After spending over six weeks in beautiful and warm Colombia, it was time to move on. Our next destination was Peru, a country with very different scenery and a lot colder climate than Colombia. Were we ready to face the cold? Simon was; me on the other hand, am I ever ready for the cold? Nope! But as we flew from Bogota to Lima, the views of the Peruvian landscape from the air made me forget about the tropical paradise that we’d left behind.
I became excited to see a new country and for the new adventures to come! The sight of all those mountains and the vast empty wilderness was so impressive from above. Not much later, we landed in Lima which would be the starting point for our 5 week trip to Peru.
Lima is the capital of Peru and it’s a big city, densely populated. A few things surprised us about Lima. Firstly, it doesn’t get much sunshine at all, unless you visit in summer. In the four days we were there, we only saw about 15 minutes of blue sky and apparently, we were very lucky! It felt strange to always have a veil of dark clouds over everything.
Another thing we noticed was the relatively high price of everything. Coming from Bogota, the Colombian capital, Lima felt quite a bit more expensive. I guess the prices reflect the fact that Peru is one of the most touristy countries in South America. We should have expected that.
While Lima was not our favourite city in South America, it’s still worth a visit because there are a few things that are totally worth doing. We stayed four days in Lima but you don’t need that long. This 48-hour itinerary covers everything we enjoyed the most in Lima.
Swim with the sea lions on Palomino Island
The absolute best thing to do in Lima is to go for a swim with the sea lions on Palomino Island. Mar Adentro organises daily morning boat trips to this island. I guarantee that it will be the highlight of your time in Lima. The tour departs from the Marina Club del Callao every morning at 10.30 am and takes approximately two and a half hours.
On the way to the sea lions, you will stop twice to check out colonies of guano birds and Humboldt penguins. But the best part is when you reach Palomino Island and jump into the sea with the sea lions.
One thing to note, if you do this in winter as we did, the water will be very cold. But it is totally worth it. After a few minutes of waiting, the sea lions slowly came to check us out. Some even sniffed our feet. It was incredible to be up so close to them without them being threatened by us at all. Seeing them thriving in their natural environment made me so happy. There are no sharks for them to worry about here! There were no sharks for us to worry about either which was quite comforting!
Enjoy a Peruvian Style Sandwich at La Lucha Sanguchería Criolla
You’ll be hungry after all that swimming, so catch an Uber back to Miraflores and head to La Lucha. La Lucha serves delicious Peruvian sandwiches made from roast beef, pork or chicken. Their sandwiches use artisanal bread and homemade sauces. Yum!
Explore Miraflores district
Miraflores is the most popular district for tourists to stay in. There is a lot to do in Miraflores. You can stroll along the beautiful boardwalk and admire the Pacific Ocean. You can hit the beach in summer and learn to surf or, if you’re braver then us, you can try paragliding!
But my favourite thing to do in Miraflores was to hang out in Kennedy Park (Cats Park) with the 50+ cats that live there. That’s right, this park is a home for many stray cats that are cared for by the Feline Protection Volunteer Group. This group feeds the cats daily and spays and neuters them to keep their numbers under control. They also find people willing to adopt them.
The cats spend their days lazing in the sun and enjoying tummy rubs from the many tourists and locals that pass through the park. I reckon that’s not a bad life!
Do some shopping in Larcomar
Larcomar is the nicest shopping centre in Lima. Not only does it have some good shopping but it also has some of the nicest views you’ll find in a shopping centre. It’s actually hard to shop without being constantly distracted by the amazing sea views! It’s also a nice place to eat because it has many great restaurants on site.
Dinner at Maido
If you are into fine dining and have some $$ to spare, Maido is the place for you. It’s one of the top 10 restaurants in the world, Maido offers a Nikkei cuisine which is a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cooking styles. The Nikkei cuisine began to develop in Peru about 100 years ago, with the arrival of many immigrants from Japan.
Maido is extra popular in Lima and you need to book well in advance to get a table. So, as soon as you know when you will be in Lima, book it! But if you can’t get a booking or if you can’t justify the cost, there are many other Nikkei-style restaurants in Lima that are not quite as pricey as Maido.
Take a free walking tour of the Centro Historico of Lima with Inkan Milky Way
Learn about Lima’s culture and history with a free walking tour. Free walking tours are always a great way to get acquainted with any city and Lima is no different. The morning tour starts at 11 am in front of La Merced Church. For around two and a half hours, they will take you to Plaza Mayor, the Presidential Palace, the Santo Domingo Church, the Rimac River and much more. Don’t forget to tip your guide.
Have a traditional Peruvian meal at El Cordano
El Cordano serves traditional Peruvian dishes such as Taco Taco (fried rice with beans and spices), Lomo Saltado (marinated strips of sirloin beef with onions, tomatoes and fries) and Causa Rellena (a Peruvian potato salad).
Take a walking tour of Barranco
Barranco is Lima’s most bohemian and arty district. Free Walking Tour Barranco runs a free walking tour daily where you can learn more about this funky neighbourhood. The tour highlights some of Barranco’s cool street art and explains the history of the district. You will visit Jade Rivera World, the gallery of a famous street artist and then walk across the Bridge of Sights where you can make a wish to improve your life. Their tours depart twice daily at 11 am or 4 pm and last about two hours. We recommend taking the afternoon tour so that afterwards, you can spend happy hour in one of Barranco’s many bars before heading for dinner at Canta Rana.
Eat Ceviche at Canta Rana, Barranco
While in Lima, you just have to try ceviche. The ceviche in Canta Rana is fresh and delicious. They have many different types of it, not just “Pescado” (fish). If you want to try a few of them, you can order a mixed ceviche. Be sure to wash down your ceviche with a Pisco Sour or two!
Note: This place is popular with locals and it can be tough to get a table at weekends without queuing.
Some night fun in Lima
Head to the Magic Circuit Water Show
The Magic Circuit Water Show is one of the best things to do in Lima at night. It’s more than just a park with some fountains. There are thirteen different water fountains in the park and, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the largest fountain complex in the world.
It’s quite fun to walk through the park at night. The fountains are lit up and their colours change in sync with the music playing in the background. The cost of entry is 4 soles and it is worth it!
Moving on from Lima
That’s it for Lima. Now it’s time to move on and explore the rest of Peru. If you are looking for an easy and safe way to get around the country, check out Peru Hop. Their hop-on-hop-off bus service might be pricier than taking local buses but you won’t have to worry about a thing. You can find out more about it here.
Where to stay in Lima?
Best on booking.com
Top reviewed: Quinta Miraflores Boutique Hotel or Ana Frank Hospedaje
Best location: Belma Boutique Bed and Breakfast or La Casona Azul
Good value: La Unsha Hostel or Miraflores Guest House – 569
If none of those are suitable, try using HotelsCombined to search across all of the major accommodation websites. We use it all the time.
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