I am so excited to finally write about my amazing trip to Peru!! I spent a year and a half living in Buenos Aires which had just as many Peruvians as Argentines in many parts of the city, so I was THRILLED to be surrounded by that culture and language that now feels like home to me. It brought back so many memories. ♥
I also got so many great tips from other travelers and locals while we were there! I had been so busy the months leading up to this trip and didn’t even book places to stay or in-country flights until the day before we left… it’s one of the crazier travel decisions I’ve made (especially with me usually being such an avid planner). We completely based our trip on recommendations from the amazing people that we met along the way.
I’ll highlight some of the best things we did in another post, but here I’m going to focus on how to travel throughout the country and talk about the travel company that totally saved us! Now when I first heard “travel company” and “tour bus”, I got a little nervous that it wouldn’t give us a very authentic experience. I immediately started to picture that typical huge tour group following a guide holding a stick with a colorful pom pom or flag at the top, power walking through the already-crowded tourist location. Don’t worry, this is the last place you would find those types of recommendations. You know me, I’m all about traveling like a local.
But Peru Hop was honestly such a great way to meet other travelers and get a raw, authentic experience for a great price. I reached out to them beforehand and was so excited for the chance to create some content for them and tell you all more about my experience!
Peru Hop is great because you can customize the trip you want. We had a huge list of places we wanted to visit across the country with only 9 days to do it, but we were able to do it ALL.
So this is how it works.
We had an idea of which sites and cities we wanted to visit and chose the tour that worked best with our plan and the time we had. It can be as short as a day trip or as long as two weeks! You can also choose how long you want to stay at each bus stop. Depending on the bus schedule for each city, you can get off the bus in the morning and only spend the day there or choose to stay for multiple days and catch the bus at a later time. *Hint: it’s also a really easy way to see a lot of Peru and Bolivia, which I definitely would have done if I’d had more than 9 days. You do have to put in some work to get a visa for Bolivia though!
Honestly we came into Peru planning on just doing one trip with Peru Hop, but it was so easy and simple that we ended up booking another one right after!
First Stop: Paracas & Huacachina
After spending a day in Lima, we got on our Peru Hop bus nice and early the next day for a full-day tour of Paracas and Huacachina. I still don’t know how we did so much in just one day! We selected a pick up location that was closest to our Airbnb and rode the bus to Paracas to get on a boat to see the Ballestas Islands. This was the first time I have ever seen penguins in the wild and they were adorable!! It was a pretty relaxing way to start off our morning. After the boat tour, we got some time to shop at the local stands in Paracas and eat ceviche on the coast.
Next up on the itinerary was Huacachina — the only desert oasis in South America! We started with a couple of hours to explore the oasis, shop around, take a boat ride on the lake, etc. Then we met back up with our group and a few more travelers who had stayed the night previously to start our next tour — dune buggy rides in the desert! I will admit, I got a little bit terrified when I saw how steep some of the drops were. Luckily, we were with dune buggy driving pros who know exactly what they were doing and it was so fun! Everyone in our buggy was screaming and laughing and the driver was really friendly. They whipped out some thin white boards and some wax and we did some sand boarding down hills in the dunes. Honestly, this day was definitely one of the trip highlights. We ended the night by taking pictures of the oasis at sunset and eating dinner at a food stand before hopping back on the bus (pun intended).
Overnight Trip to Puno & Lake Titicaca Floating Islands
After a few days of visiting Cusco, we set aside one of our last days to see Puno and Lake Titicaca. A close friend of mine had lived abroad for a number of years in Peru and she said that this was one of her favorite places to visit because it was such a unique and authentic experience. It did not disappoint! Puno is actually pretty far from Cusco, but the tour is set up to drive through the night, arrive to Puno in the morning to spend the day visiting, and then travel through the night again to be back to Cusco by morning.
We met at the bus stop at around 9PM with a bottle of melatonin and snacks and drinks for the ride. They had pillows and blankets on every seat and USB ports to charge our phones. As far as sleeping on a bus goes, it was pretty comfortable! We arrived at around 5:30AM to Puno, dropped off our bags at a hostel that Peru Hop is partnered with, and ate breakfast with some other travelers. I spent a lot of the day with two guys visiting from a city close to where I’d lived in Argentina. My Argentine accent instantly appeared and we told travel stories while passing around the maté. And yes I teased them endlessly for that, because of course the Argentines brought a thermos of hot water with a maté cup and yerba on their backpacking trip. If you are familiar with Argentina’s culture at all, you know exactly what I’m talking about!
After breakfast, we went to the coast of Lake Titicaca (between Peru and Bolivia) and got on a boat to the floating islands. I could write a whole post just on these islands! They are literally mini islands made by weaving reeds together and stacking them until they create a layer of reeds thick enough to float. The Uros, who are the indigenous people of Peru and Bolivia, build and live on these islands with only 5-8 families living in small reed huts on each island. It seemed to be a pretty tight knit community and the people were so sweet!
After visiting two of the floating islands, we got back on the boat and rode out to Taquile Island. We hiked around the island, explored the little city center, and had the most delicious Peruvian meal prepared by a local family (complete with Inca Cola of course). I loved exploring the island and talking to the people there! We walked along the terraces and watched at Bolivia on the other side of the lake before we made our way back to the boat to go back to Puno.
We still had a good 5 hours to see Puno which was more than enough time to see the sites, eat a nice meal, go souvenir shopping, and stop in a cafe for dessert and tea. The cathedral in the main square was stunning and there was actually some really great places to shop! We met back at the hostel later that night to pick up our bags and get back on the bus to Cusco. We got to see all of this and skip out on having to pay for 2 nights at an Airbnb/hotel since we slept on the bus. For only $69! It was a very cost-effective way to explore even more of Peru in a short trip.
It was such an amazing trip thanks to these guys! If you are looking at traveling to Peru, I would definitely recommend checking them out. It is a lot faster and more convenient than trying to book in-country flights or long distance trains.
Thanks for reading, friends! Besos!