Inka Express (not to be confused with the imposter site inkaexpressbus) offers a “luxury” bus from Cusco to Puno, located on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The service at the office in Cusco was professional, with baggage check-in and coffee while you wait for the 7AM departure. Coaches are relatively spacious and comfortable.
The tour stops at a number of sights along the way to Puno, most of which are interesting and worthwhile. Click here for their itinerary. The stops also help break up the long 10 hour journey, supposedly around 7 hours without stops on a regular bus. Beware that the entire journey is at high altitude starting in Cusco at 11,000ft, ending in Puno at 12,500ft and crossing the La Raya Pass at 14,200ft.
The first two stops are at early Jesuit churches with impressive frescos. No pictures are allowed inside.
The first, Andahuaylillas, gives you a CD with the entrance fee (although with no usable picture files).
The second, Checacupe, sells a few postcards but they were out of the impressive Inferno mural. The clerk reluctantly let me take a picture of the poster they had for sale.
Still high in the Urumbamba Valley the landscape is similar to what we saw previously around Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
Next we visited the Inka ruin of Raqchi. The site, built on flat land rather than perched on a hillside, is not as impressive as other hilltop ruins.
However, as this was the home of the “royal” or important people in the Inka society the site has some interesting structures not seen anywhere else, such as high adobe walls.
Lunch in Sicuani
Lunch in Sicuani was a buffet at a large tourist establishment with a nice selection of soup, fresh vegetables and cooked meats and vegies. Desserts included fruit and flan options. Overall it was well done for this type of operation.
The next stop is Raya Pass where you can see the source of the Urumbamba River.
Here, the landscape of the Altiplano becomes treeless golden grass hills, fields of grazing livestock and adobe villages.
The last stop is the pre-Inka (400 BC) museum in Pukara. The town also boasts a striking Cathedral that was not mentioned on the tour.
The final part of the journey passes through Juliaca, a commercial center at the cross roads between Cusco, Puno and Arequipa. One of the ugliest towns I have ever seen as local tax laws favor unfinished buildings. The same is true in Puno, creating a dowdy ambiance on the shores of an otherwise striking lakeside.
We arrived at the bus station in Puno on time at 5:30PM.
September 10, 2015
For links to all the posts in this series see the Peru page.