How to Travel From Lima to Cusco, Peru, by Bus, Car, and Plane

 Chris VR / TripSavvy

Cusco, home of the Sacred Valley and an abundance of Incan ruins, is a popular stop on many a Peru itinerary. Nestled in the Andes mountains—a tourist destination in itself—this archaeological goldmine is 356 miles (573 kilometers) from the Peruvian capital of Lima. The distance by road, however, is almost twice as long (684 miles or 1101 kilometers). You can drive from Lima to Cusco (often spelled Cuzco) or take a 21-hour bus, but the fastest and easiest way to get between the two is by flying.

  Time Cost Best For
Bus 21 hours from $17 Traveling on a budget
Plane 1 hour, 10 minutes from $30 Arriving on a time crunch
Car 19 hours 688 miles (1,108 kilometers) Exploring the local area

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Lima to Cusco? 

For budget travelers with time on their hands, a direct bus from Lima to Cusco offers a more economical and adventurous experience. Traveling by bus in Peru can be time-consuming, but the country's top-end companies are comfortable enough to make even the longest journey bearable.

The quickest route to Cusco is via the cities of Nazca and Abancay. It can be a rough ride and you might be delayed due to landslides (especially during the rainy season) or other potential natural hazards, but if all goes well, the ride should take between 19 and 23 hours. You can, of course, break it up with stops in Pisco, Paracas, or Ica. Several companies run this route, including Grupo Palomino, CIVA (typically the cheapest), and Cromotex, all of which depart from Luna Pizarro at least once a day. Tickets range from $17 to $50-plus, depending on the time of day you travel (the earlier, the better) and the class you choose.

Another option would be to choose a route that goes through Arequipa instead of cutting inland from Nazca. This will be longer (24 to 27 hours), but it's much smoother and safer from mudslides.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Lima to Cusco? 

The quickest and easiest way to get from Lima to Cusco is by plane. Some of the largest domestic airlines in Peru—LATAM, Taca and Star Perú—service Cusco regularly. The flight duration is about an hour and 20 minutes.

It is sometimes possible to show up at Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport and jump on a flight straight to Cusco (especially in the morning when most of them depart), but booking in advance is better for striking a deal. The cost of plane tickets can vary from $30 to $130, depending on which airline you fly with, how far in advance you book, and what time of year (or day) you fly. According to Kayak, there are more than 150 flights traveling from Lima to Cusco weekly. All flights arrive via Cusco's Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport.

How Long Does It Take to Drive? 

Driving is not a popular option, considering the roughness of roads and availability of public transportation. If you do, however, choose to drive yourself, the journey will take roughly 19 hours. Drivers will go the same route as the bus: south to Nazca, then inland through Abancay. Check the conditions before you go and avoid the rainy season at all costs.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Cusco? 

The best time to travel to Cusco from Lima is May through October. This is inevitably the busiest season—summer vacations are in full swing—but any other time is considered to be Peru's wet season, and heavy rains could lead to extra dangers and delays. Regardless of when you go, temperatures in Cusco tend to hover around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (16 Celsius) year-round.

What’s the Most Scenic Route to Cusco? 

If taking a train ride through the Andes is the stuff of your dreams, then this is the perfect opportunity to indulge in a rail journey. Although it's more expensive and takes more time than any other transportation option, taking the train from Puno (near beautiful Lake Titicaca) to Cusco is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Puno is about 239 miles (386 kilometers) southeast of Cusco, which makes the bus ride from Lima about 24 hours. However, the scenic PeruRail Titicaca train route (10 hours, 30 minutes) is worth the extra time if you crave magical panoramas and nature scenery. Train tickets start around $240.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport? 

Although there are no public buses running directly from the terminal, the local buses—combis—pick up from the Pecsa gas station just outside of the airport. The cost to get into town, a 20-minute ride, is about $.25.

What Is There to Do in Cusco? 

Cusco, Peru, is the former capital of the Inca Empire, hence why you'll find so many archaeological remains here. Perhaps the city's most famous site is the Sacred Valley, which connects it to Machu Picchu. A short drive from Cusco is Rainbow Mountain (its Instagram-able colors make it worthy of its name), the historic Incan complex of Saqsaywaman, Moray (known for its circular terraces), and more. In the city, the UNESCO-recognized Cusco Cathedral is pretty to look at, too.