The most popular route travelled by tourists while in Peru is from Lima to Cusco by bus. When it comes to this route, you have a couple of different options which include: doing the long and painful direct journey, or, by breaking it up into shorter hops from place to place.
The shortest route from Lima to Cusco (and vice versa) by bus directly can take anywhere from 24-26 hours to complete. This is the fastest route but it is also the most dangerous as it involves going through the Andes mountain roads. It is recommended to avoid taking this route because of its incident history. If you have time while travelling Peru, short hops along the coast of Peru and in cities on the way to Cusco are a good way to really see Peru.
Here are some basic maps we made of the three Lima to Cusco routes:
1: The enjoyable, safe route via Nazca and Arequipa
2: The direct, difficult and sometimes dangerous way via Abancay
3. The alternative rough route along the high roads via Huancayo
1. The safe and Enjoyable Route via Nazca and Arequipa
The slightly longer, but much safer route from Lima to Cusco. This is the best route to take in order to see all of Peru’s most popular destinations. Travelling this way allows you to see all of the stops along the classic gringo trail in Peru that most tourists tend to take. If you have time and choose to travel this route, you can stop off in destinations such as Paracas, home of the national reserve and the Ballestas islands, Huacachina, the only desert oasis in South America, and Nazca, for a flight over the ancient lines. Along this route, after Nazca you will stop off in Arequipa where you can visit the second deepest canyon in the world, The Colca Canyon. From Arequipa, you have the choice to follow on to Puno, home to the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, and then follow onto Cusco or alternatively, go straight to Cusco from Arequipa. For more information on the white city check out the Official Arequipa Website.
There are many bus companies that operate the routes between these major destinations, which makes taking short stops along the way a lot easier. We recommend travelling with Peru Hop as they offer the most flexibility to travel the way you want to as well as stopping at all of the destinations in between Lima and Cusco!
This second route from Lima to Cusco by bus is shorter and goes from Nazca to Abancay and then Cusco. Although it is faster, this road goes up and down the Andean highlands which makes it a really twisty and uncomfortable journey for a long period of time. This route generally takes around 24 hours however, as with many of the roads found in Peru, weather can be bad and lead to mudslides which cause the need for road works, blocking up the route adding a few extra hours to the trip.
ENTERTAINMENT TIP: If looking for fun at night, or to watch sports during the day, or even a taste of home, visit the Wild Rover Hostel Cusco for great food, sports and beer! Entrance to their bar is free even for non-guests.
Online (and in some of the guide books) you will find that many hijacking and robbery incidents have taken place along this route over the last number of years. This is definitely an issue for safety, especially for tourists. You can find a recent incident being reported here:
According to Peter Coates of Peru Hop (a hop-on hop-off bus service running between Lima and Cusco):
“The longer route, down via Arequipa to Cusco, is the safer route. Near Abancay there is a stretch of two hours without GPS signal, meaning buses cannot be traced. Cruz Del Sur and Oltursa have both been hijacked in this exact spot in recent years. Even if my passengers want to skip past Arequipa, I still make the bus go via Arequipa, as it is definitely the safer route.”
Despite this routes bad history and the potential risk of future incidents, most major local bus companies still operate this route both to and from Lima to Cusco. However, after finding out this information, if you still choose to travel along this route, it is best to go for one of the top-end Peruvian bus companies to minimise problems such as crashes, break downs and lapses in security. Going with one of the better companies will also make the journey more comfortable although, prepare by bringing some warm clothes on the bus as it can get quite cold and icy up in the highlands of the Andes on this road.
3. Lima to Cusco via Huancayo, Ayacucho, Andahuaylas and Abancay
The most uncommon of the 3 routes, you will not hear of many people travelling in this direction. For people who like to do things a little bit differently, you can travel from Lima to Cusco by bus by going east from Lima and then down towards Ayacucho, Andahuaylas and Abancay.
Although this sounds like a nice off-the beaten path journey, it is not easy to find a reliable and safe bus company to travel on this route. Your best option is with Molina Unión (Empressa Molina), which runs certain segments of the route. It is likely by travelling this way that you will be using colectivos (very small buses) to get from place to place at certain parts. As well as this, you might have to take some overnight journeys in the locations as some buses don’t usually leave everyday. If you get the choice of where you have your overnight stay along this journey, the nice village of Lircay is recommended as it is interesting and quite taint. It’s around half way between Huancavelica and Ayacucho.
For your own safety, consider travelling this route during the day as the roads tend to be quite rough and dangerous. There are no buses that go directly along this route but Huancayo is a good place for an overnight stop or to change buses. As previously mentioned, there is a stretch along this route in Abancay where hijackings and incidents have been reported.
We hope this post has informed you about all of the different ways in which you can get from Lima to Cusco by bus and helps you make your decision about on which route you will travel. If you have any questions or comments to make in general about the post, you can leave them below and we will get back to you.
This post will also be updated as the roads get better or problems along some of the routes have been sorted out once and for all, so make sure to keep an eye out for the most up-to-date and informative information.