Architecture / Art / Peru / Travel

Before You Launch From Lima: 5 Faves


For most people, a trip to legendary Machu Picchu begins with a flight to the gateway city of Lima, capital of Peru. Guidebooks will try their best to convince you to skip Lima and hop on the next plane to Cusco … but they’re wrong.

With a population 9 million strong, it’s the poster child of polarity. Mansions and high-rises rub shoulders with shanties and Pre-Incan ruins.


Lima is a city of stunning contrasts. It’s built in a desert, yet its many parks and water features have earned it the affectionate nickname of the “Garden City.” Both politically and seismically volatile, Lima has faced serious challenges in its recent past – from the ravages of earthquakes to the struggles with the Shining Path.

“Positive first impressions are hard to come by in the midst of Lima’s coastal fog, belching buses and general air of big city chaos. If you reserve judgment for a day or two, however, you might find yourself falling for the so-called “City of Kings,” and there are certainly enough things to do in to warrant an extended stay.”  –Tony Dunnell, Guide


For the Intrepid Traveler, it’s a fascinating place to explore before launching your journey to Machu PicchuHere’s the list of our 5 Favorite things to do in Lima:


1. Stroll the Historic District taking in the classic architecture of the Plaza de Armas.


Then saunter another block to the beautiful Convento de San Francisco, where a detour to the catacombs will bring you face to face with artfully arranged stacks of bones from 75,000 bodies. Yes, seriously.


2. Visit the Museums and Galleries in the City Center and Bohemian Barranco. We enjoyed the Museo de la Nación, particularly their collection of folk art masks. However, I could definitely have passed on the photo exhibit of gruesome war atrocities on the top floor. But it seems we missed the superstar of museums, the stylish Museo Larco of pre-Columbian art, housed in a former mansion. One of their big draws is their Gallery of pre-Coumbian Huaco Erotic Pottery … and we’re not talkin’ PG! It’s on our list for the next trip.


3. Eat, Stroll, then Eat Some More. Limeños, the people of Lima, are passionate about their food, and nothing makes them happier than a nice, fresh ceviche – the national dish. If raw fish isn’t your thing, other choices are abundant. Trust me, you won’t go hungry.

Pisco Sour

And don’t forget the national drink, the pisco sour. Well actually, you won’t forget it.

Larcomar 2

4. Explore Miraflores and Larcomar. After seeing the Historic Disctict, you won’t believe how different Miraflores feels. Perched on the coastal cliffs with spectacular views, this stylish district boasts trendy Larcomar – a restaurant and shopping complex built into the cliffside below Miraflores.


We found it too rich for our blood, but the people watching was terrific. And at the base of the cliffs is El Malecón, a gorgeous seafront strip of parks where you can rent bikes and work off all that food.


5. The iconic Balconies of Lima are so incredible they deserve even more attention. So until tomorrow …

Peaceful Trails,

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like others in our Peru Series:

Mysterious Machu Picchu: City of Chosen Women or Royal Palace?
The Train,Terrain, and Rain at Machu Picchu
Ollantaytambo: A Living City of the Inca
Art: The Secret Language of the Andes
Cusco: Navel of the Inca World
Lima’s Major Domo
Lima’s Luscious Balconies: A Tale of Jealousy

Iglesia Merced

Photo Credits:
9. Plaza de Armas by MaSii  Wikimedia Commons
10. San Francisco Monastery by Herwig Reidlinger
12. Ceviche by HugoMon via Wikimedia Commons
13. Pisco Sour By Dtarazona via Wikimedia Commons

25 thoughts on “Before You Launch From Lima: 5 Faves

  1. I’m now craving cerviche and a pisco sour… has been too long!

    I’m glad that you’ve given Lima some deserved attention! I could actually imagine living there… like you say, it’s a city of contrasts, which makes it all the more fascinating. Good to see and read some reminders.

    Just in case you’re interested (you never know!) I wrote a few posts about the different faces of Lima whilst I was there, starting with 🙂

    • Wow Finola, What a body of work you have relating to Lima – and your writing is wonderful! I cracked up when you were talking about the Yummy Mummy in Starbucks. You so nailed it. Didn’t make it to the Thieves Market. Like you, we really liked the downtown area with its wonderful mix of everything – without the pretense. Thanks so much for your links. All the best, Terri

    • Hi Loni, I loved your post on “Lima Art and Design” – you covered it beautifully. I just found your “Scenes from Lima” – great photos. We missed the archaeological site, much to our dismay. Looks fascinating. Maybe if enough of us make the point, people will spend some time in Lima. ~Terri

    • Hi Suzanne, given all your travel experience I think you’ll feel right at home – great neighborhoods, dodgy areas, wonderful food, and tons to see and do! It has a very different feel from Cusco. ~Terri

  2. I SO agree! I actually loved Lima, especially some of what you just wrote about: the food, the catacombs, the architecture….it’s a city worth at least a day or two. I too wrote about Lima because I was surprised, after having been told by several that it should be skipped. Thanks for sharing your insights and pictures!

    • Thanks Laura, sounds like we are of like minds. I would love to read your posts but your link isn’t working (it says Could you send me the correct link so I can check them out? All the best, Terri

  3. A few years ago we had a trip planned for Peru and Ecuador when a family emergency changed our plans. It is still on our list and thanks to your post, we have much more to add to it. Have I told you how much I am enjoying your blog? 😉

    • Thanks LuAnn, for the nice compliment. I understand about family emergencies and trips postponed. A few years ago we planned a multiweek trip to Eastern Europe and had to cancel as well. Unfortunately, our plane tix and a couple of hotels were non-refundable. This is why travel writers recommend travel insurance, but somehow, we never seem to get that to work. I guess if you travel enough, this sort of things is just part of the deal. BTW, you will enjoy Peru, and I hope it works out for you soon. ~James

      • We also have lost the cost of plane tickets in the past due to no travel insurance so we know that pain. You two are a wealth of info. Thanks so much. 🙂

  4. Wonderful post! I’m playing catch up now on your blog so please bear with me! 🙂 I have to tell you what happened to me in Lima. It was in 2001, and my dad and I just landed at the International Airport, fetched a cab and were mugged, all within 45 minutes of being in the country. It was a terrible way to enter a new country and very frightening. They basically must have followed us from the airport on a scooter and then once we reached Miraflores where we were staying and hit a stop light the window to the cab shattered and my backpack was gone. It all happened so fast and in the dark but I was very horrified and never slept a wink that night. I was angry with myself because I had printed out in my suitcase a travel advisory from the US Govt website and it said that what happened to us has frequently happened!!!! I just hadn’t read it for awhile. Now ten years later, we always have someone from our hotel pick us up at the airport. I’m not sure if the cabbie was in on it or not. It can happen anywhere but was really scary. The good news is all they got was my makeup, hairbrush and tampons! Yet they did get my beloved travel journal which was heartbreaking. It was a good wake up call for me to be more aware and careful when I travel. 🙂 Nicole

    • What a scary story Nicole. I can just imagine how frightening that must have been. And it does sound like you were targeted. When we were in Lima, we stayed in town, but were very careful about where we went, and we always took taxis (we usually try to pick them up at the fanciest hotel around.) However, we also stayed in Miraflores and given the difference in the two places, I’m surprised that it happened there. Like you, we also ask the hotel to pick us up if possible, and also, we arrange for transport back to the airport through the hotel. We’ve traveled a lot and luckily, haven’t had any serious problems (except for the odd pickpocket attempt), but you never know. The good news is that you weren’t harmed and you’re still out there traveling. ~James

  5. I worked from Lima for a year as a tour guide, leaving Lima and arriving back there after touring the south and east for 21 days. Later I lived there, in Miraflores and worked as a chef. I must check out your other posts, because I also lived and worked for periods in Cusco (2x) Puno, Pisco/El Chaco and Zorritos in the north.


What do you think? We'd love to know!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s