From Lima, we knew the route we wanted to take to Cusco, and we knew that we wanted to stop off at a few places on the way to beak the journey up. Sick of researching and organising bus times and tickets ourselves, I was delighted to spot a flier for Peru’s first hop on hop off bus company, Peru Hop. I’ll write up the stories of our journey separately, but I was so impressed with this new company that I wanted to review the service and let anyone headed to Peru know about them. Peru Hop didn’t commission this write up – and sadly I didn’t get any free transport for it – these are genuinely my opinions and experiences: they’re a fantastic company and if you’re travelling Lima-Cusco or vice versa you absolutely should go with them.
A relatively new company, Peru Hop was started about five months ago by Irish business partners Will and Connor. Both owners are super hands on and make sure to meet all their passengers, and they’re both really funny and great guys. The story behind Peru Hop is that Will ‘went backpacking round the world like an idiot’ in Connor’s words, and fell in love with a girl from Lima. After a second circuit round South America, he upped sticks and moved to Peru to be with the girl of his dreams, and had the idea to start up a hop on hop off bus tour like New Zealand’s Kiwi Experience. Somehow he convinced his friend Connor to swap Ireland for Peru, and after a year and a half of planning Peru Hop was started.
The idea is a simple one. You buy a ticket from Lima to Cusco (or the other way around) which is valid for one year and stops at Paracas, Huacachina, Nasca and Araquipa en route, and you can hop off at each stop and stay as long as you like before hopping on the next bus. The recommended tour takes about six days, with one night in Paracas, one in Huacachina, a overnight bus to Araquipa – stopping for an hour or so in Nazca en route for the viewing tower and dinner – followed by two nights there before the last stretch to Cusco. With a ticket valid for one year, you can drag this journey out as long as you like; for instance we spent three nights in Paracas and four in Huacachina. You can also opt for a slightly cheaper ticket which doesn’t stop in Araquipa, so after Huacachina you stay on the bus for the full 20 hours or so straight to Cusco.
There are two ticket options leaving Lima, one at 6am Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and goes direct to Paracas, arriving at about 9am. The other leaves at 9am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and for just $10 more includes a fab full day tour which makes the journey down to Paracas way more interesting. We hopped on at 9am on a Monday morning and were collected from our hostel by Paul, who walked us up the street to where the bus was waiting. Owner Will rode with us for the first part of the journey and conducted the Lima part of the tour. He was really funny, and full of interesting facts about Peru you wouldn’t normally hear about – like the emphasis placed on class which is denominated into class a, b, c, d and e, with snobby class a and b’s refusing to even enter a bar thought of as class c.
The day tour en route to Paracas included the Peru sign followed by the Christ statue in Lima, the pre-Inca citadel of Pachacamac, lunch on El Silencio beach, and the Hacienda San Jose. In Paracas, the bus dropped us at the door of our hostel, and the guide from the bus, Alexandra (we swapped guides halfway through the first day) stayed there with us. She was super friendly and hung out with us at the hostel bar both nights she was at the hostel. The company also arranged tickets for a boat tour of the Ballestas Islands the following morning, with a company who give their passengers a discount, saving us the hassle of organising the trip ourselves.
The route from Paracas to Huacachina – the oasis town in the desert next to Ica – was also broken up with an extra stop, this time in the national park at Paracas, a huge section of coastal desert with dramatic cliffs and red sandy beaches. Because we’d ‘hopped off’ for a few nights in Paracas, we were travelling with a new group and a new guide – Nillo – but if you travel the ‘recommended’ route with Peru Hop you’ll be with the same group and guide all the way, a great way to make new friends. In Huacachina, Nillo gave us a brief personal tour, pointing out the best bars and restaurants, and helped us organise a sandboarding and dunebuggy tour for the following day. Peru Hop passengers also get discounts at their recommended hotels, meaning that our stay in Huacachina’s Casa de Arena was super cheap.
The bus ride from Huacachina to Arequipa is overnight, but starts with an optional tour in the afternoon of a Pisco vineyard – where we tried a lot of wine and pisco – before heading to Nazca for the viewing tower over the Nazca lines, and for dinner. Sam and I skipped Arequipa as we had a Machu Picchu tour already booked, and stayed on the bus after everyone else got off, travelling straight through for another ten hours to Cusco (with a stop for lunch and at a stunning viewpoint in the mountains). However, we travelled back from Cusco to Arequipa with Peru Hop and received a discount as we were returning customers! The route to Cusco via Arequipa is longer, but also is known for being much safer than the direct road from Lima – Cusco, so that’s another perk of travelling with Peru Hop.
The recommended route with Peru Hop lasts about five or six days, but with tickets valid for one year it’s possible to hop off for as long as you like, which is exactly what we did. Hopping back on is simple, just send the office an email letting them know which bus you want to get on (try to give at least 24 hours notice). I was so impressed with how quickly the office replied to all of our emails – usually within five minutes, even after 5pm! I mentioned this to Will, who said it was a big part of their service, as they know travellers don’t always have wifi for very long (especially in places like Huacachina) so the company make a point to come straight back to all emails to answer questions and confirm bookings – something which was a huge selling point for me!
We had a great experience travelling with this awesome new company. Aside from meeting tons of new people, travelling with Peru Hop meant that the hassle was completely taken out of travelling for about a week, with no organising buses, taxis or tours ourselves. Although it probably works out a little more expensive than the DIY route taking local buses, the extra perks – not to mention the discount cards and additional tour stops – mean that you really get a lot for your money, plus the ‘All-Inclusive’ option with hotels and tours included is clearly a bargain. It’s a great way to make the most of your time in Peru, especially if you’re on a tight schedule (check out my buddy Gemma’s fab three week Peru Itinerary for more tips on maximising your trip to Peru). I can honestly say that I would recommend Peru Hop to anyone travelling in Peru; if anything else it was just a really fun way to travel!
Selling points for Peru Hop:
- Passengers get a free Inti Card, which gets discounts all over South America on restaurants, tours, bars, spas and hostels – like 4 nights for 3 at Pariwana Cusco.
- The only bus company that goes straight to Huacachina, rather than next door Ica.
- Longer journeys include stops at places of interest you otherwise wouldn’t see.
- Lovely staff!
- Peru Hop will book hostels for you – at a discounted rate – and can also organise tours like the Ballestas Islands in Paracas, sandboarding in Hiacachina, or Colca Canyon in Arequipa.
- Travel with like minded backpackers of a similar age group – meet lots of new people and socialise easily.
- English movies and music on the bus – once you’ve seen your fourth Spanish dubbed Jean Claud Van Damme film you will realise what a big selling point this is!
- Peru Hop collect you and drop you off at your hostel – so no more pricey taxis from the bus station.
Prices start at $129 USD. Visit the Peru Hop website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, for more info, prices, and bus timetables.