The direct road from Arequipa to Cusco is a long and not particularly comfortable one. Most travellers choose to fly this route, and generally with good reason. However, for those that decide to take the land route, there are some rewards. Although a long bus ride, at 12 hours, the views are impressive. Lago Condoroma, at over 4,700m, is one of the highest lakes in South America. The mines of Tisco and Tintaya, passed on the route, are important, although they are of little interest. The largest town on the route is Espinar, a relatively large town of corrugated iron roofs. There are a couple of basic hostels here, but unless you have a desire to experience a typical altiplano town, there is no reason to stay. The high puna here offers a difficult life, with little able to grow apart from a few potatoes. There are no trees. The road passes the small town of Descanso before arriving at Sicuani. The road from Sicuani to Cusco is paved.
It gets bitterly cold at night, and what can be seen is obviously limited in the dark, although the view of the night sky can be awesome with the nearest source of manmade light hundreds of kilometres away. It is strongly recommended that the journey be undertaken in the day.
During the rainy season, buses can get stranded in snowdrifts, and it is not unusual for buses to be delayed for up to ten hours. Additionally, the chance of accidents increases dramatically at this time of year. Therefore, during the wet season it is advised that bus travel be avoided.
There is an alternate route from Arequipa to Cusco, passing through Moquegua, Desaguadero and Puno. As this is paved all the way it is a far more comfortable option, and the views are equally impressive. However, it takes significantly longer at 18 hours. There are no direct trains from Arequipa to Cusco, meaning that you must change trains in Juliaca or Puno, and spend a night in either of these towns.
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