Updated: 29 May 2019

Cusco to La Paz or Cusco to Copacabana to La Paz or Cusco to Puno to La Paz?

Here you will find all the information you need to know to go from Cusco to Puno-Copacabana-La Paz. We will also help you choose between Puno or Copacabana and provide you with all the bus and train information to plan your journey.

If you are traveling from Peru to Bolivia, you probably are going from Cusco to La Paz. The easiest and cheapest way to do this journey is by bus. But there is another reason to choose bus travel over plane for this itinerary. The journey from  Cusco to La Paz by bus goes via the Lake Titicaca where you can decide to break your trip and visit Puno or Copacabana. After Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca is one of the most famous and popular holiday destination in South America. It’s the highest navigable lake in the world and provided some of the most beautiful sunsets and views you can imagine.

Here we will help you decide what is the best itinerary for your trip and how to get there.

1. How to get directly from Cusco to La Paz by bus

Direct buses from Cusco to La Paz leave in the evening, after 22:00 hours, in order to reach the Desaguadero border in the morning when it opens thus avoiding lines.

Buses leave from the main terminal in Cusco located here. The journey takes about 14 to 16 hours depending how long it takes to cross the border. The bus goes via Puno where it stops briefly.

Direct bus schedule from Cusco to La Paz

Bus companySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Trans SalvadorLie-flat 3 rows22:0013:00 (+1 day)$24.09 Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
Tour PeruSemi-lie flat22:0015:00 (+1 day)$29.00 Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
Nuevo Continente InternacionalLie flat22:3014:00 (+1 day)$26.28 Direct service. Migration in Desaguadero
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Uros Floating Islands – Photo: bobistraveling via Wikemedia Commons

2. Puno or Copacabana, which one is better?

A common decision that travelers who want to see Lake Titicaca have to make is to choose between Puno, on the Peruvian side of the lake, or Copacabana, on the Bolivian side. Both options are worth exploring but sometimes due to time constraints, it’s one or the other.

Why Puno?

Puno is a good sized town on the shore of the lake with archaeological sites nearby and where you can learn about colonial history and stay in the homes of the people native to the area:

  • Visit the Catedral de Puno, an 18th-century Baroque cathedral that towers over the city center.
  • Museo Municipal Carlos Dryer: The museum holds a solid selection of regional artifacts and textiles, including a collection of mummies with deformed skulls.
  • Uros Floating Islands: Founded by the Uros people, the islands have been artificially made from the native totora reed. The Uros meticulously maintain their traditional homes and welcome visitors.
  • Amantani Island: Further away than the Uros Islands, Amantani Island provides a fascinating and authentic insight into local indigenous culture. Tourists can choose to spend a night there thanks to community-run initiatives which will allow you stay in a family home.
  • Another island worthy of a visit is Taquile. Smaller yet more developed, the island is famous throughout Peru for its textiles. You can also visit archaeological sites and enjoy breathtaking views of the lake.
  • Back on the mainland, Sillustani is an intriguing pre-Inca burial ground. The tombs, which are built above ground in funeral towers called chullpas, are the vestiges of the Qulla people, who were conquered by the Inca Empire in the 15th century.

Why Copacabana? 

Copacabana is known for its mystique and beauty, and for the best trout you’ll ever eat. It’s smaller and more quiet than Puno but has a unique charm and allows for some small hikes around the lake.

If you don’t have much time and want to make the most of your visit, you can choose one or several of these options:

  • Climb Cerro El Calvario: A 30 minutes-walk up the hill to panoramic views of the lake. It is a popular spot to watch the sunset.
  • Spend a night on Isla del Sol: One of the most popular things to do when you are in Copacabana is visit the Sun Island. The boats leave from the dock at 8:00 and 13:30 every day. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the island. On the island you will be able to see Incan ruins and experience the peace and energy of one of the most sacred places of the Incan empire. It is a very picturesque place where one can enjoy panoramic views of the lake, sights of the Cordillera Real, and hikes trough ancestral terracing and Pre-Columbian ruins.
  • Moon Island: Legend has it that this is where Viracocha (the Inca Creator deity) commanded the rising of the moon. It is a tiny island located near the Sun Island on Lake Titicaca, it is home to the ruins of the Temple of the Virgins. Hiking the entire island takes about an hour.
  • Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana: A 16th-century Spanish colonial church that houses the image of the Virgen de Copacabana.

The verdict

Both cities are transit places to go visit more picturesque sites on or near the lake. Copacabana is more relaxed than Puno but has less to offer in terms of cultural and touristic activities, and is smaller in size. Isla del Sol is less developed but, being free of cars, and protected by the local communities, it is a peaceful place to enjoy nature and amazing views of the lake. On the other hand, the Urus Floating Islands, near Puno will offer a different experience where tourists can stay in traditional houses and learn about the culture of the area. The choice will depend on each one’s personal preference, Puno and Copacabana could either be skipped but generally it is worth spending at least one night on an island on the lake.

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View of Copacabana

3. Getting to Puno

To do the route from Cusco to Puno, also known as Ruta del Sol (Sun Route), there are two main options. The first one is to take a direct bus that takes about 7 hours. The second option is to take a tourist bus or train that will make stops along the way and provide guided explanations on the different sites.

Direct options from Cusco to Puno

Bus companySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Tour PeruSemi-lie flat/lie flat22:005:00 (+1 day)$13.14/$18.25Direct service
TranszelaInca suite8:3015:30$15Direct service
TranszelaInca suite22:155:15 (+1 day)$15Direct service
Huayruro ToursSemi-lie flat/lie flat22:305:00 (+1 day)$11.68/$16.08Direct service
Trans TiticacaSemi-lie flat22:305:30 (+1 day)$14.60Direct service

Touristic options from Cusco to Puno

CompanySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Inka ExpressBus7:0017:30$65Stops along the way. Buffet lunch
Wonder Peru ExpeditionBus7:0017:30$55Stops along the way. Buffet lunch
PeruRail TiticacaTrain7:1017:30$265 Lunch

From Puno, there are direct buses to La Paz and Copacabana (see below).

4. Getting to Copacabana

Buses from Cusco to Copacabana usually involve a stop or a change of bus in Puno. Buses from Puno to Copacabana are then direct. The border crossing point is Yunguyo-Kasani. Stories of tourists being scammed have been reported at this border point, you can read our blog on how to avoid and deal with scams when traveling by bus in South America.

Isla de la Luna, Bolivia
Isla de la Luna – Photo: Chtiwiki via Wikimedia Commons

Direct options from Puno to Copacabana by bus

CompanySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Trans TiticacaNormal bus6:0011:00$8.76Migration in Kasani
Trans TiticacaNormal bus7:3012:30$8.76Migration in Kasani
Trans TiticacaNormal bus13:3018:30$11.68Migration in Kasani
TranszelaInca suite7:0010:00$11Migration in Kasani
Huayruro ToursSemi-lie flat/lie flat7:0012:00$7.30Migration in Kasani
Tour PeruNormal bus7:0012:00$9Migration in Kasani

5. Getting to La Paz via Puno or Copacabana

Whether you are leaving from Cusco, Puno or Copacabana, there are direct buses for each route. Copacabana to La Paz takes about 4 hours. The journey involves crossing the Tiquina straight, which costs 2 bolivianos, a cost which is not usually included in the bus ticket. Buses can’t cross at night so buses don’t leave after 18:30.

If taking a direct bus from Cusco or Puno, migration takes place at Desaguadero.

Most buses to La Paz arrive at the main bus terminal on Uruguay Avenue. Tourist buses sometimes drop passengers at their hotels. This is the case for companies such as Turisbus and Bolivia Hop.

Direct buses from Puno to La Paz

CompanySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Tour PeruSemi-lie flat6:4515:00$15Migration in Desaguadero
Trans TiticacaNormal bus7:0015:00$14.60Migration in Desaguadero

Direct buses from Copacabana to La Paz

CompanySeat classTime of departureTime of arrival (estimated)Price in US$Extra info
Diana TourNormal bus13:3017:30$4.30Does not include crossing fee in Tiquina (2Bs)
Trans TiticacaNormal bus13:3017:30$5.11Does not include crossing fee in Tiquina (2Bs)
Vicuna TravelNormal bus13:3017:30$4.38Does not include the boat cost in Tiquina (2Bs)
TurisbusTourist bus13:3018:00$19.00Pick-up from hotel.

Includes crossing fee in Tiquina (2Bs)

Trans TiticacaNormal bus18:3022:30$5.84Does not include crossing fee in Tiquina (2Bs)

Please take into consideration that some buses make several short stops along the way, picking up passengers and sometimes women from local communities who make a living by selling food and beverages on the buses. Since these stops are not in the official itinerary, they may be upsetting for tourists.

Another option to travel from Cusco to La Paz and take the time to explore Puno and/or Copacabana would be to travel with Bolivia Hop which offers passes to hop-on and hop-off in both cities and comes with some optional tours. You can book online any of the buses presented above as well as the Bolivia Hop Cusco to La Paz pass.

Please also note that the bus schedules are subject to change by the bus companies and that these are not an exhaustive list, we’ve selected the most reliable an safest bus companies for your convenience. More options exist at the bus terminals with more informal bus companies that cannot be booked online.

Book your bus and train tickets online at www.ticketsbolivia.com.

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