The route from Cusco to Puno (and vice versa) is one of the most traveled in Peru, as more and more people flock to Lake Titicaca. Puno itself is not particularly inviting, and although some of the hotels are exceptional, there is little to do in the town, at least compared with Cusco, Lima, and Arequipa. But of course, the principal reason to head to Puno is that it sits at the shore of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, and one of Peru’s most impressive sights. The vast majority of people arrive in Puno having first spent time in Cusco, and the road you travel is one of the most striking routes in the world. Traveling from the central highlands of Cusco, you go through valleys, up hills, across high altitude passes, and finally onto Puno, on a journey that will take your breath away, both literally and figuratively, as much because of the high altitude as the incredible scenery!
There are various options available to ensure you make the most of the journey, and one of the best is the Inka Express bus. Operating a luxury bus service with some of the most comfortable vehicles around, the major selling point is the stops made along the way. Rather than just heading directly for Puno, Inka Express have a top guide on board who entertains you with stories, history, and interesting facts as you go, and is also on hand to take you through the various stops. The route is one of the most historically and culturally rich in the country and there are endless points of interest along the way, of which the company have selected five. You will pass through the fascinating town of Andahuaylillas, with one of Peru’s most extravagant churches, on to the impressive ruins at Raqchi, before stopping for lunch in the town of Sicuani. With a full and satisfied stomach, you will then hit the highest point of the route and the La Raya pass, at an altitude of 4,335m. As you step from the bus and struggle to get your breath, enjoy the remarkable scenery and the feeling of being at an altitude that is really only fit for alpacas! Finally, as you begin to flag, you pull up in the town of Pucara with its fascinating museum, before arriving Puno at the end of an enlightening day. They really look after you and provide an exceptional service, offering great comfort and the best, most interesting stops, and it makes this most unforgettable route that bit more unforgettable!
But you are not restricted to the road if you have Puno on your list, and the other option is the Andean Explorer train that completes virtually the same route. Operated by the same people who run the services to Machu Picchu, it is worth mentioning that this is far more than just any old train, and is one of the most luxurious journeys you are ever likely to take! The carriages are extremely opulent, and are the real definition of elegance. Picture those old movies you have seen (think Murder on the Orient Express), with their low lighting, rich colors, mahogany finishings, and all round aura of class, and you will be somewhere close to the feel of the Andean Explorer train. It is like being transported back 60 years, and there is no better way to enjoy a breathtaking journey. Aside from the train itself the journey also differs from the bus, in that there are no stops made along the way. The 10 hour ride passes at a leisurely pace, allowing you to relax into your surroundings and really make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Of course, missing out on the tourist stops is a bit of an issue, more so for some people than others, but the train has its obvious advantages, and as you sip your champagne, enjoying the passing scenery in your elegant carriage, I doubt you will be itching to get off!
There are other options for this journey, and one particularly worth a mention is the private car. With the advantage of giving you the chance to follow your own schedule and arrive to Puno as quickly as you want (within reason!), as well as begin able to enjoy your own private guide and driver, this option has obvious merits. Let us know if it interests you. And then of course, for those who are pushed for time, there is the flight. Now, unless there is no other option, I would not recommend flying, at least not for this journey. The way I see it, why fly directly over all this beautiful countryside, when you can enjoy it up close and personal, in a luxury bus, train, or your own private car! It is one of the world’s finest journeys, so make the most of it and don’t spend the time in the clouds!