Many coming to Peru find themselves in the capital city of Lima as a stopover city on the way to somewhere else–namely Cusco and Machu Picchu–but few see it as much more than that. I’ve been told by some that Lima isn’t worth seeing at all, and to spend as little time here as possible. I would disagree with this outlook, and passionately suggest making the most of every moment you spend in Lima.
In the oddly overcast (yet never rainy) “City of Kings,” there is much to see. While we wish we had stayed in Lima a little longer, I think that even 1-2 days here will give you a good lay of the land. Here’s a recap of our whirlwind 24 hours in Lima:
MORNING – Arrive in Lima, Check out Miraflores (Parque Kennedy, Huaca Pucllana)
We landed in Lima from Los Angeles on a redeye flight that got us in around 8:00am. We hopped in a taxi from the airport (make sure you ask for one from an airport-associated counter so that you know it’s legitimate) and arrived at our hotel: the Hilton Lima Miraflores. As it was too early for us to check in, we dropped off our bags and freshened up in the hotel bathroom before walking through Parque Kennedy (and meeting some cute local kitties) on our way to Huaca Pucllana.
Pucllana Temple is a historic site that is constantly being renovated. General admission to this site is a mere 15 soles ($4.50-ish USD) or 7.5 soles ($2.50-ish USD) if you still have your student ID. Not only does this cover the entrance fee, but it also includes a guided tour in either English or Spanish! We were shocked when we were ushered along on a tour with a guide who explained the historical significance of the temple, and shared fascinating details about the sacrifices and culture of the time.
In addition to the ruins themselves, the site contains some indigenous plants and farm animals as well. Our first exposure to the pre-Incan Peruvian Inca Orchid dog was here, and we were amused and bewildered by the hairless little cuties.
Nestled in the middle of apartment buildings, Huaca Pucllana is incredibly interesting, informative and unique adobe pyramid and is 100% worth checking out while you’re in Lima.
MIDDAY – Miraflores Continued (Lighthouse, Larcomar, Lunch, Hotel)
After you’re done at Huaca Pucllana, take a 15-20 minute stroll over to the Miraflores’ La Marina Lighthouse. The nautical wonder in the midst of a green park will instill a feeling of peace in you, and the bluffs overlooking the ocean are akin to what you’d see in Santa Monica.
From the lighthouse, we walked over to Parque del Amor and marveled at the mosaic work while feeling reminded of Parc Güell in Barcelona.
We continued onto Larcomar, an upscale Miraflores mall carved into the side of the cliffs. By now, it was around 1:00pm and had become quite hungry. We stopped in a restaurant called Popular de aquí y de allá, and shared a delicious ossobuco and potato dish, as well as ceviche and lomo saltado. A great, relaxing first meal in Lima.
We started the walk back to our hotel at this point, and stopped a couple times to watch the paragliders flying above.
When we reached out hotel, they had a room ready for us and we went up to the rooftop pool to relax for a bit. Looking out at the beautiful view of Miraflores and the ocean made our day, and I would highly recommend staying at the Hilton Lima Miraflores.
AFTERNOON – Historic Center of Lima, Plaza de Armas
After we were done at the pool, we changed again and headed out to the Historic Center of Lima—Plaza de Armas de Lima. We were blown away by beautiful architecture and vivid colors. The hustle and bustle of the city center reminded me quite a bit of Shanghai. Our kind taxi driver spoke into his phone via a Google Translate app to tell us about Lima’s history as he drove us.
We wandered around and watched the sunset over the plaza, and grabbed coffee at a cute street side café called Urqu Coffee Shop. My husband bought a beanie from a street vendor. We didn’t purchase many souvenirs in Lima as we only had carry-ons and were trying to travel light, but I would highly recommend purchasing souvenirs in Lima as opposed to Cusco or Aguas Calientes, as it will be cheaper.
After dark, we walked to a nearby hotel and flagged a taxicab to take us back to Miraflores. We had been cautioned by many people not to stay in the main square after dark, so we did our best to be aware of our surroundings and quick to leave once the sun set.
Once back in Miraflores, we ate dinner at an affordable but tasty chain restaurant called Papacho’s, where we ate some yummy fried rice and burger dishes and tried cocktails made with pisco and chicha morada.
After dinner, we wandered back to our hotel. We would have liked to make it to Parque de la Reserva (the Magic Water Circuit) or the Barranco district south of Miraflores, but I think you’d really have to be here for two days to accomplish those as well and still enjoy everything. Exhausted yet happy from our full day, we knocked out until 5:00am, when we had to take a car back to the airport to catch our flight to Cusco.
Colorful, busy and filled with both kind people and delicious food. Lima sometimes gets a bad rap as an unwanted—but mandatory—stop on the way to Machu Picchu. However, I think you’re really doing yourself a disservice if you don’t give this beautiful city a chance. When I think back on our time in Peru, Lima is the first place I think of that I eagerly would like to return to. See it for yourself, and decide how it makes you feel once you’re here!
LIMA TRAVEL TIPS
Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua, some English
Transportation: Lima is an odd city in that it doesn’t have any underground metro system, and therefore, traffic is horrendous. There are some buses that go to and fro, but very little train transit. We found taxis easy enough to take, but were warned by many people against doing this. You can always have your hotel book cars for you, or you can take Uber as well.
Food: Ceviche and Lomo Saltado, of course! If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try cuy (guinea pig) or alpaca (we did not try either of these). If you would like to try a local libation, you naturally must try a pisco sour or chicha morada (Peruvian purple corn wine).
Safety/Where to Stay: We never felt threatened for our safety in Lima. However, like in any big city, we used our discretion and tried to be as cognizant of our surroundings as possible. Miraflores is known as a safer part of Lima, which is why we chose to stay in this area. And we’ve been told that in particular, the area surrounding Lima’s main square can be quite dangerous.