Lima | One day Itinerary in „Ciudad de Los Reyes”
Although we visited Peru for Machu Picchu and the Amazon, throughout our trip we discovered a beautiful country, full of history, traditions, and cultural diversity. Divided into desert coast, mountains, and jungle, it occupies one of the richest agricultural lands in South America. This is primarily reflected in local cuisine, Lima being known for its luxury restaurants that have been awarded Michelin stars.
What can we say about Peruvian gastronomy is that it is worth booking a plane ticket even just to try a Lomo Saltado and you will always return home happy. Also, if you are lucky enough to find somewhere a homemade Chicha Morada based on the traditional recipe, then you may even consider that you have come close to Peruvian hearts.
One day in Lima | What you can’t miss
Whether you visit Lima as a final destination or on your way to Cuzco, Machu Picchu, or Rainbow Mountain, book at least 3 days in this city. Walk only in safe areas, and remember that you are sharing this city with 10 000 000 other people. No matter how adventurous you are, maybe it is better to avoid public transportation. If you want to visit as many attractions as possible, find a tour organized by a local guide, especially if you wish to go to a “shanty town”. Do not forget that you are in a desert where it rains only a few times a year and you don’t leave before:
We landed in Lima after flying almost 7 hours from Galapagos Islands with a stopover in Guayaquil. Our itinerary in Peru included visiting Lima, Cuzco, Aguas Caliente, and the archaeological sites Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu. We chose a local agency to handle our reservations, and a guide accompanied us throughout our trip.
We spent 2 nights in Lima at Casa Andina Select in Miraflores district, about a 10-minutes walk from Costa Verde. And because Peru is the no. 1 culinary destination in the world, we could not imagine a day in its capital city without experiencing the famous cuisine. We attended a cooking class and in the afternoon we participated in a tour of the historic center of the city.
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. If we were to make a ranking of the most beautiful districts to spend time in Lima, they would be Miraflores, Barranco, and Central Lima.
Tips & Tricks
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 is the district of luxury hotels and restaurants, you can find reasonable accommodation facilities. 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 because of the colorful street art buildings. Dozens of murals are painted on buildings, walls, steps, giving it a bohemian air, highly appreciated by visitors. There are many museums, pubs, jazz bars where you can spend your time, and accommodation options can be found within a lower budget than in Miraflores.
Central Lima is the historic center, part of UNESCO Heritage. Whether you choose to stay here or not, you definitely must book a few hours to visit the catacombs below San Francisco Monastery, Plaza de Armas, or Plaza San Martin. Although over the years the city was repeatedly damaged by earthquakes, here you can admire old buildings and balconies where the architecture of the 1800s is still preserved.
24 hours in Lima – What to do first
Because Peru is known for its top cuisine, we choose to explore the Peruvian gastronomy through an authentic experience. We attended a cooking class that started with a shopping trip to the local market. The rest of the day we spent in a beautifully designed studio learning to prepare delicious Peruvian dishes. The experience was extraordinary because, besides the fact that we learned to cook traditional food, we also learned a lot about Peruvian culture and traditions. At the end of the class, we spent the afternoon visiting the city. The entire day was organized by Haku Tour, an NGO that helps the people living in Lima’s shanty towns.
Our favorite Guided Tours
A tour of the historic center
Our guides explained, with great enthusiasm, about history, architecture, art, politics, or football in Peru. In a few hours down the streets of a very busy city, we admired the architecture of colonial buildings and balconies that still stand after so many earthquakes. We ate empanadas, went down in the catacombs, and listened to so many stories about “Ciudad de Los Reyes”
Basílica y Convento de San Francisco
The construction of Saint Francisco Monastery begun in 1673 but was completed only in 1774. Despite the major earthquakes that struck the city, the building still preserves its original architecture. The interior is built with carved mahogany wood and the walls are decorated with hand-painted porcelain mosaic. The convent is a special place because of a very old library and underground catacombs, where although it is possible to visit, photography is forbidden. As it is arranged, the library seems to be an inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s stories, a magical place where the monks kept very old and valuable books written in Quechua.
Tips & Tricks
The catacombs under the monastery were used from the fifteenth century until 1808, as a burial place. Initially, only the monks were buried here, but later the church began to accept considerable donations from those who believed it was a great honor to be buried under the monastery. They were rediscovered in 1943 when more than 25.000 remains were found in the walls. According to history, the cemetery for ordinary people was actually a fountain outside the city. But, as the catacombs were getting crowded, the monks found a way to create more space. At night, they started to relocate in secret the older bones. Thus, no matter how much money the church received, all the remains would end up in the same common well.
Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas is the birthplace of Peru’s capital city. The main square is surrounded by the most important buildings in the city: Government Palace, Cathedral of Lima, Archbishop’s Palace of Lima, and Municipal Palace. Although this area is usually very crowded, we were lucky to arrive one day after some local demonstrations. The entire perimeter was fenced and the access prohibited. We could see stunning colonial architecture and heritage buildings that withstood time and earthquakes.
Plaza San Martin
The space was inaugurated in 1921, on the 100th anniversary of the Independence. In the centre of the square stands the statue of Argentinian general Jose de San Martin on his horse. On the base of the monument is Madre Patria, the symbolic mother of the country.
Tips & Tricks
The statue of Madre Patria has in particular a funny story behind it. It was ordered from Spain, with the instruction to have a crown of flames on its head. But in Spanish, the word “llama” have a double meaning. One refers to the animal and the other to the flame. The sculptor misunderstood the demand, so after a few months, Madre Patria arrived in Peru carrying a fluffy animal instead of flames on its head.