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The Escape from Lima
Ashley and I were feeling cooped up after being in Lima for the past two months. We needed an escape from Lima and to have a little adventure of our own. What is that saying? “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
It was time for us to leave this enchanting city and see what the rest of the country had to offer. We discovered Peru Hop, a small company based here in Lima, that could offer just what the doctor ordered – a 3 day escape from Lima.
Ashley and I woke early in the morning the day of our trip, sleepy-eyed and all as we are not really morning people. The Peru Hop bus was going to meet us right at 7 am at a bus stop a couple of blocks away from our apartment. Luckily we packed a couple of small bags the night before and just had to roll out of bed, freshen the breath, and out the door we stumbled.
We love these quick get aways as we don’t have to pack our huge bags but just a couple of day packs and IPoA tote bags to get us by. Ash and I are not fans of lugging luggage around especially early in the morning!
Right at 7 am, we saw a large bus with Peru Hop’s logo pull right up to us and opened its welcoming doors. We hopped right on and found a couple seats up front and were greeted by our tour guide who checked us in and gave us our daily itineraries. The bus kicked into gear and we were off for a long overdue vacation.
The bus was packed with a mix of travelers, anywhere from families to grungy backpackers, who occupied the other seats, all with the common interest of exploring a little more of Peru. It was early for everybody so the bus had a sleepy atmosphere as we were approaching our first stop.
Peru Hop kicked off our tour with a stop at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Cristo del Pacifico. Our bus climbed up the steep roads of the southern tip of Lima where we stopped on top of a hill that provided us a panoramic view of the beautiful city.
The view also opened our eyes to the heartache in Lima as well. The hill we were on overlooked the slums of Lima and showed how severe the poverty is in this city. Our tour guides taught us about the extreme separations between the wealthy and the poor in Lima and how over 70 percent of the city is impoverished and lives in slum conditions. Most travelers to Lima do not notice this as they stay in the wealthier areas of the city such as Miraflores and Barranco.
The history lessons of Lima and Peru continued as we got a little background on the rivalry between Chile and Peru especially when it comes to Pisco which is, according to our guides, Peruvian – no matter what the Chileans say. We also learned about the war between the two countries and the reason why the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier sits on top of this hill. The last thing our guides told us was the hilarious story about how their Cristo del Pacifico was built and how it was supposed to rival the Christ in Rio but due to funding or rather lack of it – it failed miserably. It also taught us that Peruvians have a seriously funny self-deprecating sense of humor!
After the quick history lesson and a stretching of the legs, we shuffled back onto the bus. Once we were back on we waved goodbye to the city of Lima as it shrank in the rearview mirror.
Ash and I travel by bus a lot and are used to crowded and uncomfortable bus trips but this bus, even though being filled up with excited travelers, we were extremely comfortable. I closed my eyes and I was out in a second to catch up on some zzz’s before our next stop. (Also, the armrests had USB chargers – how amazing is that? No need for our fancy solar powered charger here!)
Driving through Peru is fascinating as the landscape of this country is so unique. Along the coastal regions of Peru, you are in desert and arid climates. It is hot but has the beauty and the cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean just west of you. The bus rumbled through the hot scorched land with little pockets of civilization popping up here and there.
Hacienda San Jose
Just as people were starting to get restless legs our bus pulled up to Hacienda San Jose, a beautiful estate in the town of Chincha. This imposing estate dates back to the late 1600s and has now been converted into a hotel but underneath the surface, it has plenty of hidden skeletons. Underneath its property is a labyrinth of tunnels that was used to smuggle slaves from the ports into the house.
We all headed down the stairway that led us into a small dark dusty room that was the holding area for the slaves and the beginning of the tunnels. The claustrophobia of being underground started to kick in as we huddled around our tour guide. The primary reason for the tunnels was to smuggle and hide slaves that they did not want to be taxed on but it was built like a labyrinth to protect the house from pirates who might want to use the tunnels for robbery. The tunnels are so elaborate that people could get lost forever in them.
The tunnels were terrifying as we toured them. The only thing lighting our way was some flashlights and our cell phones. The deeper we went into the tunnels the smaller and tighter they got to the point where we needed to squat down to squeeze through the dark tunnels. Claustrophobia had completely set in and the hot dust that was kicked up caused us to cough every time we tried to take a full breath.
The tunnels were doing their job of making us feel trapped and uncomfortable as they did for so many slaves trapped in here for weeks. It was a very humbling experience and it while a relief to get back on the bus and escape those tunnels. We really think it is important to visit sights like this though, to not turn away from the atrocities of man but to learn from them so they may never be repeated. We are grateful for the experience and what it taught us about slavery in Peru.
We arrived in Paracas, a small beach town, in the early afternoon and were helped into our accommodations. After a quick shower and change Ashley and I were off to explore this small tourist beach town. We wandered around its streets and found a nice spot on the beach to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
The next morning our guides gathered us and it was time to head out onto that beautiful ocean. Our next adventure was to the Ballestas Islands which the Peruvians consider their version of the Galapagos. We filed onto a boat and took off skipping along the beautiful pristine water.
As we flew across the water our first sight was not the islands but the Paracas Candelabra which is a gigantic geoglyph from 200 BCE and is 595 feet tall. It is a spectacular carving that resembles the more famous Nazca lines.
After a quick photo opp with this ancient carving, we were off to the actual Ballestas Islands. These islands are protected nature reserve that hosts an abundance of sea life and birds. Amongst the wildlife are the ever cute lazy sea lions that will sing to you like you have never heard before. Penguins can also be found on these islands although they are much shyer than the rest of the animals. Dolphins during certain parts of the year will be found swimming right alongside your boat as well.
Oh, yea and millions of birds that give these islands a nice white coating (and possibly everyone in the boat) that is actually harvested by hand to use as fertilizer. Ash and I are animal lovers and we could have spent all day floating along these islands looking at all the beautiful creatures great and small.
Paracas National Reserve
After catching some rays out on the ocean it was time to get back on the bus and head to our next destinations, the Paracas National Reserve. This national reserve is South America’s largest desert reserve. These vast deserts are breathtaking stretches of land. The emptiness of this alien landscape, along with the dramatic cliffs overlooking the ocean makes for some spine-tingling views.
The emptiness and the feeling of loneliness you get in the desert really is magical and eerie all at the same time. It reminded us a lot of our time in Iceland actually.
Our trip to the desert though did not stop at this beautiful reserve as our bus was off to the only oasis in South America located in the dune town of Huacachina. Huacachina is a desert lovers’ dream and one of the coolest little towns that Ash and I have ever visited. Tucked amongst gargantuan dunes is this little resort town that surrounds a natural oasis. Huacachina is perfect for any traveler to come and enjoy a refreshing stop at the lagoon to reenergize themselves.
Ashley and I spent our first night climbing to the top of one of the dunes surrounding the town to sit and watch the sunset over the valley of sand. Even though this desert oasis is very touristy there was something magical about being amongst the mountains of sands and it made us not want to leave this slice of paradise.
Oases were always meant for the lost traveler, a place that brought hope amongst a vast hopelessness and that magic was still lingering around this town. As I crawled my way to the top I was greeted with a view of sand that I would never forget. Dunes stretch as far as the eyes can see with nothing but a horizon of sand. Ash and I just sat on top of these giants and enjoyed the stillness as the sun set.
The next morning we were up bright and early for some morning drinking. It was time to head out to see where Pisco is made and how it is made. Pisco is the national drink of Peru and can be found throughout the country. It would impossible to come to this country and not try pisco at least once.
*Learn How to Make a Perfect Pisco Sour with Our Video!
The Pisco tour, while a little cheezy, was still a fascinating look at how Pisco is made – from the stomping of the grapes to the fermentation into a dry wine and then its distillation into a full proof alcohol that will turn any night in Peru into an adventure.
After our tour and tasting of Pisco, it was back to the Huacachina where it was time to explore a little more of the endless dunes. This was the part of the trip I was looking forward to most and it did not let me down.
Time for Some Adrenaline
Ash and I strapped into the front seat of a 9 seater dune buggy and went out on an adrenaline filled adventure out in the dunes. These local drivers do not hold back as they gun it across the dunes giving you a rollercoaster of a ride like you have never experienced before. Launching ourselves over sand cliffs and down the steep faces of dunes we raced along until we reached our final destination. A series of dunes meant, for one thing, sandboarding.
If flying over and down dunes in a buggy was not fun enough sandboarding is the cherry on top for fun.
The drivers take you to the top of large 100, 200, 300-foot dunes that you fly down head first on sandboards. If you think you are athletic enough strap it on your feet and try to surf down these giant sand beasts. Although if you are like me you end up eating a bunch of sand trying to do this.
The first couple of dunes were just to give us a taste for it because the final two dunes are terrifying monsters that got our adrenaline pumping as we skipped down the sand. We had a couple of pro snowboarders on our tour and they were showing off to the crowd as they were trying to convert their skills on the snow to the sand.
After all the sand we could eat our driver strapped us back in our dune buggy to race us around the dunes for a little bit more fun. As the light began to disappear on us the drivers took us to the top of some dunes to give us a spectacular view of the sun dipping beyond the horizon.
Ash and I were exhausted but it was time to get back on the Peru Hop bus and head back to the enchanting city of Lima. You might not think it but sandboarding takes it out of you and as the bus bumped and rocked along the road back to Lima I drifted off to sleep dreaming of vast deserts, beautiful oceans, ancient symbols, curious sea life and all the wonderful adventures that Peru had to offer.
Ashley and I had an absolutely wonderful time with Peru Hop and it was the perfect 3 day escape from Lima for us. They made the trip so easy and relaxed as they took us to parts of Peru that we would have never made it to without them. Peru Hop has a lot of moving parts but their staff was there to make everything run so smoothly and for those looking for some adventure while in Peru we highly suggest this amazing company!
About Peru Hop
Peru Hop is a travel company based on the principle of the hop on hop off tourist bus but with a twist. Instead of a bus sticking to the borders of a single city and its monuments instead Peru Hop traverses the country and also pops into Bolivia and uses different cities and towns for the hop on and hop off points.
We reached out to Peru Hop to see if we could join them on their 3 day escape from Lima tour for $159 USD. This tour was a great option for us because we knew that we honestly couldn’t afford to do a trek through the whole country. (Machu Picchu we are coming for you one day!) The three-day tour travels from Lima to Paracas to Huacachina and then back to Lima.
What’s great about Peru Hop is that not only will they get you from one city to the next but included in the price of the trip is your accommodations* for the two nights (if you pick one of their tours). Along with the accommodations and transportation, they also have tours for you to partake in during your 3-day escape from Lima which is all included! You just need to feed yourself!
*Although to be honest, we wish we had booked our own place for Huacachina. The hostel they use, Casa de Arena, is a bit worn down and definitely a party hostel which isn’t us. This was the only slight downside though to an absolutely amazing trip.
One of the most unique concepts of Peru Hop is that it is not just a regular tourist bus. When on one of their tours, like the Escape from Lima Tour, if you would like to stay longer in one of the cities you can. Now the additional accommodation is on you but they will help you set it up. You can just pause your itinerary and you can join another Peru Hop bus later on when you so choose. They are all about allowing you to be flexible.
In addition to booking one of their tours, you can also use them as a hop on hop off bus throughout Peru and Bolivia. They have different itineraries and paths you can take depending on what you want to see and do. You can take the bus from Lima to Nazca to see the famous lines, or on to Arequipa, or to Cusco, or to Lake Titicaca, or even all the way to La Paz, Bolivia. Their online reservation system lets you choose when you want to depart your location and they even include some tours in most of the itineraries like visiting Hacienda San Jose or going to try some pisco!
The company’s sole purpose is to help “people discover the REAL Peru in a safe and stress free way. We missed a lot of places when we traveled to Peru but now, having lived here, we want to assure more people get to see Peru through the eyes of a Peruvian.”
As Peru Hop says…
Don’t be a typical tourist…Discover the real Peru
We did receive a discounted tour rate in exchange for this review. While we were hosted by Peru Hop this does not affect our opinion of the company. We really think these guys are great and will definitely be joining them next time we get back to Peru!
Heading to Peru soon? Don’t forget to buy travel insurance! Sure you may not use it but its always good to have. We recommend World Nomads which we have been using for years and have always made us feel secure as we travel around the world!
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