Lima is known for many things, perhaps best as the gastronomic capital city of South America. Given some advance warning, you can try to get reservations at some of the hottest foodie destinations anywhere. I flew into Lima just one day in advance of meeting my Global Builders team, 15 volunteers who would be building houses with me and The Fuller Center for Housing. Afterwards I’d fly to Cusco to hike the Inca Trail with a few teammates.
Without a lot of time to get to know this enchanting seaside city, I could only check a few items off my list. Guess that means I’ll have to come again! Here are a few highlights that I highly recommend and the ones I would have done if I’d had more time.
Prior to Arriving in Peru
If you are arriving in Lima by air, here are a few pro tips. At the time of my arrival, September 2021, everyone entering Peru was required to present a negative Covid-19 test result to fly and to enter the country, but no vaccination was required. We were also required to fill out an online health affidavit form for the Peruvian government. These are time sensitive items, so you need to be sure you are within the required window.
While in Peru
We we required to wear a mask when flying from North America, but in the terminals in Peru and on domestic flights within Peru two masks were required. On a train ride double masks and a face shield, which we purchased on site, were required!
From the airport I recommend using Taxi Green. After you go through immigration and customs, you will see options for rental cars and taxis. On the left you will see a sign for Taxi Green. They speak English. It should cost about 40 soles. I pre-arranged a pickup with my hostel so that my driver would be waiting for me for my evening arrival. You can also use Uber, but taxis are plentiful and inexpensive. Make sure you negotiate the rate for your destination before you hop in because cabs are typically not metered. We had no trouble at all.]
[PRO TIP: BEFORE you leave the airport, get soles, Peru’s currency from a money change or ATM, which offers the best rates. Don’t try to head out into the city, get a cab or do anything and expect you can pay with credit, or worse, your home country’s currency.]
- BE SURE YOU CHECK THE ENTRY REQUIREMENTS PRIOR TO YOUR TRIP AS THEY CHANGE FREQUENTLY.
- BRING PAPER COPIES OF YOUR PAPERWORK.
- PURCHASE TRAVEL INSURANCE THAT WILL COVER YOU IN THE EVENT YOU CONTRACT COVID-19 IN COUNTRY.
- IT HELPS TO SPEAK AT LEAST BASIC SPANISH. BRUSH UP IF YOU DON’T KNOW ANY!
Where to stay?
Because my time was short, I chose to find accommodations in the one neighborhood that I really wanted to explore above all others, Barranco. It’s got a classically bohemian vibe, is very walkable and safe to explore alone or with a few friends. I chose to stay in the Kokopelli Hostel, well located and easy on the budget. I found the walls of this grand old casona turned boutique hostel to be thin, so bring good earplugs if noise bothers you.
What to eat and drink?
Three things you gotta try: Ceviche, Peruvian Chicken and Pisco. I don’t even normally eat chicken or seafood, but I made an exception to have a few bites of some of the world’s greatest tastes of each.
There’s a longstanding dual between Peru and Chile for best pisco, both claiming their pisco sours are THE best. The Peruvian version seems to me to be heavy on the egg white, so if that’s not your thing you might perceive them a bit, slimy, shall we say. Still, pisco is a wonderful spirit should you choose to imbibe. Check out the awesome Ayahuasca Restobar in Barranco for drinks.
What to see?
PLAZA DE ARMAS aka “PLAZA MAYOR” [City Center]
The beating heart of Lima’s historical center, the foundation of this grand old plaza was laid in 1535 and still features many important architectural monuments and buildings including the Archbishop’s Palace with its elegant balconies, the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral, and the Government Palace, which was the first palace built in the country. Visit the Government Palace at noon to see the traditional changing of the guard, complete with traditional music and the costumes of the Húsares de Junín, the Cavalry Regiment.
MUSEO CONVENTO SAN FRANCISCO Y CATACUMBAS [City Center]
The buttery yellow church and Franciscan monastery are the most beautiful and well preserved I’ve ever seen in Latin America, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with good reason. The buildings house incredible artistic treasures including a spectacular geometric Moorish cupola, originally carved in 1625 and later restored in 1969. Although it’s most famous for its bone mosaic catacombs, the library is remarkable, housing some 25,000 antique texts, some of which pre-date the conquest.
Admission includes a 30-minute guided tour in English or Spanish. Tours leave as groups gather. You are not allowed to take photos inside, or I would have taken many!
PARQUE DEL AMOR [Miraflores]
Of all the parks along Lima’s scenic coastline, this one is arguably the most famous, located in Miraflores, one of Lima’s most popular neighborhoods. Inaugurated on Valentine’s Day 1993, Lima’s “Love Park” was built as a celebration of our highest aspiration. Central is the giant statue of a couple locked in an embrace, called El Beso (The Kiss), created by Peruvian artist Victor Delfín.
For Next Time…
The Larco Museum – This is the one museum, of all the ones Lima has to offer, that I wish I had seen.
Pachacámac – Large pre-Columbian adobe citadel of great historical significance about an hour’s drive outside of Lima. For a small entrance fee you can walk around the ruins enjoying the sights and coastal views.
[PRO TIP: A friend on my team hired a driver (the one that initially took them from the airport to their apartment upon arrival through Taxi Green, which I mentioned at the beginning of this post) for a small group of six of us. This is an inexpensive way to get around for long periods of time and to develop a relationship with one driver who can be relied upon.]