  • Private experience
  • Seeing the highlands along the way
  • Door to door service between hotels
Cons
  • No stops along the way
  • No meals included
  • Expensive compared to the bus and flight options
Empty, grey road with mountains and blue sky in the distance.

Open road in the highlands. Photo by Cesar Carlevarino Aragon on Unsplash.

Above all, the mode of transport you choose depends on your personal preference and budget. There are spectacular views on the overland route, especially as you approach Lake Titicaca, but flying may be the best fit for you. Reach out to your personal travel advisor to discuss these options further!

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