Bus from Cusco to Puno or Puno to Cusco

By ShortEdit
April 22, 2024

The route between Cusco and Puno is one that is taken by thousands of travelers each year. There are hundreds of buses that pass between the two each week, but there is definitely a route that is superior to the others.

There are a few issues with the Cusco to Puno route. The first being that it takes around 6 hours. This isn’t really enough to get a full night’s sleep on (plus, it’s a bus so your sleep was already threatened). It also eats up an entire day without much to show for it, while zooming past loads of cool sites.

Now, traveling between Cusco and Puno is so popular because both have incredible, must-visit destinations, be it Machu Picchu or the famous Lake Titicaca. It’s not possible to fly between the two, not least because Puno doesn’t have a commercial airport. The closest airport to Puno is Juliaca, which is about an hours drive.

Even if you want to fly to Juliaca from Cusco you will still need to stop over in Lima. That’s an hour waiting in Cusco airport, an hour and a half to Lima, another hour (minimum, assuming you don’t have any baggage) in Lima airport, then another hour and a half to Juliaca. Then it’s an hour from Juliaca to Puno.

You can see with this breakdown that really, getting to Puno from Cusco via flying is not only the same amount of time as taking the bus, it’s also much more expensive, and generally a massive faff to organize and execute. So, taking the bus is really your best option.

As I have outlined above, there are still issues with taking the bus! You’re missing out on a day of exploring ancient ruins, museums, chapels and delicious Peruvian food in favor of sitting on a bus, chomping on squashed sandwiches and these weird biscuits you bought on a whim that really don’t taste as much like oreos as they look.

You arrive in Puno or Cusco too late to do anything but head to your hotel and maybe wander the city center in an effort to not completely waste your day. If only there was another way?

Of course, there is another way.

The Ruta del Sol takes a long and tiring day of traveling and makes it an experience, pulling over every few hours to stop at some of the most incredible sites en route. These sites are all rarely visited thanks to their location in the middle of nowhere, but they do all deserve to be seen.

Let’s get into the places you’ll visit along the way (and yes, this route is available Cusco to Puno and the reverse of Puno to Cusco).

Stops on the Ruta del Sol (Cusco to Puno)

Note: If you want to travel from Puno to Cusco, simply reverse the order of these stops).

Andahuaylillas Chapel

Sitting at 3,093 meters (10,147 feet) above sea level, the chapel of Andahuaylillas is known as “The Sistine Chapel of the Andes” thanks to its intricate gold leaf and huge beautiful murals.

From the outside the chapel is very unassuming, you’d likely just drive right past if you didn’t know any better. Once inside though, it’s incredible that artistry like this can be found in a seemingly random small town in the Peruvian highlands.

Raqchi Archaeological Complex

The route begins to climb again, as Raqchi is sat at 3,450 meters (11,319 feet) in altitude. Raqchi was used as a temple to the supreme Incan god Wiracocha. You will enjoy a guided tour of the site, and surely you will marvel at the huge adobe ruins.

The visit and tour will last for 40 minutes, so make sure you bring your hat and water from on the bus. As we climb higher and natural shade depletes, this would also be a great time to apply (or reapply) some sunblock.

Lunch time!

Your lunch is included in the price of your ticket, so you have a great opportunity to fill up on the delicious buffet provided just for you. You can enjoy a fantastic range of traditional Peruvian dishes, as well as international options for the more picky eater.

There are plenty of options, so you’re sure to find something that works for you. Whether it’s fresh fruit and veggies, full entrees, a tapas of side dishes, or if you just fancy some dessert for lunch. Hot drinks are also included, so grab a coca tea to help you with the altitude- the highest point of the trip is up next!

La Raya Pass

As promised, the highest point of the journey! The Raya Pass is nothing to sniff at, at an impressive 4,335 meters (14,222 feet) altitude. This is a quick stop, and thanks to the altitude it can get very cold, so a jacket is recommended.

We stop here so you can take in the incredible view of the Chimboya Mountains, important because this is actually where the source of the Amazon river can be found. Pretty cool, eh?

You will have about 10 minutes to take photos, stretch your legs, and sip on some coca tea to help with the altitude. Before you know it, we’re back on the bus and continuing our journey.

Museum of Pukara

Pukara is a culture that was prevalent just outside of Puno from roughly 1600 BCE to 400 CE. They are famous for their ceramics and sculptures, which you will be able to see and enjoy in the museum.

In fact, the legacy of the Pukara culture is still very much alive in both Puno and Cusco. Look out for the clay bulls that people put on top of their houses, these are given as gifts (traditionally a wedding or an engagement gift) to welcome good spirits into the home and ward off bad ones.

There is a wide range of colors available, and each means to welcome or ward off a different kind of spirit. This visit will last for around 30 minutes.

And after the final visit to the Pukara museum, it’s a straight shot to Puno. It’s been a long journey, but you’ve soaked in plenty of information, seen some beautiful places, and categorically made the most of what would have been a boring travel day.

Is The Ruta del Sol Worth It?

The Ruta del Sol is a great way to maximize your time while traveling if you know that sleeping on the bus is not an option for you. Owing to the bus journey taking 6 hours on the normal route, it denies you the chance to get a good rest and sees you arriving at a really early hour- way too early to check into your hotel.

If you would have chosen to travel in the day anyway, then the Ruta del Sol still offers a benefit for travelers. It allows you to get up, stretch your legs, and use the bathroom. There are the obvious benefits as well, of being able to visit a bunch of cool, off the beaten track places and interact with your fellow travelers.

That being said, if you’re visiting Peru on a super tight schedule then the Ruta del Sol may not be for you. If you’re not really interested in off the beaten path stuff and only want to see the big hitters, then again, it’s probably not for you. And if you’re traveling on a very tight budget then again, it might not be the right choice for you.

If you’re happy to spend a little more for a bit more comfort, a bit more insight, and a bit more of an enjoyable experience on this long journey then the Ruta del Sol is what you have been waiting for.

What’s included?

There are a few different companies that run this route, but most will include the following:

  • Pick up from your hotel in Cusco or Puno and transfer to the bus
  • A bilingual guide to accompany you along the journey
  • A tourist standard bus with heating
  • A guided tour of the Andahuaylillas Chapel, Raqchi archaeological site, the Raya Pass, and the museum of Pukara
  • A buffet lunch along the way
  • Drinks on board. Most include teas, coffees, and cold drinks such as water, cola and inca kola (we are in Peru after all)
  • Bathrooms on board the bus
  • Oxygen in case you are struggling with the altitude
  • Transfer to your hotel in Puno or Cusco at the end of your tour

What is the Transport like on Ruta del Sol?

Well, that completely depends on the company that you travel with. Each company will have slightly different inclusions and slightly different prices. Some companies don’t include entrances to the attractions or lunch, but offer a price that reflects this.

This could be a good option for you if there is only one or two of the attractions that interest you, or if you simply prefer to pack your own lunch. However, the vast majority of buses will have USB charging ports, and seats that recline to either 140° or 160°.

Most of these buses will seat up to 60 people. Now they may not be full, but they might well be. If you are interested in something a little more intimate then you might consider a private tour of this route. The private tour is totally flexible to you and your wishes.

If you want to spend longer in the chapel and skip out on the viewpoint, you can do that. If you want to eat somewhere different, that’s also fine. Get in contact with us and discuss your ideas for your trip!

What Company Should You Take for the Ruta del Sol?

There are plenty of companies offering the Ruta del Sol, and each one will offer something a little different for a different price. Some companies travel with a double decker bus, others offer a more intimate experience with a private car.

It’s a delicate balance, and often the cheapest companies may employ drivers who drive too fast, check their phone, and prioritize miles over safety. Check the reviews of the companies that you are looking at thoroughly to help you decide who is best for you.

Also think about whether you are interested in the personalization of a private tour, or if you’re happy to head around with the flock. Of course, a full bus worth of people and one or two guides is going to make it difficult for you to make the absolute most of your visit to these places if you’re really interested in the history, but they are still interesting and worth a visit.

What to Pack in Your Hand Luggage

Now, it’s quite likely that you will be traveling with all of your stuff. This can be stored under the bus in a safe luggage compartment. But what are you going to need with you, to hand, on the bus?

  • Your passport
  • Light shoes that are comfortable to travel in (trainers or sneakers work great)
  • Refillable water bottle
  • If it’s the rain season, bring a rain jacket
  • Sun block and a sun hat if the day is bright
  • Camera
  • A USB charger for charging electronics on the bus
  • Small bills in case you want to buy snacks or souvenirs
  • Medication if you are prone to travel sickness
  • A plastic bag for any trash

The Ruta del Sol is a fantastic way to travel between Cusco and Puno (route available in both directions). It maximizes your time and shares some truly special hidden gems along the way that many people never see and have never heard of.

If you are interested in seeing a side of Peru that most never get to, if you’re interested in getting away from the crowds and really seeing some of the authentic history of this country, history from both before and after the Incas, then this could be the tour for you.

Get in contact with us today to start arranging your trip on the Ruta del Sol!

You Might also Like