Tairona Inca: Colombia and Peru in 2 Weeks
Day 12: Taking the scenic tourist bus from Cusco to Puno with stops at Andahuaylillas, Raqchi Ruins, La Raya, Sicuani, and Pukara on the way. Arriving in Puno and ending the day with a sunset over Lake Titicaca on the way to our hotel, Titilaka.
There are a few options to get to Puno from Cusco, but one of the more comfortable and scenic ways is to go by road. Several companies run the “tourist bus” route which is basically a comfortable bus with a guide and stops at tourist sites on the way.
We randomly booked with Wonder Peru Expedition that had availability for our party on our planned travel date and supposedly the newest buses. The tickets costs 100 sols (~$35) each. A lunch is included with the ticket though the entrance to the sites were not.
Overall, the experience was pleasant with interesting stops and inspiring landscapes of green rolling hills and rocky mountains. The seven hour drive wasn’t too tiring as it was broken up with the different attractions.
To start the day, our group had to arrive at the departure station early in the morning. We booked our tickets with a store in Cusco and they had a driver take us to the bus. It was a short drive from the center.
At the office, you get your actual ticket with assigned seats and can have some coffee or tea in their lounge.
The bus departed promptly at 7:15 am. The Irizar built bus was very comfortable and modern with large clean windows. We had a bilingual tour guide speaking through the sound system to introduce the visits.
Our first stop was “the Sixtine Chapel of America”, a baroque church with many frescos and ornate shrines.
Unfortunately during our visit the church was under restoration meaning scaffolding covering certain areas, plus they were very strict with their no picture policy.
A couple of hours later we arrived at this Inca ruin. My favorite stop and the most interesting part was the Temple of Wiracocha.
Only the a shell of this unique building remains, built out of adobe and the volcanic andesite. There were more walls on the surrounding mountain.
Our guide took us inside a storehouse used for grain and food. Due to the ingenious design, the windows were positioned so that the sun never shined directly inside, keeping the room cool and dry.
Another fifteen minute drive and we had our lunch stop, La Vicunita De San Pablo, in Sicuani.
On entering the restaurant parking, I noticed the welcome sign had country flags from all over the world. Strangely the very first was North Korea. They must get a lot of North Korean tourists…
Before entering the restaurant, we were left to wander a courtyard surrounded with shops. Eventually the flood gates to the buffet were open and everyone lined up for lunch.
The food served was surprisingly good with Peruvian soups and hot/cold dishes. They even served dessert!
After lunch we loaded back onto the bus and enjoyed our food coma for a couple of hours until the next stop.
The Abra la Raya pass was the highest point on the drive from Cusco to Puno, at 4,338 m (14,232 ft) above sea level. The brief stop was mainly for snapping some landscape shots and browsing the souvenir stands.
A few hours later, we reached our last stop, the town Pukara with some pre-Incan ruins dating back to ~ 500 B.C. – 200 A.D.
First we passed through Plaza de Armas and the picturesque Santa Isabel Church, then went into the small poorly maintained Lithic Museum. The artifacts on display seemed quite important, but the quality of the facility was terrible.
Our bus then drove us to the pyramid, a National Cultural Heritage of Peru.
This large structure supposedly was once a pyramid which was destroyed for reasons unknown. A select few of us crawled through a tight tunnel to enter the ruins. Only after we exited did we find that everyone else just walked up.
The remains and symmetrical designs were interesting but there wasn’t much to explore.
Back on the bus we continued to the last leg of the journey. We drove through a shady industrial part of Juliaca, the neighboring town of Puno.
Soon we drove around a corner on the mountain road and saw Puno with Lake Titicaca behind it.
Our bus pulled into the terminal and concluded the tour. 5 p.m. Right on time.
Stepping into the lobby I found a lady holding a sign with my name on it. She greeted us and led us to the hotel branded Mercedes van.
We had another hour drive to our hotel Titilaka. We spoke with the staff member, Daisy, who introduced us to the lake and activities. We arrived just in time for a beautiful sunset over the mountains.
After we checked in, we indulged in the fine-dining restaurant before heading to bed. Again, the altitude was getting to us… Tomorrow we explore Lake Titicaca!