Peru is a relatively large country in Latin America – at about twice the size of Texas, there is a lot of land to cover. Couple that with some pretty intense mountain and jungle terrain, and travel by road can be incredibly time-consuming (and downright impossible at some points of the year).
Luckily, there are many options for flights and flying in Peru is relatively cheap and easy. For many itineraries, we really do recommend flying over driving (but see our notes below – some routes are best done by bus/road for health reasons!).
If you’re not convinced, take this one itinerary as a great example: To take a bus from Cusco to Lima will take you 23 hours over steep, windy roads that often close in the rainy season. A flight for this same route is just under 1.5 hours. Flights win. Don’t waste your precious travel time stuck in a bus over monotonous terrain.
Below we’ll give you a summary of the major airlines operating in Peru and our recommendations for flying domestically in Peru.
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Airlines operating in Peru:
- LATAM Airlines
- Formerly known as LAN. By far the most established and reliable airline in Peru. They offer many routes and usually multiple flights per day. They also are a major airline in South and Central America so you can also fly internationally with them.
- They fly from Lima to Cusco, Arequipa, Tarapoto, Piura, Juliaca (Lake Titicaca), Puerto Maldonado, Jaen (their closest stop to Chachapoyas). They also offer a few flights from Cusco to Juliaca (Lake Titicaca), Cusco to Iquitos and Arequipa to Cusco.
- Avianca Perú
- An airline that is not quite budget, but offers great deals. We’ve found the flight attendants and in-flight service to be wonderful, but the online portal can be difficult to navigate. They also fly throughout Central and South America.
- They fly from Lima to Cusco, Arequipa, Trujillo, Juliaca (Lake Titicaca). They fly from Cusco to Arequipa and Puerto Maldonado.
- Star Perú
- Budget airline with a small list of destinations. Great deals can be found but they do often have delays/cancellations.
- They fly Lima to Cusco, Iquitos, Tarapoto, Pucallpa, Puerto Maldonado. They also fly Cusco to Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos to Tarapoto and Pucallpa.
- Peruvian Airlines
- Also a budget airline that often has delays and cancellations, but they offer more diversity in their routes allowing you to get to more places than with the bigger airlines.
- They fly from Lima to Cusco, Arequipa, Iquitos, Tacna, Pucallpa, Tarapoto, Piura, La Paz (Bolivia). They also fly from Cusco to Piura and La Paz (Bolivia).
- LC Perú
- Another budget airline but with a different set of destinations, including directly to Huaraz.
- They fly from Lima to Arequipa, Chiclayo, Cusco, Pucallpa, Trujillo, Ayacucho, Huaraz, Cajamarca, Huancayo.
- Viva Air Perú (just started in 2017)
- The newest of the airlines and a budget airline trying to imitate those found in Europe.
- They offer a limited range of routes but fly Lima to Cusco, Arequipa, Piura, Tarapoto and Iquitos.
- Two other airlines offer very limited flights centering around their flights to Chachapoyas (the city nearest the ruins of Kuelap in the North). ATSA flies Lima to Chachapoyas and Tingo Maria and Movil Air flies from Trujillo to Chachapoyas and from Chachapoyas to Tarapoto.
Our ALL ACROSS PERU analysis:
In general, flying domestically in Peru is similar to most other parts of the world. There seem to be a few more delays and cancellations than in the US or Europe, but there are also usually many flights a day that can still get you to your destination, just hours delayed.
It is rare that we make such a bold recommendation, but if at all possible, book your air travel through LATAM Airlines. We have had the most success with LATAM in terms of online payments and relatively few delays and cancellations. LATAM is generally the most expensive option and we believe that part of that payment must be to get priority at the airports for departures. *This is a completely independent opinion of ALL ACROSS PERU based on our years of travel through Peru with various airlines.*
Our second choice would be Avianca, but we have had issues with online payments and poor customer service. They experience more delays and cancellations than LATAM, but fewer than the budget airlines of Star Perú, Peruvian Airlines, LC Perú and Viva Air Perú.
In summary, if you choose to fly an airline other than LATAM, expect delays and cancellations and don’t hinge your travel plans on making tight connections. If you are able to manage with a delay, there are some great deals to be found.
When NOT to fly:
As we mentioned earlier, we usually recommend flying over buses, in order to maximize your time in Peru. However, there are times when a bus in preferable.
The route from Lima to Juliaca (the airport closest to Lake Titicaca) is not generally recommended by air. Lake Titicaca sits at over 12,500ft/4000m and to fly directly there from Lima (which sits at sea level) can cause altitude sickness in many people. You can take a bus there or organize your travel so you go from Cusco or Arequipa to Lake Titicaca as the elevation difference between those cities is minimal. While flying directly to Cusco from Lima is common, you still need to be aware of the altitude change and take a day or two to adjust.
There used to be a special rate on LATAM for Peruvian Nationals only. As of 2018, these rates have been abolished. In the past, this caused a lot of stress for tourists who would accidentally book these fares and be surprised by a huge fee when arriving at the airport for check-in.
That being said, you should still look carefully at the baggage allowances for your airline and rate type. Many fares require you to pay for carry-on luggage and LATAM is notorious for carrying around an impossibly small sized box to test the size of your carry-on.
Arriving early is a necessity, especially at the Cusco airport. The recommended 2 hours may not even be enough time if you have to check bags in Cusco. We often see the lines for LATAM out the door and they do not move quickly. Hopefully they will remedy this soon, but in the meantime, plan ahead and give yourself enough time. If you have an international flight, give yourself plenty of lead time. If you’re flying from Cusco to Lima and then on to your international destination, we really recommend a night in Lima due to frequent flight delays out of Cusco. If you do end up in Lima, check out our blog: 48 hours in Lima.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled, do not be afraid to assert your rights. If you will miss an international flight, show them the itinerary and demand to be placed on a new flight, with a new airline if necessary. While this can be overwhelming to do, it is necessary to get the attention you need. Otherwise, you will be left waiting with no recourse.
Security checkpoints are usually easier while flying in Peru. You do not have to remove your shoes and can often take liquids through with no issue. They do require you to take out any computer or tablet though so pack accordingly.
Lastly, if you can, book a window seat! The landscape of Peru is incredible and you won’t want to miss a birds-eye view of it! Happy flying!
Who is writing?
Hola! I’m Abigail, writer for ALL ACROSS PERU and lover of all things Peruvian! I live in Lima and you’ll often find me eating lomo saltado and sharing pisco sours with my patas (friends).