Peru: Peru Hop

One of the best decisions we made during our trip to Peru, was to ride with a bus company called Peru Hop.

Peru Hop operates a few different options along two routes in Southern Peru.  The first route is Lima-Cusco, and the second is the reverse, Cusco-Lima.  Your next option is where you want to stop along the way.  You can stop and spend a few weeks in one spot, or you can go straight through if you’re short on time.

If you haven’t already, check out my Peru master post, with my itinerary, packing list, budget, and links to all the other posts about this trip!

Route

As mentioned above, Peru Hop operates Cusco-Lima, and Lima-Cusco.  You can work in as much time at each of their stops as you like.  If you do the full trip from Lima, it would look like this:  Lima-(Chincha)-Paracas-Huacachina-(Nazca)-Arequipa-Puno-Cusco.  Stops in (parenthesis) are minor stops, that you just hit along the way.  They’re not really meant for true “hop offs.”

Since we had previously flown Lima to Cusco one way, we used Peru Hop to see some of the country while making our way back to Lima.  Our route was Cusco-Arequipa-Huacachina-Paracas-Lima.  We skipped Puno, as we didn’t have time to see both Puno and Arequipa, and we decided on the latter.  We spent 3 nights Arequipa, and 1 each in Huacachina and Paracas.  I would have liked to spend more time in Arequipa, but one night in Huacachina and Paracas is sufficient, depending on your travel style.

Your mileage will vary depending on where you’re going and what you want to see.  For those traveling Lima to Cusco, or Cusco to Lima, you should at least consider Peru Hop!

Are-BusView2

One of the views from the bus, we were stopped on this cliffside for a half hour or so while we waited for some road work to finish.  Literally waiting for the paint to dry.

Logistics

When deciding whether or not to use a hop on/hop off bus service, the first thing to figure out is whether or not the schedule works for you.  Compare the starting points, stops, and the end destination with your travel plans.  Are these places that you want to go?  Does the bus effectively get you from Point A to Point B?

The next piece is cost.  I’ll be the first to admit that Peru Hop isn’t cheap, by budget backpacker standards, but it does provide quite a bit of value:

  1. It’s fun.  The value associated with this is totally up to the individual user, but trust me, you’ll have a good time on Peru Hop.  You meet some cool people, and the guides are great too.  We actually ended up going clubbing with our guide, Stephanie, when we arrived in Lima!
  2. It’s safe.  I felt totally safe and taken care of during my bus travels.  Stephanie was awesome at connecting us with a few last minute hostels and plans we made.  Our gear was handled appropriately and professionally, even with people hopping on and off the buses at every stop.
  3. It offers some extras.  For average prices, you can add a lot to your trip, and Peru Hop will take care of all the logistics for you.

Huaca-PeruHop

Once you pick your trip, you just have to figure how long to stay in each stop.  Your pass is good for a year, and you have to provide a rough itinerary to Peru Hop for planning, but you can change it on the fly.  Decide how long you want to spend in each place, and then take the next bus out.  Are you falling in love with Arequipa?  Then stay a bit longer!

Then, the rest is easy!  Enjoy each stop along the way, make some friends, and just hop on the next bus when it comes through town.  Or don’t, that’s the best part!

Experience

We started in Cusco.  Mind you, we were taking a combi back from Ollantaytambo to catch this bus, so we ran into a bit of an issue on the timing.  After almost leaving a bag at the volunteer office in Cusco (long story) we made it to The Point in Cusco, a hostel where Peru Hop picks you up.  We left are bags with Peru Hop, and did a bit of last minute shopping for gifts to bring back for family and friends.

Once on the bus, the overnight trip to Arequipa was a long one, but kind of neat in its own way.  If you have a hard time sleeping on buses, this ride is no exception.  The roads from Cusco to Arequipa constantly move left to right, and up and down.  Of course, my sleepless night afforded me some amazing views of the stars.  Not a drop of light pollution anywhere on the road, and the stars were astounding.

When we got to Arequipa, the drop off was simple.  We had booked our stay at the Flying Dog in Arequipa en route, and Peru Hop dropped us off right at the door.  Make sure you can check in early to your hostel, as you’ll get to Arequipa at 5AM if everything goes according to plan.  The pick up in Arequipa a few days later was just as easy, and we were off to Huacachina!

On the way to Huacachina, you make a quick stop at the Nazca Lines tower.  Listen, if you want to really see the lines, schedule a flight.  The tower is cool and all, but you can only see a few lines, and to be honest, it’s quite underwhelming.  I don’t have any major regrets from my Peru trip, but if I went back, I’d take a flight over the Nazca Lines and skip the tower.

The bus trip to Huacachina is an all day ride, but you do stop for lunch and to see those famous lines in the sand.  Since you arrive in the evening, you may not notice it, but Huacachina is literally surrounded by sand.  For someone who’s never seen a desert in person, it was awesome.  Take advantage of the sand by going out on the dune buggies and sandboarding, you won’t regret it!

Huaca-DuneBuggy3

One of the death machines *ahem* dune buggies.

After  Huacachina, the next stop is Paracas.  Paracas is a small coastal town.  The Islas Ballestas are located off the coast here, and attract a lot of visitors, so there are a few good hostels/hotels and restaurants in town.  While in Paracas we toured the Paracas Natural Reserve and the Islas Ballestas, and had a good time walking the beach outside our hostel, Kokopelli.

Then back to Lima!  We had another day in Lima before flying out, and Peru Hop booked the hostel and dropped us off right at the door, just like the other stops.


The Peru Hop experience was fantastic.  The guides were awesome, and genuinely helpful.  They gave us recommendations on what to do in every city we went to, and it was all great.  I’m not sure if they they get referral bonuses or anything, so do a little research on your own too on what you want to do in each place.  I also highly recommend the additional activities that Peru Hop can organize.  Scheduling everything through Peru Hop makes it easy, and we took full advantage of the Colca Canyon Tour near Arequipa, the Sandboarding and Pisco Vineyard tours in Huacachina, and the tour of the Islas Ballestas in Paracas.  If you do the Colca Canyon, take the 2 day trek, not the 1 day tour.  The tour was alright, but underwhelming, and I heard from quite a few people that the trek with an overnight stay was definitely worth it.

I think Peru Hop is perfect for the traveler that:

  • has more than a week, but less than a year to spend in Southern Peru.
  • is fine traveling on bus for long periods of time.
  • has flexible travel plans, or can fit the Peru Hop schedules/routes into their plans.  (This is what we did and worked out fine!  Send Peru Hop an email, and they can help with scheduling.)
  • packs snacks!  No, really, bring some snacks with you.  While you’re at it, pack some cards, a book, or something to do on the long rides.

Anyway, I really thought Peru Hop was a great way to see some of the country.  With a little flexibility, a little time, and a good neck pillow, you’ll do fine!

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