My friends and i are traveling in south america for 6 weeks starting in feburary. We are trying to work out how we are going to get from Cuzco to Santiago. We were thinking about getting a bus but would really appriciate any advice anyone has about that trip.
This info arrives a little late, but hopefully it'll still be useful.
My choice would be:
1) From Cuzco to Arequipa (10 hours)
2) Arequipa - Tacna (5 hours)
3) From there you need to cross to Chile, to Arica, which is just across, you can even try to search for a bus that can take you from Arequipa straight to Arica.
4) From Arica to San Pedro de Atacama (12 hours)
5) From San Pedro de Atacama to La Serena (16 hours)
6) From La Serena to Santiago (6 hours)
Yes, it's a looooong way!
In Peru travel with CRUZ DEL SUR http://www.cruzdelsur.com.pe/inicio.php
In Chile with TURBUS
You can leave each city in the afternoon, sleep in the bus, and enjoy the next day in the new city. And so on. Always get into "cama" or "premium" buses, they are really comfortable.
Really useful post for me because i´ll also will do the same route Cuzco - Peru as you guys but then in march. Although my planning will go through Bolivia and cross the Bolivian - Chili border by train..
To Tonytravel: Why do you prefer that option? is it cheaper? Saver? or more beautiful according to you??
Save yourself the hassle and get a flight....
I think Tony was giving the most direct route. If you want to see Bolivia and Lake Titicaca, than obviously you can go from there.
I took the bus from La Paz to Arica (I think it was about 7-8 hours, but I slept through most of it). From Arica (after spending 5 days there), I took the bus direct to Santiago. It was 30 hours, but I had to get back as I was leaving (sigh).
Overnight buses are a good idea, because you both get to travel and save money on a hotel. The buses are very comfortable, and if you get a sleeper (cama) or semi-sleeper (semi-cama), you get a very comfortable seat that reclines to allow you to sleep.
I posted the shortest way with stopovers in really beautiful places. Of course you can take a little detour through Bolivia.
You can go from Cuzco to Puno (Peruvian area of Lake Titicaca, around 7 hours), cross to Bolivia and then from La Paz to Arica like GregW said.
Whatever you do, it'll be a cheap trip. Buses are cheap and comfortable, I can't help you with the train you want to catch because I haven't travelled by it, but I'm sure it'll be OK.