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Peru is a magical country full of history, culture, and magnificent scenery. Distinctive Peruvian cuisine is beyond delicious, and Peruvian people are amongst the friendliest you will ever encounter. Whether you are an adventurous traveller, looking for a pristine serenity, traveling alone or want to embark on an exciting journey with your family – Peru simply has something for everyone! From the incredible mountainous region of the Andes, captivating desert landscapes, to the beautiful coastline and fascinating Amazon rainforest – there are countless places you won’t want to miss.
At Peru Hop we have designed a guide to Peru that was built from our experiences of living in this beautiful country. We first came to Peru in 2009 as backpackers from Europe and have since fallen in love with the place and its people so much, that we decided to stay and share our love with other travelers who venture this way. Get inspired and prepare for the adventure of your lifetime!
Lima, the capital of Peru, is a vibrant and culturally rich destination, filled with a generous collection of museums, galleries, wonderful restaurants and lively nightlife. Being one of the largest cities in South America, Lima truly has something for everyone. Whether it’s the pre-Columbian architecture, the stunning coast or urban lifestyle, it’s a stop you’ll definitely enjoy.
Only a short drive from Lima, the wonderful region of Ica welcomes you with its sunny weather and wide range of fun activities. An ideal stop on your way to other adventures in Peru. There are many public bus companies operating the Lima to Paracas route. The only problem is the headache you will have trying to compare prices and after you choose one, having to find the companies terminal since there is no central bus terminal.
Paracas is perfect for all types of travellers. With its relaxed vibes, this beach town has a surprising variety of activities to choose from. The Paracas National Reserve is one of the main attractions here in Paracas. It is the oldest marine reserve in Peru and consists of almost 335,000 hectares of area, with its main function to preserve the marine life ecosystem. The Paracas National Reserve is the only marine reserve in Peru full of marine mammals, ocean birds and fish. You will find many different species of birds here, most sitting on the shore’s edge basking in the sunshine that reflects of the water. This offers some excellent photo opportunities as the desert lands and endless ocean waters provide the perfect scenery to capture that treasure memory on film.
Just 15 minutes away on boat from the Pacific Coast lies the Ballestas Islands, also referred to as the “Poor Man’s Galapagos”. The Ballestas Islands, is a place of wonderful marine creatures that you will undoubtedly love. With a tour of these islands you get to see a lot of animals in their natural habitat at just a fraction of the cost! The Ballestas are a must do for all wildlife lovers as they’re home to thousands of birds and mammals including penguins, sea lions, Inca terns and pelicans. The islands are protected, meaning you cannot swim with the animals or walk on the islands themselves, but you will get very close to them by boat.
Huacachina is the only desert oasis in Latin America. It is home to only 100-something locals, however, Huacachina is full of life and a guarantee of having a great time only a few hours away from Lima. The main attraction of this sandy haven is the sandboarding and dune buggies, and you can be sure that you will love both of them.
Huacachina is as popular with local Peruvians as it is with international visitors and has a great atmosphere, especially on weekends. This in turn means that booking accommodation ahead of time is advisable around weekends and holidays, especially if private rooms are required.
Peru Hop is the only direct bus to Huacachina. Our buses go from Cusco to Huacachina and Lima to Huacachina. If taking a public bus, you would need to take a bus from Lima to Ica or Cusco to Ica. Once in Ica, you would need to find a local taxi to then take you to the oasis of Huacachina. To leave Huacachina, you would need to do the same. The Lonely Planet currently states that this is the only way to get to Huacachina, but actually Peru Hop buses have the necessary license to enter directly to the oasis, so you can avoid the hassle of taking any taxis to and from Ica. We have buses in all directions, from Huacachina to Paracas and Lima or from Huacachina to Nazca, Arequipa or even Cusco.
Huacachina is home to the best Buggy and Sandboarding in Peru. In 2017 Huacachina even hosted the World Sandboarding Championships! It makes for the perfect short stopover on your way to the Andes.
Sandboarding is safe provided that you are responsible, so take it easy as each year there are accidents from people going too fast. You will not come out winning versus a wall of sand.
The dunebuggy tours are compared to going on a rollercoaster. Race up and down the largest sand dunes in South America with a CRAZY driver that will definitely get your heart beating! The buggies of our recommended operator are extremely safe. They go under maintenance regularly and their drivers will make sure you have a lot of fun but never take any risks, and all seats have a seat-belt to ensure you are strapped in safely. All of the drivers are certified, you cannot drive a buggy through the dunes without certification and special permits. You will understand why once you have done it! Not all operators have safe modern buggies so it is important to be careful when booking tours.
The Nazca Lines tour is an ideal quick stopover from Lima on the way towards the Andes. This mysterious ancient archeological site offers flights over the Nazca Lines that are otherwise impossible to see from the ground. There is also a watchtower in case you do not like flying. The MALI museum in Lima holds a permanent exhibition dedicated to this mysterious culture, perfect for getting some knowledge on before the tour to fully appreciate the mysterious lines and the meaning of the shapes left in the sand. Nazca is approximately a 6-hour drive away from Lima. There are many public bus companies operating the Lima to Nazca route. Once you compare prices and select the company you will use, you will have to find the company’s terminal and make your way there by taxi since there is no central bus terminal in Lima. Peru Hop busses offer comfortable and safe trips to Nazca, with free pickups and drop-offs. There are also free additional stops and tours on the way to Nazca which will make your trip much more worthwhile!
It is believed that the Nazca Lines were some form of religious worship associated with the availability of water for crop growth (Nazca is one of the driest places in the world). Whatever their reason, these lines are as fascinating as they are mysterious to both historians and tourists and were officially made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.The mysterious earth drawings are believed to be over 1500 years old. The lines vary in size from 30 metres to 200 meters and often take on the form of animals such as monkeys, lizards and sharks among others. The lines are best viewed from above, and there are many tour companies offering flights over the lines (the lines stretch for about 80km). These tours last up to 30 minutes long and will cost approximately $110, but you will get some wonderful pictures and the best view of the lines possible.Alternatively, there is a viewing tower that helps you see up to 3 of the lines from an elevated point. This stop is included in Peru Hop passes and makes for a good photo op for those hopsters who decide not to book a flight.
Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru and is an ideal place for those who love to combine nature with visits of historical towns. You can explore Arequipa´s rich colonial architectural gems with breathtaking nature just on the outskirts of the city. Colca Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world, lies literally just outside of Arequipa. As you travel towards Colca Canyon, you can stop at the Salina and Aguada Blanca national reserves. Arequipa is also renowned for its cuisine and restaurants so you will not be hungry after your outdoor extravaganza.
For all the architecture lovers, the city is also known as “La Ciudad Blanca” or the “White City” due to the beautiful white structures seen around the city built out of “sillar”, a white rock obtained from the numerous nearby volcanoes. The historical centre of the city is home to numerous religious convents, monasteries, catholic churches and museums. For this reason, the Historical Centre has been named a Cultural World Heritage Site by UNESCO. With all of this beauty and history, Arequipa is the perfect place to enjoy a walking tour.
The quickest way to reach Arequipa is by plane but this means you will miss seeing everything along the way. The airport does not receive international flights so this option is only available to those already in Peru. Upon arrival, take a taxi for a 30 minute ride to Plaza de Armas where most hotels and hostels are located.
Public buses from Lima take roughly 17 hours to reach Arequipa with no stops. Although you can find some comfortable buses, usually being the most expensive ones, it is a long journey and you will miss all of the things to see along the way.
Peru Hop has buses to Arequipa, as well. Our bus passes include stops where you can choose to hop off along the way to Arequipa. Our stops from Lima to Arequipa include Paracas, Huacachina and Nazca. If you take a Peru Hop bus From Cusco to Arequipa you can choose to stop and hop off in Puno.
There is a lot of tours and sightseeing options in Arequipa. The main attraction in the Arequipa area is the picturesque Colca Valley, an area of incredible beauty. It is one of the world’s deepest canyons, reaching a depth of 4,160 meters and it is home to the famous Andean Condor birds. The valley also has a vibrant indigenous culture including many examples of Inca agricultural terraces and irrigation systems, hot springs at La Calera as well as a range of activities from adventure sports to tourist homestays. A wide range of tours, treks and excursions leave Arequipa daily and we can facilitate or recommend tours to anybody on board, just simply contact us or ask your Peru Hop guide!
Interesting Facts About The Colca Canyon
For thousands of years, ancient civilizations flourished in this region around the highest positioned lake in the world. Today, Puno hosts the largest traditional festivities in Peru. The town is particularly famous for its annual celebration called the Fiesta de la Virgen de Candelaria, a month long festival full of unique and entertaining traditions. You can also explore the pre-Columbian cultures once living in the area such as Tiwanaku. There are also many special cultural and archeological gems around Puno dedicated to the unique Aymara culture.
There are three ways to get to Puno:
Located in Juliaca, the airport receives flights from Lima, Arequipa and Cusco, and is the fastest way to get to Puno. On arrival, take a taxi to the city which takes around 30 minutes. On public bus from Lima it takes roughly 18 hours to reach Puno with no stops.Peru Hop offers bus passes to Puno from Cusco, Lima, Arequipa or Bolivia. These bus passes are hop on hop off and include stops along the way.
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at over 3,830 meters above sea level! The lake connects Peru and Bolivia and the views here are spectacular. The city of Puno is the gateway to launch a visit out to the famous Floating Reed Islands of the Uros people. Lake Titicaca is, according to the tradition, home to the cosmos, the sun and moon, to the stars and the first humans. The Uros floating islands offer a unique cultural exchange in forms of home stays with the local communities. These are incredibly interesting manmade islands in the middle of the lake made entirely of Totora reed, on which the Uros people have managed to forge a subsistent lifestyle for centuries. With a full day tour or 2-day tour, you can sail further ahead to visit the remote islands of Taquile and Amantani. These islands were until recently closed to visitors. They retain many of the ancestral traditions and cultures and are renowned for their exquisite woven fabrics.
The Isla del Sol is located in the middle of Lake Titicaca. The only way to access the Isla del Sol is via Copacabana in Bolivia. Copacabana is 2 hours from Puno in Peru, which is the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca (floating islands). If you are crossing the border between Peru and Bolivia, you MUST pass through Puno and Copacabana as Lake Titicaca is shared between Peru and Bolivia. All Peru Hop and Bolivia Hop passes operate via Puno and Copacabana, making Isla del Sol very accessible. There is a lot of Inca related history behind the stunning Isla del Sol. According to Incan legend the principal God, Inti (the Sun God), lived on one of the islands on the Bolivian side of the lake, the Isla Del Sol (Island of the Sun). Legend goes that the island is where Inti created his son and daughter, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, the very first Incas who later travelled north to found Cusco at the heart of what would become the Inca Empire!
Cusco is one of the most beautiful towns in Latin America and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983. It is the only place where you can access the famous Machu Picchu and you can be sure that your trip will be one of the most unforgettable travel experiences of your life. The town is a unique blend of ancient cultural traditions, colonial architecture, and a modern vibrant buzz.
At Peru Hop we can confirm: everything that you have ever heard about Machu Picchu is true. This place is simply magnificent and the fact that this marvel of Inca engineering is listed as one of the World’s Wonders is no surprise. Machu Picchu is the most sought-after tourist site in the world. Therefore, tickets to Machu Picchu have been recently limited to ensure its protection and preservation.
Sacred Valley is a unique gem of Peru, nestled between Cusco and Machu Picchu. There is so much to see here, and we can guarantee you will fall in love with the place and its people. Experience the salt flats of Maras and get lost in beautiful landscapes of Moray and Urubamba where the life of the villages remain to be rooted in their ancient traditions to this day.
For a long time, Vinicunca or Rainbow Mountain was a hidden treasure of Peru known mostly to only locals. Throughout the years it has become one of the most popular additions to treks around Cusco for backpackers visiting Machu Picchu. According to the locals, the mountain was covered in glaciers that melted due to the global warming before it was uncovered to the world. The minerals together with the process of weathering created sandstones of beautiful yellow, maroon and turquoise colour, making the Rainbow mountain a true geological wonder. The mountain is physically challenging and you need to prepare to climb 5,818 m (17,000 feet) above sea level. Make sure you acclimatize with the altitude before you embark on this adventure!
Maras is a small town located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where ancient customs are still part of the everyday lives of the communities. The Maras salt ponds were built in 200 – 900 B.C. by Chanapata culture before the Incas and once upon a time, Maras used to supply the Inca empire with its unique salt of soft pink colour. There are around 5,000 salt ponds around Maras, each belonging to one family that takes care of the land. The ponds are 30 cm deep and around 5m squared big. An ancient spring water, Qoripujio, feeds the pond with water channels. Once the pond is full, keepers leave it to dry in the arid Andean weather until the spring water evaporates completely. After the pond is dried out, the process of scrapping the salt starts. While heading to the ponds, make sure to stop in the town of Maras itself, around 4km away from the salt ponds to explore the mixture of the colonial, ancient, and contemporary traditions of the Maras communities. If you like cycling, you can ride through the Sacred Valley in 5 hours and explore all its treasures. The astonishing scenery combined with still-breathing history makes Maras an incredible experience.
The Cordillera Blanca landscape is absolutely beautiful and sets the scene for one of the best trekking and hiking experience you can have in Peru. Laguna 69 is one of the most popular destinations for tourists. Based in Huaraz, it has crystal blue waters right in front of the snow-tipped Pisco Peak. The trek is around 3,800 – 4,600m high so prepare for the altitude, especially if you are coming from sea level. There are several other treks and tours with various physical difficulties, all equally fascinating.
If you want to experience something special that Peru has to offer in terms of its wildlife, and you are a nature/adventure lover, the Amazon is the right place for you. There is nothing as unique as cruising the mysterious waters of the Amazon and swimming with pink river dolphins, or exploring the amazing wildlife richness that the Amazonian rainforest has to offer you. Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado are the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon where you can fly to from Lima.
Chachapoyas is the capital of the Amazonas department and is the perfect place to stop and rest before the adventures awaiting you outside of the town. Chacha region (as it is referred to by the locals) is truly beautiful and rich with ancient archeological sites, including the impressive fortress of Kuélap, declared a Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. Chachapoyas and its surrounding region is a perfect blend of history, culture and natural beauty. Make sure to explore Gocta Waterfalls, the world´s third highest waterfall, and get fascinated by Karajia and Quiocta Cavern.
World-renowned Peruvian food is beyond delicious and deserves a separate section in our guide! What makes Peruvian cuisine special is the biodiversity of this incredible country. Biodiversity and altitude are the single most important elements that explain Peruvian culinary diversity: from the Pacific ocean to the Amazon rainforest, and the rise and fall of the Andes, all creates an uneven world where many diverse eco-systems can co-exist side by side. With incredibly rich biodiversity and traditional culinary techniques preserved and developed throughout history over thousands of years, Peruvian cuisine is entirely unique and distinctive. For a truly unique experience, Peru has preserved many traditional culinary communities across the country where you can explore ancient cooking techniques and experience food like you never have before. Peruvian cuisine has been in recent years rated as one of the best across the world, and at Peru Hop we can confirm – everything that you heard about Peruvian cuisine is true: it is beyond delicious!
For the ultimate local food experience, make sure you visit some of the traditional markets selling the rich choice of Peruvian fruits, special herbs, fresh juices made from fruits you may have never heard of, and traditional dishes for the market price. Markets are also a great place to observe the local life and soak in the local atmosphere. Here are the local mercados that we love the most:
If you want to make the most of the unique Peruvian ingredients, visit one of the many organic markets organized regularly all over the country. Here you can try the best coffee, quinoa, maca, chocolate, and everything else. Moreover, this way you will support local small-scale farmers. If you do not want to travel across Peru with heavy bags, you can also stock up on your Peruvian goodies when flying from Lima where there are numerous organic ferias selling authentic products from the Peruvian farmers.
Arguably, ceviche is the most loved Peruvian dish. Try Chez Wong restaurant tucked away in the district of La Victoria in Lima. This legendary ceviche chef uses oriental culinary influences, making his ceviche the most interesting culinary experience you can encounter. The best ceviche is often sold at the markets. For the ultimate fresh experience, try mercados in Lima or in other places on the coast.
For the best pisco, avoid commercial looking bars, and opt for the traditional ones, always serving the best pisco you can ever taste. You will especially love pisco sours. Trust us.
Try the grilled worms in the Amazon jungle. A guinea pig is a must, especially if you are on the way along the Andean region. Alpaca steaks are standard in most parts of Peru but not so easily found elsewhere so, if you are not a vegetarian, try them. They are truly delicious.
For a unique gourmet experience, book a table at Central, the famous restaurant located in the beautiful Miraflores district in Lima. Make sure you plan the visit in advance, though, as tables are booked for weeks, even months in advance.
Climate in Peru is as diverse as its landscape. A desert coastal area has a mild climate that is cloudy and misty in winter and warm in summer. Climate in the Andean region is varied and depends on altitude. The Amazonian jungle has a hot and humid climate throughout the year. Make sure you pack accordingly to where you will be traveling, but in general, we recommend to pack wisely for all types of weather conditions. After all, one never knows where your Peruvian adventure may take you!
The main currency in Peru is the Peruvian sole. Depending on the current exchange, 3.80-3.25 soles equals to approximately 1 Euro – 1 Dollar. Excluding the journey from your home destination to Peru, the country offers something for all travel budgets. The biggest cost is generally dedicated to the main touristic sites (such as Machu Picchu) and getting to places by plane, unless you prefer the cheaper – although more exciting – option of travelling on the bus.
International Airport Lima is the main international and domestic airport in Peru located in the neighbourhood of Callao, approximately 10km from Lima’s historical centre and 17km from Miraflores, Lima´s most popular neighbourhood by tourists and international travelers. There are several ATM machines and money exchange counters at the airport.
Airport Express Lima is the official airport bus service that connects the Jorge Chávez International Airport Lima with the neighbourhood of Miraflores, the most preferred destination in Lima by visitors. Airport Express Lima buses are new, designed with the highest comfort in mind, with generous luggage space, USB charges and free Wi-Fi onboard. There are several bus stops in Miraflores designed to leave you as close as possible to your hotel/hostel, with an onboard guide to assist you with any questions. The one way ticket costs $8 (S./20) and round trip $15 (S./35). The tickets are available at the official counters located inside of the airport or online. For more information visit their website
There are several official taxi services located inside, as well as unofficial taxis waiting outside of the airport. There are also smartphone taxi apps available, such as Uber, Beat and EasyTaxi. The average price for a taxi ride from the airport to other districts of Lima is around S./60. If you decide to take a taxi, never take an unofficial taxi off the street as this may not be a safe option.
Peru Hop is a unique, flexible Peruvian ¨hop on/hop off¨ bus tour company operating across southern Peru as well as in north-western Bolivia. The ¨hop on/hop off¨ concept allows passengers to choose from up to 52 different passes and discover Peru at their own pace, yet in a stress-free way. It is an ideal option for travellers wanting to travel from Lima to Cusco and stop on the way to discover other amazing places, such as Huacachina, Paracas, Nazca, Arequipa and Puno. The service also operates from Lima and Cusco to La Paz, stopping at Puno and the Uros Islands, as well as Lake Titicaca. The passes are valid for one year ensuring the flexibility of your travel. You can stop at any given destination for as long as you wish. The Peru Hop service caters for all types of travelers: from very young to elderly, from backpackers to families, couples or solo female travelers. The bus will always take you and pick you up directly from your hotel/hostel. All buses are monitored 24/7 with GPS systems, equipped with clean toilets and TVs, and a local English/Spanish-speaking guide assisting you throughout the journey. For more information check the Peru Hop website
These are the safest and most popular bus companies operating across cities and towns in Peru:
The following airlines operate within several cities and towns in Peru. Viva Air is the only low-cost airline company operating in the country. If you book a local flight with LATAM airline company, remember that the airline charges extra fees to non-Peruvian citizens.
Tune into the sounds of these musicians. If you are lucky, you can even see them while visiting Lima, for instance:
These are our favourites:
Get inspired and prepare for your trip with our selection of Peruvian movies. All of them are available to stream on Netflix!
If you are a traveller that is passionate about food and want to explore more about famous Peruvian cuisine and its pioneer, check out this documentary about the chef Gaston Acurio. Then go and visit his restaurant in Lima!
A beautiful documentary that everyone who travels to Peru should see. In this tense and beautifully shot movie, you are taken directly into the fire line between environmental and human rights activists in their fight against the corporations and governments exploiting their lands.
This documentary follows Nelida who lives in the Andes and communicates with ancient water spirits. She finds herself fighting mining companies that want to destroy her community´s lake.
“What are you looking for?”, “The reason why we are here”. Mixing live footage, animation, and the kind of rhetoric you would find in “a gringo goes on a spiritual quest in the Andes” movie, documentary Humano follows Argentine filmmaker Alan Stivelman as he seeks answers to life´s greatest questions.
To assist you in the planning of your trip and to give you more of a taste of what you can expect, we have designed more detailed city by city guides for every place where Peru Hop operates:
In addition, each guide includes specific tips and advice as well as a list of must do activities. While we have tried to do our best to describe these amazing places in Peru, our words simply cannot make them justice. You will discover this for yourself, maybe when you hop on one of our Peru Hop buses!