The train journey from Cusco to Puno on the Perurail Titicaca Train is not only one of the most stunning train rides in Peru, but it's also one of the most breathtaking in the world. The route covers the distance between Cusco and Puno, passing through the Andes Mountains and reaching elevations of over 4300m (14,000 feet.) This luxurious train is modeled after a 1920s Pullman train and takes ten hours to complete. It offers a gourmet lunch, afternoon tea, traditional Peruvian dancing, and endless panoramic views. It's no wonder that most travelers consider the journey through the Andes Mountains by train as a must-see experience during their trip to Peru.
If you're looking to hop on the Titicaca Train, you can board it at the Wanchaq station in the heart of Cusco. The waiting room at the station is small, but it's well-furnished with a wide selection of complimentary coffee and tea. Upon arrival, your baggage will be tagged and taken to the luggage car while the staff escorts you to your designated seating area.
The train is designed to resemble a luxurious Pullman train from the 1920s, with four distinct sections, including three dining cars, a kitchen, and an observation car fitted with a bar in the front. The lavatories are equally lavish, befitting the train's overall aesthetic. You're free to traverse the train's various sections throughout the journey.
During the first hour of the journey, the train passes through Cusco's sprawling residential districts, honking its horn at every pedestrian and vehicle it encounters. Once the train clears the city limits of Cusco, the breathtaking grandeur of the Andes Mountains unfolds before you.
Passengers eagerly spend most of the next 3-4 hours in the observation car, with the open-air back providing stunning views and the front covered by large windows. The observation car bar offers a range of shows during the journey, including a fashion show, traditional dances, and live music from traditional bands. Also, passengers can learn how to make the famous Pisco Sour at the bar. The train stops once at La Raya, the highest elevation point at 4350m (14,271 feet), for 15 minutes. Here, passengers have the exciting opportunity to explore a small indigenous handicraft market that primarily sells textiles, marking the border between the Cusco and Puno regions. After everyone re-boards the train, lunch is promptly served.
Apart from the beautiful landscape, one of the journey's highlights was passing through Juliaca town. Juliaca is a commercial hub with double the population of Puno, but it is not a place that attracts many tourists. As the train passes through the central market, locals sell everything from car parts to fruit, which is placed between the tracks to avoid being moved when the train passes by.
The train has to slow down significantly to avoid hitting cars and pedestrians during rush hour. As the train passes through the market, an announcement requests passengers to return to the dining cars for afternoon tea. Many people, including young children, were waving in Juliaca to the passing train.
As the sun sets, the train still has 45 minutes left for the journey to Puno. The trip followed the serene coastline of Lake Titicaca, but due to the beginning night, you can only catch a glimpse of it the next day. After reaching the Puno Station at 7:00 pm, you must wait a few minutes to retrieve your luggage from the storage compartment.
Although a 10-hour train ride may seem lengthy, it is impossible to get enough of the breathtaking scenery the train passes through. The Lake Titicaca Train covers 388km (241 Miles) of the Andean mountain range, starting in the city center of Cusco and ending in the center of Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The train ride includes an ascent from Cusco's 3400 m (11,152ft) altitude to 4347 m (14,261ft) at the halfway point in La Raya and a descent back to 3827m (12,556ft) in Puno.
During the first half of the journey, the train follows the Urubamba River in a narrow mountain valley, with occasional sightings of farmers leading their llamas or small villages with school children playing soccer—the train curves with the mountainside to its right. The second half of the journey features a broader valley with magnificent pastures after passing through the snow-capped peaks of La Raya.
The train ticket covers lunch and afternoon tea, but breakfast comes at an additional cost. As soon as the train departs from the Cusco station, the staff takes our orders for breakfast and lunch. A complimentary welcome drink is served once the bar opens.
The team makes the most of your stop at La Raya to prepare a delicious three-course lunch with your choice of white or red wine and water or soda. As for afternoon tea, get ready for some mouth-watering finger sandwiches and a cup of traditional Muña Tea made from the herb that grows in the region.
The price includes two delicious meals (lunch and afternoon tea), but breakfast is not covered. Additionally, drinks from the bar beside a glass of wine at lunch and the welcome drink are not included. You can catch the train from Cusco to Puno on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays and from Puno to Cusco on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Mondays.
The cost remains the same for both directions. While there are various modes of transportation from Cusco to Puno, none are as breathtaking, luxurious, enchanting, or pleasurable as a ride on the Titicaca Train. It is an experience that you will never forget!