Divided into three main geographic regions: coastal desert, mountain highland and tropical forest, Peru occupies one of the richest agricultural lands in South America. Thanks to its great cultural diversity, Peruvian cuisine is one of the most recognized worldwide, reflecting the country’s rich history and traditions. Once known as “Ciudad de Los Reyes” (the City of Kings), Lima is now considered the “gastronomic capital of Latin America” and a destination that belongs on every foodie’s bucket list. With so many tasty food tours that will allow you to discover its scenic coastline or stunning neighborhoods such as Barranco or Miraflores, you’ll never run out of reasons to visit the capital located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Tips&Tricks: Whether you visit Lima as a final destination or on your way to Cuzco, Machu Picchu, or the Amazon Rainforest, spend at least 3 full days in the city. If you travel alone, be aware that there are some areas you should avoid and remember that you are sharing this city with more than 10 million other people, and maybe it’s better to avoid public transportation. If you want to visit as many attractions as possible, plan your trip with the help of a local travel agent, especially if you wish to go to a “shanty town”.
Our 12-day itinerary in Peru included lots of day trips and activities to discover highlights and hidden gems as the fascinating Historic Centre of Lima, impressive Incan ruins in Cusco, local communities in Sacred Valley of the Incas, breathtaking views of Machu Picchu, and the amazing wildlife that live in the Amazon Rainforest.
Although we planned the itinerary ourselves rather then book a pre-made travel tour, we chose a local agency to handle our reservations, including local guides to accompany us throughout our trip. We spent two nights in Lima at Casa Andina Select, located in the residential district of Miraflores, about a 10-minutes walk from Costa Verde. And because Peru is one of the world’s best culinary destinations, we couldn’t imagine a day in Lima without experiencing its mouth-watering famous cuisine by attending a cooking class.
Where to stay in Lima (our favorite choices)
Where to spend time in the city?
Lima is divided into 43 districts, each acting as an independent administrative unit. Although is the third-largest city in the world located in a desert, some districts stand out through parks, trees on the sidewalks, or green areas, all artificially maintained. Two of the best areas to spend time in Lima are Miraflores and Barranco, but of course you should take time to also explore Central Lima.
Miraflores is definitely one of the safest districts, including at night. It has an excellent location near the ocean and Costa Verde. Is a very suitable area for walking or shopping, and although it’s the district of luxury hotels and restaurants, you can also find a variety of accommodation options to suit your taste and budget, from the traditional hotel rooms to holiday flats, Bed&Breakfast or hostels. With so many green areas and parks, Miraflores makes you instantly forget that you are in a desert.
Barranco or the artists’ district is particularly beautiful. Dozens of murals are painted on buildings, walls, steps, giving it a highly appreciated bohemian vibe. Barranco is home to several of Lima’s best museums as well as iconic pubs and jazz bars where you can spend your time. As for accommodation, you will find many options within a friendly-budget.
Central Lima was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Although Lima was repeatedly damaged by severe earthquakes, its historical centre gathers hundreds historical monuments and beautiful old colonial buildings. Whether you choose to stay in the heart of the city or not, you definitely must spend a few hours exploring the catacombs under the San Francisco Church and Monastery, Plaza de Armas, or Plaza San Martin.
5 Best Things to Do in Lima
Lima is an ideal city to spend at least 3 full days (we still regret that due to our flight itinerary we could only spend two), as there is so much to see, do and eat. Wandering on the streets of this bustling city, we admired the architecture of colonial buildings that still stand after so many earthquakes, ate empanadas, tasted fresh fruits we’ve never heard of before, went through the catacombs, and listened to so many stories our guide told us about “Ciudad de Los Reyes”.
Top Guided Tours and Activities (our favorite choices)
1. Learn how to cook traditional Peruvian food recipes
Because Lima is known for its top cuisine, taking a Peruvian cooking class is a great way to discover some of the most traditional recipes and learn how to recreate them at home. With the help of a chef, visit one of Lima’s best markets to pick out fresh and local ingredients to use in your cooking. Strolling around different stands you will get an overview of the country’s diverse regions, by learning (and tasting) about exotic fruits and vegetables you have never heard of before. Next, head back to your chef’s cooking studio and roll up your sleeves for your hands-on experience. Typically, in a 4-hour class you’ll learn at least three or four recipes such as Peru’s famous ceviche, lomo saltado, papa rellena, pastel de choclo, aji de gallina, and much more, depending on your culinary preferences.
2. Go through the catacombs under Basílica y Convento de San Francisco (San Francisco Church and Monastery)
With centuries-old catacombs decorated with human bones (containing an estimated 70,000 remains), the Church and Monastery of San Francisco is a must-see attraction in Lima. The building was consecrated in 1673, though its construction was completed in 1774, after being rebuilt several times over the years following major earthquakes that struck the city. The monumental complex stands out for its beautiful Baroque-style architecture with amazing realistic mahogany wood carvings and walls decorated with hand-painted porcelain mosaic. The convent also houses a impressive library where the monks keep very old and valuable books written in Quechua, the language of the Incas.
3. Discover the city's historic centre on a half-day walking tour
A walking tour is the best way to explore the spectacular sights of Lima’s excellently preserved historic centre. Plaza de Armas, also known as Plaza Major is the birthplace of “the City of Kings” in 1535 and Lima’s first public square. Now surrounded by the most important buildings in the city: Government Palace, Cathedral of Lima, Archbishop’s Palace of Lima and Municipal Palace, this is the place where Peru was declared a Republic in 1821. In the center of the Plaza, you can marvel at the oldest fountain made in Peru.
4. Enjoy a history lesson in Plaza San Martin
Inaugurated in 1921 in honor of the first centenary of Peru’s independence, Plaza San Martin is one of the largest and most beautiful squares in Lima. Its main monument is dedicated to the Argentinian General Jose de San Martin, a key leader for the struggle of independence in Southern America.
5. Stroll through Jiron del Union Pathway
Linking Plaza de Armas with Plaza San Martin, this long pedestrian always bustling street is lined with plenty of boutiques, restaurants, historical houses and wooden balconies. Among the city’s historic landmarks to be found in the downtown area is the 16th-century Cathedral of La Merced, designed in the Baroque style known as Churrigueresque.