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How to Get to Cusco: Planes, Trains, and Buses

Our Peru expertise helps you sort through the pros and cons of each transport option to Cusco.
by Britt Fracolli

You’re pumped about visiting Peru and ticking Machu Picchu off your bucket list. Still, the question of how to get to Cusco, an obligatory transit point en route to the Inca-built wonder, weighs heavy in your trip planning agenda. What are all the options? What’s the best choice for me, my family, and my friends?

The Gist
  • Get to Cusco via air travel, bus travel, or train travel.
  • Flying to Cusco from Lima is easy and time-efficient.
  • The Andean Explorer is a luxury train that connects Cusco with Arequipa and Lake Titicaca in southern Peru.
  • Tourist buses are best for people with flexible itineraries. It’s a 22-hour trip by bus from Lima to Cusco!
  • Can I drive to Cusco?  You can rent a car in Peru, but we don’t recommend it.

Air Travel to Cusco

The international airport in Cusco receives a handful of flights from Bolivia and Colombia, but it is small and not equipped to handle large aircraft. For this reason, many travelers coming from abroad fly to the capital of Lima first, go through customs and immigration, and then catch a shorter 1-hour 30-minute flight to Cusco.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Staying at a hotel near the Lima airport has many benefits if you have an overnight connection with a morning flight to Cusco the next day. You may think you can wait out your layover at the airport, but as frequent travelers ourselves, we know for a fact that having a comfortable room to sleep in takes away a lot of stress and makes the following day a whole lot more fun.

Here are Lima airport hotels we recommend:

  • The Wyndham Costa del Sol Lima Airport is not a bad place to land during an overnight layover. The hotel is connected to the airport, and chock full of delightful amenities that will get you on your morning flight rested and relaxed.
  • For budget-conscious travelers, the comfortable Holiday Inn Lima Airport is located just across the street from the terminal and offers complimentary shuttle service for guests.

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Airline Suggestion

Our travel advisors suggest LATAM for flights between Lima and Cusco and other destinations in Peru. While LATAM fare is generally more pricey than competitors, the airline has the best on-time flight record and the highest number of 20 plus daily departures to Cusco. Flying LATAM to and from Cusco is even more desirable during the rainy season in the Andes (from December to March) when flight delays and cancellations are more likely because the airline offers the most flexibility with last-minute changes.


Length of Flight
  • Lima to Cusco, 1 hour 30 minutes nonstop
  • Puerto Maldonado to Cusco, 50 minutes nonstop
  • Lake Titicaca (Puno) to Cusco, 50 minutes nonstop
  • Arequipa to Cusco, 1 hour nonstop

Cusco Airport

Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (airport code: CUZ) is the only airport in Cusco. A handful of transport options from the airport include negotiating a ride with an airport taxi driver or taking a public bus outside the terminal.

If you’re traveling with Peru for Less, our representative will greet you at the airport and accompany you for the hassle-free transfer to your hotel in Cusco. Transfers to hotels in the historic center usually take 25 to 30 minutes. Sometimes a festival or procession in town results in closed streets and more traffic, in which case our company driver will work out the best alternate route to your hotel.

Train Travel to Cusco

PeruRail operates long-distance railway travel connecting Cusco with Arequipa and Lake Titicaca (Puno). Classic train cars reminiscent of early 20th-century rail travel, scenic views, gourmet meals, and live music are part of this luxurious experience.

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Photo from PeruRail

Andean Explorer Itineraries & Routes

The Andean Explorer is a luxury, multiday train experience. By day, admire the scenery of Peru’s southern highlands aboard the train and visit destination attractions at each stop.  The high-end amenities and services ensure an unforgettable railway trip! Mingle in the Piano Bar Car, savor freshly prepared meals in the Dining Car, or relax in the Observation Car. Spend each night on the Andean Explorer in an en suite cabin.

The Andean Explorer operates four routes: 

*Please note that there are limited weekly departures from each destination. 

Route: Peruvian Highlands

  • Start in Cusco – To Lake Titicaca – End in Arequipa
  • Itinerary: 3 Days + 2 Nights
  • Overnight: private train cabin
  • Weekly departure from Cusco (Wanchaq Station): every Thursday (arrive Arequipa on Saturday)

Route: Andean Plains & Islands of Discovery

  • Start in Arequipa – To Lake Titicaca – End in Cusco
  • Itinerary: 3 Days + 2 Nights
  • Overnight: private train cabin
  • Weekly departures from Arequipa: every Saturday (arrive Cusco on Monday)

Route: Spirit of the Water

  • Start in Cusco – End in Lake Titicaca
  • Itinerary: 2 Days + 1 Night
  • Overnight: private train cabin
  • Weekly departures from Cusco (Wanchaq Station): every Tuesday (arrive Puno on Tuesday)

Route: Spirit of the Andes

  • Start in Lake Titicaca – End in Cusco
  • Itinerary: 2 Days + 1 Night
  • Overnight: private train cabin
  • Weekly departures from Lake Titicaca (Puno Station): every Wednesday (arrive Cusco on Thursday)

Andean Explorer Photo Galley

Titicaca Train

The PeruRail Titicaca is a luxury, full-day train journey that runs to and from Cusco and Lake Titicaca. Live music plays in the background at the train station. Once aboard, enjoy a 3-course gourmet lunch, afternoon tea, and an Andean-inspired dance and musical performance. The Titicaca Train makes one stop along the route at the Andean market of La Raya.

* Please note that the Titicaca Train has limited departures from Cusco and Puno each week. There are no departures on Tuesdays.

Route: Cusco to Lake Titicaca

  • Itinerary: 1 Full Day
  • Duration: about 10 hours and 30 minutes
  • Weekly departures from Cusco (Wanchaq Station): every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday

Route: Lake Titicaca to Cusco 

  • Itinerary: 1 Full Day
  • Duration: about 10 hours and 30 minutes
  • Weekly departures from Lake Titicaca (Puno station): every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday

 

Bus Travel to Cusco

Long Bus Ride From Lima to Cusco

The issue of long-distance bus travel in Peru’s Andean region is the curvy roads and the ups and downs that add significant time to a journey that looks much shorter on Google Maps. A direct bus from Lima to Cusco takes a whopping 21 hours or more! For this reason, many travelers reason it’s worth flying to Cusco instead of taking the bus. Flight prices can be quite a bargain when you factor in the time saved in traveling between distances.

Still, if you are on a tight budget or have a more open backpacker’s schedule, then busing long distances in Peru might be for you. Reputable bus companies like Cruz del Sur, Civa, Ormeño, and Oltursa offer upgraded seat options that make a trip pretty comfy without breaking the bank. Think reclinable seats, air-conditioning, some foodservice onboard, and individual entertainment screens.

Bussing from Puno To Cusco

Photo from Cusela

Cusela offers comfortable bus transport with guided sightseeing between Puno and Cusco (and vice versa). The experience gets high marks from Peru for Less travelers. Flying between these destinations is generally around the same cost as booking the Cusela Bus, with the latter option including the bonus of visiting attractions like the Raqchi archeological complex and stunning San Pedro Apostol de Andahuaylillas Church.

Our team crafted a trip to Peru for Patricia H., who gave Cusela rave reviews: “Another highlight for me was the bus ride from Cusco to Puno. Our guide on that trip was excellent, and the five stops unexpectedly amazing. We were blown away by Raqchi and would never have known anything about it if we had not taken the bus trip. Even the trip through Juliaca was interesting. Our first stop at the Iglesia de San Pedro Apostol was also incredible.”

Plan Your Trip

There are endless Inca attractions and cultural gems to discover in Cusco and Machu Picchu! Let our team of experts at Peru for Less help you! Talk to a travel advisor today.