Many people skip Lima in a rush to get to Machu Picchu but this city has a great feel, great sights and amazing food. Here’s why you should stop by Lima.
A common theme amongst backpackers is missing the capitals or big cities of Latin America. Big cities tend to get tarnished with safety considerations and a lack of culture. In our opinion, they are great places to experience modern culture and see how people really live. They are also refreshing before heading off to check out your 500th waterfall or culturally significant hotspot. Mexico City, Panama City and Bogota proved that cities can be some of the best travel destinations. Lima is no exception!
Travelling big cities requires a base which is well positioned and encourages you to get out and explore. While Miraflores is a bit touristy and fairly pricey, we loved the proximity to the coast and sights within walking distant. There is good shopping, nice eateries and its sparsely spread out. Here’s some great highlights to check out in Miraflores:
Miraflores boardwalk: head towards the coast and you’ll soon join the board walk. Lima is often hazy so this walk is best done on a clear day. Enjoy the artwork and beautiful views from Parque del Amor down the coastline or become one of those who enjoy a birds eye view while paragliding. Nearby is the outdoor mall of Larcoma. Its not overly large but is enjoyable and has a range of eateries.
Huaca Pucllana Ruins is an easy 20 minute walk from Parque Kennedy and quite distinct from many other ruins in Latin America. The ruins resemble clay stacked bricks which stagger up to form pyramid like structures. Note that the ruins are closed on Tuesdays. The ruins are open Wednesday – Monday 9am-5pm and must be viewed with a compulsory guided tour. Entrance is 5 soles for students, 12 soles adults.
Parque Kennedy: Although not a large or overly standout park, you’ll almost certainly stumble upon it. The park is well kept with Parroquia Virgen Milagrosa standing to the front. Interestingly, the park is also overrun with stray cats which makes a change from the abundance of stray dogs in Latin America.
Miraflores is served by an excellent metro system that gives you the opportunity to explore other parts of the city easily. If you’ve only got a few days we would recommend checking out the Centro Historico area surrounding Plaza de Armas/ Plaza Mayo:
Cathedral of Lima and Palacio Arzobispal de Lima: There are seperate pricey entrance fees to these amazing buildings (30 soles) however they do a double pass for a lower price with reduced student rates. If you only have the funds to do one building we would suggest the Cathedral of Lima. The Cathedral is one of the larger ones in South America and includes beautiful ceilings, art hallways and artefacts.
Plaza de Armas/ Plaza Mayo: This large square sits outside the Cathedral of Lima and the architectural setup gives it an almost symmetrical appearance.
Palacio de Gobinero (Presidential Palace): sits directly behind Plaza de Armas. Restricted tours are available however its probably easier to just view this palace from the outside, taking in the changing of the guard at 12 midday.
Churches: Centro Historico boasts a huge amount of churches around Plaza de Armas. All are within easy walking distance and you’ll likely stumble across some smaller squares and craft markets along the way. Many have entrance fees however we enjoyed most from outside. Inglesia La Soledad, Inglesia de La Mercedand Inglesia de San Pedro are worth a visit.
China Town (Barrio Chino) and the Central Markets (Mercado Central) are both within a few hundred metres of each other. For us, Lima’s China Town was not overly worth visiting. There are a few Chinese restaurants and a Chinese gateway to welcome you. Otherwise most shops are similar to that found in other areas of Lima. We did however enjoy the Central Markets which has a large range of the usual goods, along with a surprisingly good selection of cake and cupcake making materials.
Its worth mentioning that Lima has a huge range of acclaimed restaurants. This includes michelin star and summum awarded restaurants. We’re not sure any backpackers budget will stretch to this but nonetheless, we’re sure you won’t find it hard to find a good bite to eat in Lima. Lima is the home of ceviche – we enjoyed this meal, along with Lomo Saltado, Aji de Gallina, Pisco Sours and Suspire de Limena from Mamma Olla (Calle Tarata 248 Miraflores). Pricey for backpackers at 168 soles (between 2 people) however well worth it given the delicious food and humorous waiters.
Che Lagarto. US$9 dorm bed in 18 bed dorm. Breakfast of cereal, toast, juice, tea, coffee and fruit included. A small but decent kitchen. There’s a definite bulk processing atmosphere to this hostel but its a good option if its high season as there are large dorm rooms.
Hostel Mana Lima. We moved on quickly from Hostel Mana Lima. Not because we didn’t like the place but because the kitchen wasn’t sufficient to easily cook meals in. A good option though if you’re not bothered with having to eat out all the time.
Getting there from Bogota/ Leticia/ Iquitos: check out our Amazon Slow Boat blog for an adventurous way to border cross into Peru.
Getting to and from the airport: If you arrive late at night a taxi from the airport to Miraflores will cost 55 soles from an approved stand at the far right of the terminal exit. 40 minutes to Miraflores.
Getting away to Huacachina:
• Catch metro to Mexico subway station (S2.50)
• Locate the Peru Bus Terminal to the right of the station along the main highway. Buses to Huacachina take 4 hours 30 mins and cost between S28-33 per person depending on class and speed of bus.
• The bus trip is pleasant and has good views of the coast. Buses arrive for Huacachina arrive in the nearby city of Ica. Taxis from Ica to Huacachina take around 10 minutes. Taxi prices should be haggled but stick to licensed taxis for safety in this area.
• Theft is an issue on the buses if you are not cautious. We were told by the bus boy several times not to put our day bag in the overhead locker or on the floor. Keep them on your lap. Our large luggage was safe in the storage below the bus.
• Supermarket: Wong. Calle Augusto Angulo #130. Well stocked, high end supermarket.