Planning a Lake Titicaca trip? Here is exactly how to get to Lake Titcaca from Cusco, the best Lake titicaca tours, Lake Titicaca hotels, and whether or not it is even worth the trip!
In January we found oursevlves with a free weekend at the nd of our one-month trip to Cusco. We had already found all the best things to do in Cusco, but didn’t want to waste the opportunity for even more adventure.
Our solution was a day trip to Lake Titicaca from Cusco. On Saturday morning we researched ways to get to Lake Titicaca from Cusco and found ourselves on the Lake Titicaca floating islands that afternoon.
On Sunday we were back in Cusco, wondering if our 24-trip to Puno and Lake Titicaca had even been worth it.
Here’s everything you need to plan your own trip to Lake Titicaca from Cusco, including ways to get there, how to tour the islands, best Puno hotels, and how to make the trip worth it.
Getting there: 3 Ways to get to Lake Titicaca from Cusco
Wondering how far is Lake Titicaca from Cusco? Farther than you’d expect! You’ll first stop in Juliaca, the closest airport, or Puno, the town around Lake Titicaca. Here are the top 3 ways to get to either Julicaca or Puno.
1. Bus from Cusco to Lake Titicaca (Puno)
One of the most popular ways to get to Lake Titicaca is to catch a bus from Cusco.
Here are the benefits of taking the bus from Cusco to Puno:
- Bus takes around 8 hours and leaves at night, making it the perfect way to save on a hotel night while arriving in a new destination
- The bus from Cusco is less complicated than driving yourself or changing transportation in Juliaca (as you would if you fly from Cusco).
- Buses are comfortable, with reclining double decker seats, TVs, a bathroom, and complimentary snack service
- Can carry large pieces of luggage at no additional cost
How to take the bus from Cusco to Puno:
- PeruHop is a hop-on-hop-off country tour service which offers a daily day trip from Cusco to Puno.
- They provide an English-speaking guide and all-inclusive trip to Puno
- Direct bus leaves Cusco at 9:30 pm and arrives in Puno at 6:00 am
- Includes stop at their partner hostel in Puno after an islands tour for a hot shower if desired
- Leaves Puno at 9:30 pm on day 2 with overnight ride back to Cusco
- Book a PeruHop Lake Titicaca tour for only $69 here
- Cruz del Sur, a local luxury bus company, offers bus rides from Cusco to Puno.
- Cruz del Sur offers two options to get to Puno: Departing at 8:00 am for a 2:30 pm arrival, or taking a bus overnight from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am
- Comfortable, reclining seats on double decker bus with TVs, bathroom, and complimentary snack service
- No additional charge for luggage
- Must make your own arrangements to stay overnight and visit the floating islands, but this is very easy to figure out once in Puno!
- Book your bus ticket in advance for only $20 here
2. Rent a car in Cusco to drive to Lake Titicaca
Is it entirely possible to rent a car in Cusco to drive to Lake Titicaca on your own! Expect the drive to take around 10 hours.
Here are some benefits of driving to Puno on your own:
- You can save money by renting your own car in Cusco (especially if driving with multiple people!). We were given an estimated cost of $55/ day for a basic sedan, including insurance but not including fuel
- Take your time to sightsee along the way. There are lots of cool things to see on the drive from Cusco to Lake Titicaca, and driving gives you the best flexibility to design your own schedule and enjoy the Peruvian countryside!
- Have a car to get around Puno. You can easily make Puno your home destination for a few days and use your own car to drive around to other day trips in the area. There is a lot to do in this region!
How to rent a car in Cusco:
- Contact Salmad Rent a Car on WhatsApp: +51 993-026-185 for availability and pricing
- Cars and typically available same-day and will cost around $55/ day, including insurance, with better car models being more expensive.
- Cars have a free 300 km/ day range, with extra mileage costing more upon return
3. Fly from Cusco to Lake Titicaca
With limited time available for our trip to Lake Titicaca, we chose to fly there from Cusco. This was much easier and cheaper than we expected!
How to fly from Cusco to Lake Titicaca:
- Flights depart from Cusco airport for Juliaca daily with LATAM Airlines. The Cusco airport is small and easy to navigate, so there is no need to arrive earlier than 1 hour before your flight if not checking luggage.
- LATAM planes are 3 x 3. The seats are comfortable and flights are almost never fully booked, so you’ll more than likely have enough room to spread out! The flight is short– only taking around 40 minutes from take off to landing.
- Once you arrive at the small airport in Juliaca you will need to charter transportation the additional hour to Puno (Lake Titicaca). Taxis charge 80 soles to go to Puno and a Rossy tourist van will be waiting outside to drive you to Puno for only 15 soles. Both options will take you directly to your hotel in Puno, but the Rossy van will drive a little slower and may take a few extra minutes to leave as they wait for additional passengers.
- Flights from Cusco to Juliaca (closest town to Lake Titicaca) cost around $60-70 roundtrip in advance, and around $115 roundtrip for last-minute bookings.
- Consider flying one-way from Cusco to Juliaca for around $35, and flying from Juliaca to Lima, around $25, to continue your travels!
Getting back: How to get from Lake Titicaca to Cusco
If you are going the other way around (to Lake Titicaca from Lima, for example) have no fear: getting from Lake Titicaca to Cusco one-way is just as easy! Simply revese the above steps for the cheapest, fastest way to get back to Cusco:
Puno to Cusco by air:
- Have your Lake Titicaca hotel or hostel reserve your seat with the Rorry tourist van. They will arrange to pick you up at your hotel in Puno and take you to the airport in Juliaca for only 15 soles/ person (paid in cash on the van.)
- Fly from Juliaca to Cusco with LATAM air for around $40-110/ ticket (price largely depends on how far in advance you book your ticket.) The Juliaca airport is small and very easy to navigate. The flight will only take around 30-40 minutes!
- Before you know it you’ll be in Cusco. Avoid the taxi offers at the aiport and walk along the sidewalk to the right to make it to the main road. Drivers will consistently stop at this spot to take you anywhere in the city for 5-10 soles, about half the cost taxi drivers will quote from the airport doors.
Puno to Cusco by bus:
- Book return or one-way bus ticket from Puno to Cusco through Cruz del Sur, a reliable, inexpensive tourist bus service
- Choose to ride at 8:00 am for a 2:30 pm arrival in Cusco or at 10:00 pm for a 5:00 am arrival in Cusco for $17
Once you’re there: Best Lake Titicaca Tours from Cusco
Once you arrive in Puno the main attraction is to tour Lake Titicaca floating islands. Over 60 islands have been man-made using overlapping layers of fresh and dried river reeds and are slowly floating around the interior of Lake Titicaca between Peru and Bolivia.
The islands have been inhabited by the Uro people for over 1,000 years, and today visitors are able to take boat tours of the the lake and Uro islands to learn about thier pre-Incan culture and way of life.
1. 3-day tour of Lake Titicaca from Cusco
This tour arranges everything for you! Take an overnight bus from Cusco to Puno, where you begin your adventure of touring many floating islands, including the famous Taquile Island, after dropping bags off at your hostel. You then enjoy the culture and beauty of Lake Titicaca and the Uros Islands before heading back to Cusco. Check all the included stops and prices here.
2. Tour the floating islands (including Taquile) from Puno
This top-rated group tour picks you up from your Puno hotel, takes you to the Puno docks, boats you on a tour to Uros islands and Taquile island with English-speaking guide, and a local lunch. It lasts 8-10 hours and takes care of everything you could want to do!
3. Kayak from Puno around Uros Islands and stay overnight
This floating islands tour sounds like so much fun! Kayak from Puno around the Uros islands with guided stops on different islands to learn about the local culture. You will later take a covered motor-boat ride to Amantani Island, where you’ll stay overnight with a local host family. Day 2 includes a local breakfast, trip to Taquile island, and back to your hotel on the mainland.
Where to stay: Top recommended Lake Titicaca hotels
You have many options of Lake Titicaca hotels and hostels when booking your trip! You can choose a hotel after arriving in Puno, or book in advance through booking.com
1. Casa Rojitas: Top-rated Puno Hostel
For solo travelers or those looking to save some money on a trip to Titicaca, opt for the top-rated hostel in Puno, Casa Rojitas. Located 600 meters from the city center, Casa Rojitas offers large rooms with options for a private room, dormitory, and shared bathroom.
2.Casona Plaza Hotel Centro: Mid range, family-friendly
We chose to stay at Casona Plaza Hotel Centro during our trip to Puno. It was a refreshingly affordable option right beside the Puno Plaza de Armas, where we could walk to restuarants, shops, and sights.
We love that Casona Plaza had rooms with comfortable, queen-sized beds, a full bathroom complete with bathtub (our first in 6 months!), was quiet and beautiful, had plenty of peaceful common space, and a delicious buffet breakfast. We strongly recommend this Puno hotel if you are visiting Lake Titicaca with kids!
3. Uros Ayni Titicaca Lodge: double room on floating Islands
There are many places to stay on the floating islands, and the Uros Ayni Titicaca Lodge is the top-rated small guest house on the floating islands of Lake Titicaca.
It offers spacious rooms with two single beds, free breakfast, river views from every room, and Uro owners who can organize excursions around the islands to better learn about the local culture.
But is Lake Titicaca worth it?
We’ve heard mix results from people on whether thier Lake Titicaca trip was worth it, and I’m afraid we agree.
Was it interesting to see the Uro floating islands in the middle of Lake Titicaca? Yes.
Did we learn a lot about a new culture? Yes.
Is it fun to say we’ve been to the highest navigable lake in the world? Yes.
Was it a great experience? Not necessarily.
The main draw for us to visit South America’s largest lake was to see the floating islands and learn about the Uro who have lived this way for centuries. We went straight to the Lake Titicaca ferry once we got off the bus in Puno and departed on a 2-hour tour of the lake.
Our Lake Titicaca islands tour included a comfortable, enclosed boat ride 30 minutes to some of the closest floating islands, an informational session on how the islands are constructed and maintained, and stops on two different islands where we were given a house tour and ate local fish at a small restaurant.
Unfortunately, the experience felt a little too inauthentic. The local culture has adapted to accepting tourists and recognizes how important tourist contributions are, so our island stops were catered around demonstrations to tourists. We were asked multiple times to buy their handicrafts, invited to eat at restaurants, and saw children singing songs in different languages and asking for tips.
I don’t fault a culture for making the most of an opportunity to earn money, but it just ended up feeling a bit… icky.
Others expressed the same shock and disappointment with their trips to the floating villages and gave us the advice of heading to Taquile.
Taquile is a natural island island known for their weavings out of local reeds. They have unique traditions, and a visit to the island includes seeing how they live and understanding their history.
We didn’t have time to make this journey, however, but it sounds like a great stop to make your Lake Titicaca trip worth it! If you can plan 2-3 days in Puno you can arrange for longer floating island tours to have a more in-depth, cultural experience.
Don’t miss these other great places in Peru:
- Best things to do in Lima
- Which 6 Cusco ruins are worth your time
- How to go to Machu Picchu from Cusco and what it costs
- Why you should go to Huacachina, Peru’s desert Oasis
- How to plan a trip to the Amazon rainforest
Planning a trip from Cusco to Lake Titicaca? Pin this article on how to get to Lake Titicaca and if it’s worth it for later!