How to Get to Lake Titicaca!
Welcome to the famous floating islands of Lake Titicaca! Set in south-eastern Peru, the lake is actually on the border of Peru and Bolivia ~ so technically it sits right between both countries! Since it’s a little off-the-beaten path, this post is going to explain how to get to Lake Titicaca from two of Peru’s most popular cities: Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, & the beautiful colonial city, Arequipa.
At 12,507 feet, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world ~ which means the sun is incredibly strong! Sunscreen and a hat are absolute MUSTS at this altitude. And if you try hiking at this elevation (which you’ll likely be doing if you visit the islands on Lake Titicaca), you may be sucking some serious wind: the altitude here is no joke.
***Make sure to scroll to the end of this article & watch my video on Lake Titicaca ~ which has over 30,000 views on YouTube!
Lake Titicaca Info
- Where is Lake Titicaca: On the border of Peru & Bolivia
- Altitude at Lake Titicaca: 12,500 feet
- Cost of an Island Stay: $45-150+ (varies by tour company & transport used)
- When I Visited Lake Titicaca: January 2016
- Indigenous Culture at Lake Titcaca: Uros
- Languages Spoken: Peruvian & Quechua (some English)
- Nearest City to Lake Titicaca, on Peruvian Side: Puno, Peru
- There are Frequent Tours to Lake Titicaca from: Cusco & Arequipa, Peru
- Best Way to Get to Lake Titicaca: By bus ~ 8 hours from Cusco, 6 hours from Arequipa
- Fun Fact: Highest navigable lake in the world!
- #1 Tip = Wear Sunscreen & Hat!!! High Elevation = Crazy sunburn
Map of Peru!
On the map below, I’ve highlighted the places you’re most likely to visit as a tourist, before your journey to Lake Titicaca. I’ve marked the International Airport in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa, & finally Puno, which is on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Understanding this map & the distances between destinations will help you better determine how to get to Lake Titicaca with the most ease.
Over 30K Views!
How to Get to Lake Titicaca
It’s easiest to visit Lake Titicaca by bus either from Arequipa or Cusco. Your destination will be Puno, Peru ~ the closest city to Lake Titicaca. I don’t recommend flying into Puno or taking a train, as there are very few options for either. You have a wide range of options when it comes to buses: from high-end tourist buses to cheaper, local options. I took a high-end, overnight tourist bus from Cusco to Puno, & a cheaper one on the return trip. Both were similar as far as comfort, with reclining seats & large picture windows. The main difference is time: the tourist bus was direct (8 hours), while the cheaper option made several stops, putting the journey around 10 hours.
Bus Options to Puno, Peru (aka Lake Titicaca): If you want to purchase bus tickets to Puno online, here are some options: Inka Express Bus, Cruz del Sur (I took this line), Turismo Mer, and Wonder Peru Tourist Bus. If you want a cheaper, more local option ~ buy tickets directly at the bus station. Cusco to Puno & Arequipa to Puno are popular routes, & you’ll have plenty of options.
GWTW Tip: DON’T take a bus straight from Lima to Puno! It will take a minimum of 19 hours, & unless you’re a masochist, this isn’t a good start to your Peru trip. Head to Nasca, Machu Picchu (via Cusco), or Arequipa first ~ then make your way to Lake Titicaca.
Bus Route from Cusco to Puno
How to Get to Lake Titicaca from Cusco
I took an overnight bus from Cusco to Puno. It left at 10PM & arrived just after 6AM, at the Puno Bus Station. Large pieces of luggage are stowed in the bus undercarriage, while backpacks, purses, & any valuables stay with you on the bus. The journey felt routine & safe. I made this particular trip solo with no issues, along with plenty of other tourists. The seats recline & I was able to sleep most of the journey, as did most passengers. Overall, the ride was quiet & uneventful.
You can buy bus tickets on your own ($15-30+), or as part of a package deal, which includes accommodation & meals on the floating islands. The nice thing about purchasing a package is that someone will be waiting for you at the Puno Bus Station with a sign, & will escort you to your boat. At 6AM when you’re groggy, this is definitely a plus. A package deal on the floating islands costs approximately $150 for three days.
Where to Buy Lake Titicaca Tours
I purchased my Lake Titicaca tour package from an operator in Cusco’s main square ~ the Plaza de Armas. Several tour companies line the main square, near restaurants like Mama Africa & Papacho’s. Most sell similar packages at similar prices ~ so shop around if you want, but prices probably won’t vary much. They’ll provide you bus tickets & arrange for someone to pick you up at the Puno Bus Station. All the same applies when traveling from Arequipa.
You can also book your tour online through companies such as Titicaca Tour, All Ways Travel, & Titicaca For You. When deciding how to get to Lake Titicaca, there’s no shortage of options. The main thing you’ll need to decide is whether to book a short tour (half-day), or whether you’d like to actually spend the night on one of the floating islands, typically on the larger islands of Taquile or Amantani.
GWTW Tip: If you have the time & money, I highly recommend spending the night on one of the islands, with an indigenous family. You’ll be staying in their home, typically in your own room, & eating meals with them. The homes aren’t what you’re used to ~ but the experience & people you meet are so kind & welcoming. There’s nowhere in the world quite like this place.
What To Bring?
Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!!! I can’t emphasize this enough. Without it, you’ll get absolutely scorched at this altitude. Coming off an impromptu horseback ride in Cusco the day before my trip, my face & shoulders were already badly burned. So I purchased a big, floppy hat on the docks of Lake Titicaca & slathered on sunscreen (the sun reflects off the water, increasing your chances of burning). In doing this, I managed to mitigate the damage.
One more thing you’ll need: CASH. If you want to purchase beautiful, hand-crafted items from the Uros peoples of Lake Titicaca, you’ll need cash ~ there are no credit card machines on the floating islands! Many host families sell small goods & warm items such as mittens & hats for the cool nights. Though days are warm, evenings on Lake Titicaca get very chilly due to the high altitude. Peruvian goods are known for their beauty, color, & warmth ~ so leave room in your bag!
Until Next Time…..
I hope this post has helped you determine how to get to Lake Titicaca. Have you been to this beautiful lake? If so, how did you get to the floating islands, & did you stay overnight with a family? Tell me about it in the comments below ~ I love hearing other travel stories!