You’re revved up about visiting Peru and checking Machu Picchu off your bucket, but now the question about how to get to Cusco weighs heavy in your thoughts. Travelers can take a plane, train, or bus to Cusco. Learn more about these transportation options to decide which one is best for you and your travel buddies.
Most visitors arrive to Cusco by air via the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (airport code: CUZ), located 15-20 minutes by car from the historic center. Although it is technically an international airport (receiving a handful of flights from Bolivia), the airport is small and not equipped to handle large aircraft. Most travelers from abroad will instead fly to the Lima airport and go through customs and immigration there. Most travelers will also spend at least one night in Lima, since the majority of international flights to Lima arrive by night and most flights into Cusco depart in the morning hours due to wind conditions and visibility concerns later in the day. Airlines with modern fleets, such as LAN, offer limited early afternoon flights. Connections between Cusco and Lima, Arequipa, or Puerto Maldonado are all 45-60 minutes in duration.
The Andean Explorer train between Puno/Lake Titicaca and Cusco is a popular transportation choice for its scenic views and luxury service reminiscent of early 20th century rail travel. The train ride is about 9.5 hours long and includes dining cars and a bar-car with open-air observation deck. Andean Explorer was named South America’s Leading Luxury Train by World Travel Awards 2012-2013.
Bus travel (long-distance)
Tourist buses are an option for those with flexible itineraries or tight budgets and are especially convenient for long-distance travel between Cusco & Puno or Cusco & Arequipa (10 hours). Bus trips to/from Lima are less recommendable as it is a long trip (21 hours) over very windy and historically dangerous mountain routes. Driving is also an option, but car rentals in Peru are expensive, and again, narrow Andean highways with steep spills make this option quite risky. In any case, flight prices can be quite a bargain when you factor in the time saved in traveling between distances.