Peru’s capital is a complete contrast to the spectacular natural beauty that the country has to offer. Loud, chaotic and modern, many tourists only pass through Lima on their way to Peru’s more well-known highlights.
However, this rapidly developing, welcoming, and sometimes intimidating city has a lot to offer. Here are five suggestions for a day discovering cosmopolitan and ancient Peru in the capital…
1. Explore the Historic Centre
Although most visitors to Lima base themselves in tourist friendly Miraflores, a visit to Limacentro is a must. Take a guided tour with Llama Travel, or visit by yourself. Start in the plaza de armas (main square) from where you can see the governmental palace, cathedral and examples of colonial architecture. Just one block away is the church and monastery of San Francisco. The catacombs beneath the church used to act as a city cemetery and are still filled with a macabre collection of bones and skulls arranged in geometric patterns.
If you time your visit to the historic centre well, you may be lucky enough to see the daily changing of the guard ceremony outside the presidential palace. The palace guards put on an impressive show, performing choreographed marches around the plaza de armas accompanied by the presidential band.
2. Visit Barranco
Barranco is the arty, bohemian district of Lima, popular with the city’s artists and musicians. Many of the buildings in Barranco used to be summer houses for Lima’s aristocracy, and have now been converted into bars and restaurants. By day, it is a great place to eat ceviche, the Peruvian delicacy made from raw fish marinated in lime juice, or visit one of the small art museums. By night, enjoy a pisco sour in a bar or peña, which host live music shows most nights of the week. Most of the best eateries can be found near Barranco’s central square, or around the Bajada de los Banos, an attractive walkway running down to the sea.
3. See the ‘Magic Water Circuit’
Lima’s water show held in the Parque Reserva from Wednesday to Sunday is extremely popular with the locals, and not particularly well known amongst tourists passing through the capital. Go after dark when the large circuit of fountains and water features are illuminated by multi-coloured lights, culminating in a laser light show set to traditional Andean music. The displays are worth seeing and make for a fun evening out; the excitement of Peruvian children (and adults) running in and out of the fountains is catching, and you will probably come away soaking wet after joining in yourself.
4. Learn about Peru’s ancient history and cultures at the Larco Museum
Limais the perfect place to learn more aboutPeru’s cultural history before travelling to the northern coast or highlands. The Museo Larco is one of the best museums in the city, with permanent exhibitions including textiles, gold, jewellery, pottery and ceramics heralding from various ancient pre-colonial cultures. The museum also promotes restoration, working to preserve the treasures of ancientPeru. General admission is S/.30 (discount of 30% for Llama Travel customers) and the museum is open daily from 9am until 6pm. It is located in the Pueblo Libre district of Lima so it is probably easiest to take a taxi from Miraflores.
5. Spend half a day at the Pachacamac ruins
The archaeological site of Pachacamac is situated around 40km south of central Lima and was an important ceremonial centre in pre-Inca and Inca times. Several large pyramids remain and although the adobe structures cannot be compared with Inca ruins in the highlands ofPeru, they have a fascinating history. It is possible to climb some of the highest structures, which offer great views of the coast and surrounding countryside. It is possible to arrange a taxi from Miraflores to Pachacamac for a reasonable price, or you can ask Llama Travel’s reps to help arrange a guided tour.