Until several years ago, many travellers visiting Peru would often use Lima as their point of entry only, and rush to get away from the city. Now though, Lima is drawing in visitors with its interesting architecture and trendy neighborhoods. With a population of 11 million, it is certainly not a relaxing destination, however it is worth taking 2 or 3 days in Lima to appreciate what the city has to offer. Below is what we did in 3 days in Lima, and at the end of the post you will find exactly what we spent. You could easily condense this to 2 full days.
Where to stay in Lima?
Most tourists choose to stay in the Miraflores or Barranco districts. In this area you will find backpacker hostels, 5 start hotels, and everything between! We spent a wonderful 3 nights at Wasi Independencia, a small guesthouse with friendly staff and a homely feel. Owner Cecilia is super friendly, rooms modern and clean, and breakfast was lovely. I was pleasantly surprised with how clean, modern and safe these areas feel, and there is an obvious security presence on the streets. We arrived into the International airport late at night, and had a taxi organised with our hostel. There is the very highly rated Official Airport Express Bus which offers several drop off spots around Miraflores and costs only 8 usd. Check the website for times and tickets.
Having arrived late at night, we had a lazy morning, and ate breakfast late. After grabbing a map, we set off on a walk around the area with some pointers from Cecilia. First stop was Parque Kennedy, sometimes referred to as Parque Central. There are many beautifully manicured parks in Lima, but this one was my favourite for a particular reason – Cats! As you wander through the park, which is a meeting point for many locals and tourists alike, you will likely see many cats lounging in the flower beds. The park is a safe haven for stray cats, with vets visiting regularly and locals feeding them. These cats can also be adopted! In the park you will find the Virgin Milagrosa Church, which is worth a look inside. Fringing the park you will find several upscale restaurants and coffee shops. There are plenty of street vendors around too if you fancy trying some churros or picarones. The station for the sightseeing Mirabus is also close.
We then continued towards the coast, where we found the second most visited site in Lima – a shopping mall called Larcomar. A western style shopping mall built onto the cliff side, Larcomar is probably nothing special to most tourists, however it is full of locals at all times. Nothing of interest to us there, apart from the very cute statue of Paddington Bear nearby! Did you know he came from “deepest darkest Peru”?!
We walked north along the cliff tops, admiring the parks along the way. There are only a few places where you can get down off the cliff top to the beach below. When I saw beach, don’t envision long stretches of golden sand though, it is dark rocks. We found some very steep steps down, and just wanted to check out the beach area. There wasn’t actually much to see apart from surfers, and it was a long walk back up the steps!
Later, we went back into the main streets of Miraflores, had some lunch, and then went in search of the market. Near the Ricardo Palma metro station you will find a local market selling fruits, fish and spices. There are several local places to eat on the next street too. We were tired from our night and had walked over 12km by this point. We stopped at a supermarket to grab some things for dinner. Vincent was shocked by how expensive food was (unsurprising, having just visited Canada I can tell you they have cheap groceries), but I found it cheap compared to the UK.
After another quick walk through the “cat park”, we waited for the free walking tour to start. Inkan Milky Way run a free walking tour of downtown Lima everyday. The meeting point is at Calle Schell, right at the southern end of Park Kennedy, at 10am. Our guide was the very friendly Elvis, who took us on the metro to the downtown area. It was a large group, and would be a great way to meet people if you travel solo. Elvis showed us around several churches and the main square, where you will see the Presidential Palace. He explains the history of many buildings in the area, and also shares some really interesting facts about the history of Peru. The whole tour lasts around 3 hours, and Elvis is happy to answer any questions. After the tour Elvis leaves you at a restaurant that he recommends, Gordon Blue. Usually I am pretty sceptical of these kind of recommendations, however the menu looked ok and the place was busy with locals so we gave it a shot. We ended up with a 3 course lunch, Pisco sour and glass of iced tea for 12 soles each, which is pretty remarkable! Please be sure to tip your guide for the walking tour, as Elvis obviously has a lot of passion for this job. We took a little wander after lunch, and checked out Museo del Banco Central de Reserva del Peru, which was free to enter and has several artefacts and paintings. After that, it was back to Miraflores, where we headed down to the sea front with an ice cream to watch the sunset.
We popped over to Lima Bike Rental and Tours at 9.30am, which was just a 5 minute walk from our guesthouse. Here we were greeted by the lovely Katherin, who set us up with a bicycle, helmet and bottle of water. They offer a few guided cycling tours, as well as the option of just renting a bike and going alone. We had chosen to do the “Lovely Barranco” tour. Now, you may be thinking that cycling around a city as hectic as Lima may be a little terrifying, however our guide Ronnie made us feel super safe. There are well marked cycle paths all around Miraflores and Barranco, and Ronnie is an expert at getting you across roads! The tour lasts around 3 hours and is fairly easy as it is mostly flat. We rode along the sea front cliffs and even spotted dolphins. Ronnie stopped every so often to explain certain things to us and was happy to answer questions. In the wonderfully colourful and hip neighbourhood of Barranco, we stopped by Las Vecinas, a wonderfully quaint café, for a drink included in the tour. Make sure you check out the bathroom!
After the tour we grabbed some lunch back at our guesthouse, before heading to nearby Huaca Pucllana. This pyramid is right in the middle of Miraflores, and is a must visit for those interested in history. Entrance is 15 soles (7.50 for students, and they did not actually ask to see our cards), and included is a guide. You cannot just walk around alone, which is understandable when you realise they are trying to preserve this ancient site. The guided talk takes you around the site and lasts around 1 hour. It is certainly interesting when you realise you are stood on a structure built over 1500 years ago. You are standing under the sun the whole time, so be prepared to protect your skin.
Helpful hints for Lima
We used uber a couple of times as I hate haggling with taxi drivers! When we left to go to the Cruz Del Sur station, uber and Google maps was predicting it to be a 20 minute journey. In reality it was nearly an hour and we were minutes away from missing our bus to Huacachina. So don’t underestimate how crazy the traffic in Lima can be.
The first day was around 20 degrees and pretty over cast. That didn’t stop us getting sun burned though! Don’t let the smog in the air fool you, the sun can still get to you so wear sunscreen.
I recently got a Revolut card and account and can tell you, so far I love it! Not sponsored in any way, I just think it is great for travelling. There are no fees from their end, and so far in Peru we have always found ATMs that don’t charge. You can easily top the card up, and the app helps you keep track of your spending.
Miraflores and Barranco feel very safe. The historic downtown is busier but also feels safe, however our guide for the free walking tour warned us that the area over the river from the historic centre is known for pickpockets.
Another word on safety – in Lima and so far in Peru as a whole, I have never felt unsafe. In the airport, bus stations and public transport no one has done more than try and sell us something. Have heard reports of people being robbed or taxi windows being smashed at stop lighting Lima. Not to say these things don’t happen, but I have yet to meet anyone that has had a personal bad experience. By that I mean, I am always hearing “This guy last week told me a girl in his dorm was robbed” or “I overheard some tourists on a bus saying …”
Budget for 3 days in Lima
For full disclosure, we were offered discounts on accommodation and activities, however all view are my own. Below I have added the original price.
Arrival – 192 soles
Day 1 – 207 soles
Day 2 – 249.50
Waking tour tip 20
Day 3 – 222 soles
Bike tour 170
Ice cream 16
So, as a couple we spent 870.5 soles, equalling 435.25 per person for the 3 days.
This is just to give you a general idea, and whichever accommodation and activities you choose to do are going to affect your budget, but hopefully this helps!