Two of the places richest in Peru’s lovely culture are Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. At Machu Picchu you can wander amongst Incan ruins, walk the Inca Trail, climb the Wonder of the World that is the site of Machu Picchu and see the streets of Aguas Calientes and Cusco full of traditional locals and ways of life. At Lake Titicaca, you’ll see the same colorful culture, but in an entirely new setting: On the shores and water of the largest lake in South America, Lake Titicaca.
How to Get There
If you’re heading to Lake Titicaca in the Puno region of Peru after you visit Machu Picchu, you’ll find many ways to travel directly between the two of them. The distance is only 388 km (241 miles), so luckily the journey is relatively easy compared to other distances in Peru.
To get from these two cultural sites, you’ll be connecting through the cities of Cusco (the gateway to Machu Picchu) and Puno (the gateway to Lake Titicaca).
The two most popular ways to travel between Cusco and Puno are by bus and train. There is no airport in Puno, so whichever way you go will have to be by land.
Budget travelers will find the best deal on buses: Especially the overnight bus. The journey is only about 7 hours (may vary a bit depending on how many stops), and currently costs around $20-25USD each way. You can book online through any of the bus companies, in person at the bus terminal in either Puno or Cusco, or through your hotel or a trusted travel agent (you can contact us by email for our recommendations!). The most popular bus company doing this route is Cruz del Sur (offering the ultimate in comfort for long-distance buses).
Because schedules can change regularly, so we strongly suggest asking your hotel or travel agent about the current times and operators that they recommend, and basing your bookings off of that. We also recommend booking a couple days in advance if you have a strict timeframe; Tickets are always available, but popular times often sell out the day of/the day before. If you are planning your entire trip to a tee, you’ll find it most convenient to book everything well in advance- in this situation, a travel agent may be your best bet to organize everything.
Those looking for more comfort and reliability will find it (albeit, at a much higher cost) on the train. Just like the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, the Andean Explorer train from PeruRail travels between Cusco and Puno. Prices vary widely though, and a one-way ticket for the 7 hour journey can range anywhere $150 to $300USD +. Similarly to how you search for flights, the prices change significantly depending on the day and hour and you must search on their site to have a better idea of the availability and cost based on when you are planning to travel. Again, if you plan in advance and book through your hostel or travel agent, you will have a better guarantee of a good price.
Those visiting Cusco, Lake Titicaca and a variety of other destinations throughout Peru may consider looking into a third option: Hop-on, hop-off buses that travel throughout the region. PeruHop is a popular one amongst young backpackers, however several international tour companies operate similar ones in the region that cater to every type of traveler. Travelers do not need to go to the bus terminals at any point, but can buy their passes online or through a travel agent, and can catch the bus in town centers of every destination.
However you travel, those visiting Cusco and interested in the culture will definitely find it worth the journey to visit Puno and Lake Titicaca before or after. There are obvious similarities between the local cultures, but the daily activities and sights are so unique in each place- both should absolutely be on any traveler’s list!