The most popular place to head from Lima is Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca and the jumping-off point for Machu Picchu. For those with limited time, the easiest means of getting there is to fly. Flight prices per person are still not that much more expensive than heading overland by bus, and cheaper than heading overland by private transfer.

For those with more time, it is recommended to see something of the country in-between: to discover more about the attractions on the most popular overland route via Nazca, see this 5-day history, wildlife and gastronomy itinerary from Lima to Nazca. Go overland by private transfer or bus: it is not recommended to drive yourself due to road conditions and other dangers.

On a journey like this, be prepared for the stark altitude change between low-lying Lima and Cusco, which is over 10,900 feet (3320m) above sea level. 

By Plane

Duration: 1.5 hours

By far the easiest option is to fly, with direct flying time 80-90 minutes (as opposed to the 22+ hours that the journey would take by road). Most of Peru's domestic airlines and several international carriers ply the Lima-Cusco route, which is Peru's most popular. Latam offers the greatest choice of flights, whilst other airlines flying include Avianca, Sky Airline Perú and Peruvian.

Direct flights are about hourly between 5 am and 7 pm. Remember that many international flights arrive into Lima in the evening, and that there may not therefore be time to transfer to a flight to Cusco on the day you arrive—here are some of the best places to spend the night in Lima.

By Bus or Private Transfer on the 'Gringo Route' via Nazca

Duration: 20-24 hours nonstop

This is another very popular way of doing the Lima-Cusco journey, although it is most common to break the journey in Pisco, Nazca, or both along the way. It is often referred to as the 'Gringo Route' because of its popularity with backpackers. Traveling overland, you realize just what an immense country Peru is—with the bad roads making it seem bigger still.

The best-quality road is Highway 1s south to Nazca, then Highway 30 to Abancay and Highway 3S to Cusco. 

The point of doing the journey this way is of course not to do so in the quickest way, but to see something of the country. Few tourists, whether going by bus or by private transfer, do the journey in one hit. Whether you stop off in Pisco or Nazca or both, allow two nights in each to factor in side-trips to the main sights.

By Bus or Private Transfer on the Central Highlands Route via Huancayo

Duration: 24-30 hours non-stop

This might be the least popular way of doing the journey, because it goes through the traditional heartland of the Peruvian Andes and creature comforts are a bit more scant, but it will give you insights into Peruvian life not possible on the main tourist routes.

Coming this way, the first leg of the journey is to Huancayo (six/eight hours by private transfer/bus). The second leg is to Ayacucho (six/eight hours by private transfer/bus). The third leg is to Andahuaylas (five hours) where you normally change for the final leg from to Cusco (seven/nine hours by private transfer/bus).  

Of course, as with the previous overland option, the point of journeying this way is to see something of the country, rather than travel non-stop, with Huancayo, Ayacucho, and Andahuaylas the main overnight stops. Allow two nights in Huancayo or Ayacucho; one in Andahuaylas.


Map of How to Get from Lima to Cusco
Map of How to Get from Lima to Cusco