South America isn’t exactly the easiest continent to travel around. For one, you’ve got the Andes and the Amazon making land travel difficult if not impossible in some places. The lack of good budget airlines in the region means you can end up paying $300 to $400 just for a one-way flight between neighboring countries. Ouch! Local buses aren’t exactly the safest or most comfortable way to travel either. What’s a traveler to do? For those traveling between Peru and Bolivia, you’re in luck! The Peru Hop (or Bolivia Hop) bus is the perfect way to get between these countries. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to the Peru Hop bus to help you plan your great South American adventure.
What is Peru Hop?
Peru Hop was created by two Irish backpackers in 2013. They had both moved to Peru after traveling the world and wanted to help other travelers see more of this amazing country. Anyone who has traveled extensively in South America knows that it can be a real pain getting between destinations. They wanted to take a lot of that stress out and make life just a little easier for backpackers. And so the idea for a hop on, hop off bus company in Peru was born.
Fast forward a few years and their team and operation is much bigger now. The Peru Hop bus trips have expanded into Bolivia (where you’ll see them listed as Bolivia Hop). They offer trips from Lima all the way to La Paz or vice versa. Along the way, you can hop off at places like Lake Titicaca, Huacachina, and of course Cusco so you can visit Machu Picchu.
The idea of Peru Hop is to get travelers around the country’s highlights safely, comfortably, and on time. With a flexible booking system, it’s easy for people to change their plans on the go. Sometimes you get somewhere and just love it so much you want to stay. Other times you find a place disappointing and decide maybe one night is enough. Changing your itinerary as you go is super easy when riding with Peru Hop – no need to run to a dusty bus station outside of town to see if you can change your tickets!
Benefits of Traveling with Peru Hop
Riding with Peru Hop really takes a lot of the stress out of traveling. It’s so nice just booking one ticket to get you from La Paz all the way to Lima with all the great stops in between. That would be anywhere from 7-10 separate tickets you’d need to arrange on your own. When you’re traveling long term, it’s nice to have a bit of convenience.
Peru Hop also makes sure you get where you need to go. Rather than having to haggle with taxi drivers at dusty bus stations outside of town, they bring you straight to your hostel. Taxi drivers who wait at the station for that busload of gringos aren’t exactly the most reputable, so it’s a relief not having to deal with them at all.
They’re very organized, which is a breath of fresh air in a region known for its disorganization. Backpackers started the company, so they know exactly what the usual downfalls of bus travel in South America are. You won’t find any chickens on these buses, and you won’t need to worry about someone snatching your bag, either. Instead of blaring reggaeton, you’ll get to watch a few movies on the long journeys.
In addition to getting some great deals on tours, you’ll also get lots of extras for free by riding with Peru Hop. There are stops at a viewpoint for the Nazca Lines, a Pisco vineyard, a nature reserve, and the secret slave tunnels that all come with your ticket. Many other tours cost $10 or less, such as the boat trip to Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca. This keeps the long journey interesting and helps you save some cash for other activities (or for more Pisco Sours and ceviche).
Best of all, you have awesome local guides who speak English and can help you arrange hostels and tours while you’re en route. This beats running around town with your backpack trying to sort out accommodation and your plans for the next day. They even partner with several local tour operators and hostels to offer some pretty solid discounts.
Where Can You Go with Peru Hop?
Peru Hop offers a total of 36 different routes at the moment. The main hubs are Lima, Cusco, and La Paz, and you have several options for getting between the three. The most comprehensive route will take you to all three with several stops in between. Other options exist for those who are short on time and just want to get from point A to point B. Let’s take a look at each stop on their routes with a quick summary of what there is to see and do in each.
The Peruvian capital makes for a great starting and/or ending point for your South America adventure. It’s one of the best and cheapest airports to fly into from the US, with one-way flights as low as $200. While many choose to escape the massive city as quickly as possible, there’s plenty to do here to warrant staying a few days.
You’ll want to stay in either Miraflores or Barranco. The former is a more upscale neighborhood with a nice stretch of parks on top of the cliff looking down to the ocean. It’s a beautiful place to spend a day walking or cycling. There are plenty of choices for accommodation, dining, and nightlife in Miraflores as well. We recommend staying at the Flying Dog hostel in Parque Kennedy, which is also called the cat park for the dozens of kitties who call it home.
Barranco is a more bohemian neighborhood that attracts a lot of artists. There’s a lot of great street art and live music here making it a really fun place to stay. It’s also got tons of cafes, restaurants, and cool bars such as Ayuhasca. There’s no shortage of things to do in Barranco! Be sure to sign up for the free walking tour of Barranco while you’re there.
The historic center of Lima is a bit far from both of these areas, but you can easily get there on the metro bus or in an Uber. You’ll want to spend at least a whole day exploring the area. Start off in the Plaza de Armas to see the presidential palace and the stunning cathedral. Another highlight is the San Francisco Covenant, where you can go in and wander around the creepy catacombs.
Heading south from Lima, the first stop on the Peru Hop trip is Paracas. This is a small town on the coast of Peru that’s famous for the nearby Ballestas Islands. Some like to call these a “Poor Man’s Galapagos,” as they’re much easier and cheaper to visit. You can take a boat tour around the islands where you’ll spot sea lions and maybe even penguins.
There’s also a free tour included in your ticket for the nature reserve here. You get to spend a couple of hours driving around the reserve and stopping at a few small trails. The views here are absolutely incredible, so be sure to have your batteries charged for photos.
Paracas is tiny, but there are still several options for accommodation and dining. We enjoyed our stay at Paracas Backpackers House in a private room and even got a discount through Peru Hop. There are several restaurants here clearly geared towards tourists. For local food (and prices), eat at the beachside restaurant shacks.
This might just be one of the coolest places you’ll visit in South America. Huacachina is a real desert oasis just outside the city of Ica. The main activities here are riding in a dune buggy and sand boarding. Peru Hop times their buses so that you can easily do a tour and enjoy some free time in Huacachina with just one night. Of course, you can always hop off and stay longer.
There are a few hostels that Peru Hop partners with here, but we weren’t able to get a room as we were traveling during Holy Week. Instead, we splurged on a glamping experience at Desert Nights Eco-Camp. After a long day on the bus, it was pretty awesome to wake up to a delicious buffet breakfast and then hit the pool and swim-up bar. We actually wish we could have stayed another night or two. It was so nice and relaxing.
The Nazca Lines are giant geoglyphs that were carved into the desert thousands of years ago. Some are just lines and geometric shapes, while others resemble trees, animals, and flowers. Their significance remains a mystery, but many scholars believe there is a religious purpose behind them.
When riding with Peru Hop, your trip includes a short stop at a viewpoint to see some of the Nazca Lines. If you really want to take it all in, you’ll need to book a short flight. These cost about $80 for a 30-minute flight and are best booked in advance. It’s also a good idea to plan to stay one night in Nazca as a buffer. For example, our bus from Arequipa broke down causing our group to miss out on the Nazca Lines entirely. Only people who booked a night there were able to see them the next day.
Arequipa is known as the “White City” for all of its beautiful white buildings made from volcanic stones. Speaking of volcanoes, you’ll be able to see Misti towering above the city behind the cathedral. Thanks to this dramatic landscape, Arequipa just may be the most beautiful city in South America.
The most popular activity in Arequipa is visiting the Colca Canyon. It’s not exactly nearby, though. It takes about 3-4 hours to drive there along windy mountain roads. As a result, day trips to the Canyon leave at 3:30 AM and don’t get back until 5 PM. If you have more time, you can do a multi-day trek where you actually walk down into the canyon and spend the night. Due to a lack of time and energy, we scrapped Colca Canyon and decided to save it for next time.
There’s a great free walking tour of Arequipa that leaves a few times a day. On the tour, you’ll learn about the history and culture of the city as you visit some of the most famous landmarks. You also get to stop by the Alpaca Museum to learn how people make all kinds of clothing from the alpaca wool.
Peru Hop partners with the excellent Dragonfly Hostel here. We got a private room and really enjoyed our stay there. They’ve got a nice rooftop with beanbags and hammocks for when you just want to chill out, and there’s also a ping pong table and a bar for when you want to be social. For cheap and local food, head to the market just a few blocks away.
For most Peru Hop passengers, the ultimate goal of the trip is to reach Machu Picchu. In order to do that, you’ll have to travel to the city of Cusco. From here you can either join a multi-day trek or catch a combination of trains and buses to reach the ancient city of the Incas.
Before you rush off to Machu Picchu (or right after you get back), be sure to spend a few days enjoying Cusco. It’s a beautiful city with enough to see and do to keep you busy for a while. You’ll need a tourist ticket to visit most of the museums and ruins, but you can have plenty of fun in the city without one. Hike up to the Cristo Blanco statue to enjoy the views, grab lunch in the local market, and just chill out in a cafe overlooking the plaza.
If you do spring for the full-price tourist ticket, you’ll have ten days to use it. Keep in mind that the archaeological sites are quite spread out. Some of them take 1-2 hours to reach, meaning you’ll also need to figure out your transportation there and back. There are also partial tourist tickets – one for archaeological sites and the other for museums. These are only valid for two days so you’ll have to hustle if you want to make the most of it.
Peru Hop doesn’t arrange Machu Picchu treks themselves, but they recommend using Find Local Trips to find one. We took their advice and booked with American Inca Trail and had a fantastic experience on their 4-day jungle trek adventure. Our trip included a lot of hiking, soaking in hot springs, downhill mountain biking, and even a bit of zip-lining. We’ll have a full recap of our Machu Picchu jungle trek plus some great videos soon.
Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable body of water in the world. It’s located in between Andes mountain ranges on the border of Peru and Bolivia. If you’re riding with Peru Hop to or from Bolivia, you have the chance to see a few different sides of Lake Titicaca.
On the Peruvian side, you’ll probably spend at least one night in the town of Puno. The main attraction here is making a visit to the incredible floating islands.
Tours arranged by Peru Hop leave early in the morning on a short boat ride to the Uros Islands. The islands are actually man-made from thick, buoyant reeds. They really are floating and are constantly being rebuilt and moved around the lake.
Over in Bolivia, the Peru Hop bus will make a stop in the town of Copacabana. If you decide to hop off here, the little town has plenty of hostels, shops, and restaurants. From here, you can take an hour-long boat ride out to Isla del Sol. Those on a day tour get off the boat and take a short hike across part of the island to the other pier. Of course, you also have the option of staying a night or two here if you want. There are plenty of guesthouses.
We didn’t make it to the floating islands tour as we were absolutely exhausted and it started at 6AM. The weather was also quite shit that morning, so we weren’t too bummed to miss out on the short tour. We did go on the short tour of Isla del Sol, which was quite nice.
If we get the chance to go back, we’d love to book a night or two to stay on one of the islands. Unfortunately, our schedule was tight as we had to get to Cusco to start our Machu Picchu trek. It definitely pays to have more flexibility with your itinerary if traveling with Peru Hop.
At an elevation of 3,650 m (11,975 feet), La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. You may see some lists rank Quito as the highest capital. That’s because La Paz is actually a co-capital with Sucre.
Welcome to Bolivia – it’s a confusing place.
Either way, you’re really, really high up there. If you’ve traveled all the way here from Lima on the Peru Hop bus, you should already be acclimated to the high elevation.
With a few days in La Paz, you can do a few tours and maybe take a hike in the surrounding mountains. Red Cap does a great free walking tour of the central part of the city, so be sure to check that out.
On Thursdays and Sundays, they also do tours to the massive outdoor market in El Alto. After that, you get to visit a witch doctor and the cemetery where you’ll learn a ton about Bolivian culture. Finally, see the amazing cholita wrestlers. Watching the badass ladies throw down in the ring was definitely a highlight of our trip there. Don’t miss it if you’re visiting La Paz!
We actually really enjoyed our time in La Paz and wish we had stayed a bit longer. It’s a super interesting city with a lot to discover. I never imagined we’d get our fortune read in coca leaves, but that’s just the kind of thing that happens here! It’s also incredibly scenic as it’s surrounded by mountains. This gives you lots of hiking opportunities right at your fingertips. We’d probably spend every weekend hiking high up in the hills there.
In hindsight, we think it would be a great temporary home base for a digital nomad stint. We weren’t quite sure if the internet would be good and stable enough to work from there, but after staying with a fellow VIPKID teacher for a few days and having classes from her place, we know it would be fine.
How to Plan Your Peru Hop Trip
You’ll want to start by figuring out whether you’re going to just stick to Peru or if you want to visit Bolivia. If you’re American, keep in mind that you can visit Peru visa-free but you’ll need a visa for Bolivia that costs $160. These can be arranged beforehand in an embassy or consulate, or at the border.
You’ll need crisp, perfect USD to pay for that shiny new visa as well as quite a bit of paperwork, so make sure you have it all in order. Most other travelers will be able to waltz right into Bolivia visa-free.
Those including Bolivia will also have to decide on their onward travel plans after La Paz, as that’s as far as the bus goes.
If you’re planning on visiting the Salt Flats, you might as well go ahead and jump on a tour that will take you there and then all the way to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. This is what we did in reverse and it was an absolutely incredible experience. As usual, Peru Hop recommends you check out FindLocalTrips.com to book a tour. We went with World White Travel and really enjoyed the entire trip.
If you’re sticking to Peru, you’ll want to decide how much time you have. To hit all the stops and do all of the big activities, you’ll want at least 10-12 days. Two weeks or slightly more would be even better. This would allow you to do an overnight Colca Canyon trek, one of the longer trips to Machu Picchu, and an overnight stay on the floating islands. It would still be a bit rushed, but it’s doable. If you’ve got time on your hands, you might as well stay a few nights in Lima, Arequipa, and Cusco to leisurely explore the cities and get a feel for them.
The great thing about Peru Hop is that they have so many different options. Not everyone has time to hop off in every location and do it all, so they offer some accelerated routes to get you to Machu Picchu more quickly. You can hop on in Lima, visit Paracas and Huacachina, and be in Cusco in just three days. It’s also possible to take a cheeky weekend trip to the islands and the desert from Lima and get back to the city.
You can check out all their options on their website, which has a great trip planning tool. You’ll find the timetables for each leg of the journey, information on hostel and tour discounts, and recommended times. Once you’re booked, you can log in to your account and alter your pickup times and locations up til the day before the bus.
Our Experience Taking Peru Hop
Ever since we first heard about Peru Hop years ago, we’ve been wanting to travel with them. Over the years, we’ve taken enough bus trips from hell to appreciate such a well-run operation. From the first moment I contacted them right up until the last day of our trip, they were always super helpful and responsive.
In addition to helping me plan our route with them, they also gave recommendations on who to book our Machu Picchu and Salt Flats tours with. Both were excellent and we’re more than happy with our choice to book with all of them.
The first thing that struck us was just how organized they are. They have their pick-up and drop-off down to a science, ensuring everyone gets to where they need to be as timely as possible. The guides on the bus are ready and willing to help. They can book a hostel if you don’t already have one and can also help arrange the tours.
Even at the border crossing – which can be chaotic – they were totally in control and made the whole process as enjoyable as it can be.
One awesome perk that we weren’t aware of is that they actually bring you all the way to your hostel. This is true even in places where the bus can’t actually get you there. Peru Hop has a minivan or a cab waiting upon your arrival to take you those last few blocks. This is so much better than haggling with crooked cab drivers in the dark. It also saves you a lot of time and money if you think about it.
Speaking of saving money, we got some great deals on hostels thanks to being Peru Hop travelers. We saved about $8-12 on the price of a double room in Puno, Arequipa, and Paracas. That really adds up in Peru, where $30 or so will get a few meals. Add it to the money that you saved on not needing local cabs, and you’ll see that it really isn’t so expensive. Factor in the free tours that you get to take, and it’s clear that Peru Hop offers great bang for your buck.
On our 2.5 week-trip from La Paz to Lima, we only encountered issues with the bus on one day. We were notified that the bus headed our way from Cusco broke down. It wasn’t so bad for us, as we got to go back to sleep for a while. Unfortunately, the late start meant we would miss the Nazca Lines. It was a bummer, but what can you do?
Unfortunately, our bad bus luck continued. The replacement bus suffered a flat about halfway through our trip, causing us to take an extended lunch break in the middle of nowhere. Peru Hop kindly offered to buy everyone’s lunch plus a drink because of the delay. To top it off, they also gave everyone on the bus the tour of the Ballestas Islands for free. Talk about amazing customer service! We were extremely impressed by how they handled the situation.
In the end, we have to say it was probably the best bus trip we’ve ever taken. The whole experience was great and we would do it again in a heartbeat. We had to rush through the trip a bit, which caused us to miss out on a few places. It would be nice to go back and be able to check out the Nazca Lines, trek in Colca Canyon, and stay out on the floating islands. We’re already talking about doing the trip in reverse next time. We might go from Lima down to La Paz without Cusco.
In our humble opinion, spending the extra money on Peru Hop is a smart travel investment. Thanks to the convenience, the great customer service, and the solid discounts you get on accommodation and tours, it’s well worth it.
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Disclaimer: Peru Hop sponsored a portion of our trip in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed are strictly our own. We would never recommend a product or service if we really didn’t think it was a good one. We had an amazing trip with them and would pay for a return trip no questions asked.