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Traveling from Cusco to Lake Titicaca (or vice versa) is a common route for most travelers in Peru. This journey is one of the most popular routes to take along the tourist trail to two of Peru´s major sights. Puno is the gateway to the magnificent Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and Cusco is home to a wonder of the world in Machu Picchu.
Umayo Lagoon, near Puno
Here are the best ways to travel between these 2 major attractions depending on time, budget, and experiences along the way, for example, do you believe a scenic journey is as important as the destination itself? Or perhaps fitting in as many destinations as possible is more your style? Let’s explore the options for traveling from Cusco to Puno.
Whether the thought of windy roads through the Andes Mountains gives you images of motion sickness or you simply don’t have the time for a full travel day, flying is a great option. There is no longer a direct Cusco to Puno flight. However, you can book a flight to Puno via a layover in Lima. Some flight schedules can get you to Lake Titicaca in as little as four hours, and the price is often comparable to taking the day tour bus if you’re traveling with carry-on bags. Puno’s Juliaca airport sits about 45-60 minutes from the lakeside downtown. So, make sure to factor in this travel time if you’d like to take a tour on the day of your arrival.
Peru Rail runs a train between Cusco and Puno that comes with many traditional and luxury benefits to make your journey through the Andes a luxurious getaway. A classy 1920s train interior, gourmet meals, an outdoor observation deck, and tea time are some of the many touches that Peru Rail includes for a memorable experience. Enjoy the dining car, bar car, and observation car. Transport yourself with total freedom and take the photographs you want while enjoying an amazing landscape of the Peruvian Andes heading to Puno.
Cusco To Puno Train
The train ride lasts nearly 10.5 hours, and you’ll stay on board the entire time. This Cusco to Puno train ride is the most expensive of the options here, however, if train travel is your thing, this journey has been classed as one of the best train rides in the world. If you decide to take the train to Puno, plan your itinerary around Peru Rail’s departure dates. The service doesn't depart every day and definitely book in advance as this train sells out quickly, especially in high season (May to September).
Luxury Train to Puno
The most economical way to travel to Puno from Cusco is by taking a bus. Several companies operate the Cusco to Puno bus route. The direct bus ride takes about seven hours, and some depart in the evening if you don't mind a night bus journey and a chilly early arrival in Puno. Bear in mind the disadvantage of night travel is that you won’t have the opportunity to see the beautiful scenery between Cusco and Puno.
La Raya - Half Way Point between Cusco and Puno
Therefore, if you want to take a direct day bus, a few companies offer morning departures, getting you to Puno by mid-afternoon. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to travel to Puno but would like to take a tour in the process, choosing a Cusco to Puno tour bus is an excellent alternative. Turismo Mer offers a 10-hour transfer and tour combo. During the drive, you’ll stop at Andahuaylillas, Raqch’i, La Raya, and Pukara.
The Road from Cusco to Puno
If you are undecided about whether the route from Cusco to Puno is scenic enough to make a road trip worth it, picture wild vicuña grazing beside your vehicle, mountains cradling the road you drive along before tapering off into flatter highlands, and rivers occasionally crisscrossing your path. So, if you want to enjoy these views but the bus journey sounds constricting, booking a private transfer is a great option.
Market in Andahuaylillas
When considering how to get from Cusco to Puno, a private transfer is an excellent choice for larger groups since the price per person averages down. You’ll have control over bathroom breaks, and most drivers are happy to stop occasionally to snap a quick photo in extra-scenic areas. You can expect your private transfer from Cusco to Puno to take around seven hours. However, departure times are flexible, so you can book your trip out of Cusco at any hour of the day or night.
First Views of Lake Titicaca