As the political situation in Puno has improved, the Titicaca train has resumed its operations. At the moment (July 2023), the train runs three times a week in each direction.
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We recommend booking your train 2 months before arrival to ensure availability, especially over the high season (April - May and September - November).
There are 3 different ways to travel between Cusco and Puno (separated by a distance of almost 400 km!) within a day. With the growing trend towards sustainable 'Slow Travel', the Titicaca Train has gained popularity among our clients. This article serves as a guide to inform you of the different options including not only the train but also the tourist bus and the flight (from Juliaca).
The one you choose will depend on the time you have available, your budget and the overall experience you are looking for.
This is a favorite for photographers and those travelers looking for a stress-free exploration option.
As you traverse the unforgettable route from Cusco to Puno, you will get to embrace the endless panoramic views of the Altiplano, snow-capped Andes and other spectacular onboard experiences.
Included in your ticket is a three-course lunch with wine, afternoon tea and a welcome cocktail. The meal is prepared with local produce and is served in the comfortable dining carriage. The freshly mixed Pisco sours prepared by the Titicaca barman are a definite 'not to be missed'. You'll also get to experience some incredible local treats along the way such as dancing and local live music.
The 132-passenger max. capacity train is luxuriously elegant, with its 1920’s Pullman carriage styling, opulent interiors and seating, a lounge, two dining cars, a bar and open-air viewing platform right at the back. The reduced speed of the train as well as the open observation car allow for a unique opportunity to take some amazing photographs of the Peruvian Altiplano and scenes of rural life.
In Puno you will also get to take photos of the local sellers alongside the rails, promoting their self-made souvenirs and snacks. From the comfort of the observation car, there's no need to worry about pickpockets or losing your guide as you continue your journey.
The train makes one stop along the way, at La Raya pass, the route's highest point. You can get off the train and take photos of the tiny church against the impressive backdrop of snow-capped mountains and maybe even buy some artisan souvenirs from the local ladies.
The big advantage to taking the train is that there is no limit regarding the amount of luggage you can bring, unlike the flight option. The Titicaca train has a luggage storage wagon which has ample space for all passengers' luggage.
To ensure the safety of their passengers, Peru Rail has invested in an updated air purification system on board their trains. This environmentally friendly system utilizes four of the technologies recommended by the WHO including HEPA filters, FAR UVC lamps, air ionizers and controlled ozone. The system eliminates up to 99.9% of the microbial load in the air.
For those who are looking for a more affordable option. The main advantage of the tourist bus is that it travels every day to/from Cusco and Puno escorted by an English/Spanish guide. It departs around 07:30 in the morning and arrives around 18:00 in the evening.
The 10-hour bus trip makes 4 stops along its route:
The quickest option is to fly to/from Cusco and Juliaca. Latam offers two direct flights per week, on Monday and Thursday. The flight from Cusco to Juliaca is at 10:45 and the return flight is at 12:20. The total flight time is just under one hour and the flight tickets cost around USD 100 per person.
Juliaca airport is just over an hour from Puno. Therefore, in total, the journey is about 4 - 5 hours from your hotel in Cusco to your hotel in Puno (including leaving your hotel in Cusco two hours before your flight time). The return journey takes about the same time. All in all, you should consider around 5 hours for the journey.
The main disadvantage of this option is that you do not get to visit any sights on the way and you will miss out on witnessing the changing landscape as you travel through Peru on the ground. However, there will be enough time to do a short excursion in the city you arrive in.
Even though it is more expensive than the bus and flight and only includes one stop, the 'Titicaca Train' is an experience in itself. You can move around freely on the train and enjoy the authentic food, drinks and entertainment available. It is perfect for those who want to experience the breathtaking landscape of Peru in a slow and mindful manner.
As an alternative, you can also opt for the more luxurious option that travels along a similar route. However, this option is an overnight sleeper service and costs a considerable amount more than the day service Titicaca Train.
For more information about this alternative service, take a look at the Spirit of the Water (2 Days / 1 Night) or Spirit of the Andes (2 Days / 1 Night) journey in our Belmond Andean Explorer blog article.
If you are looking for some more information about what there is to do and see when visiting Puno, where to eat, when to visit and even where to stay, we have created an article that details these very questions, called Are Titicaca Lake & Puno Worth Visiting. If you are thinking about continuing on to Bolivia from Puno, check out our article called Crossing Lake Titicaca from Puno to La Paz.