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Travel Guide for Lima

Introduction to Lima and surroundings

Upon arriving in Lima, a mythical phrase resounds: “At what point did Peru get screwed?” It is at the opening of Vargas Llosa’s bestselling book and symbolizes Latin America’s lack of spirit because it was dominated by dictatorships and corruption, says Pedro Jesus Fernandez. Lima is one of the cities with the worst reputation on the continent with its more than 9 million inhabitants, its bare hills plagued by dim lights at dusk, endless traffic jams, its high pollution and a “donkey’s belly” as the locals call the overcast sky that lasts for months, coupled with the noise that is noticeable as soon as you leave the airport, but dear traveler, do not be discouraged by appearances, because just all these unique traits make it one of the sexiest cities on the continent.

In our Destination Guide of Lima we will guide you through the best of the city and with original proposals suitable for the most intrepid traveler.

View of Miraflores, Lima, by night - RESPONSible Travel Peru
View of Miraflores, Lima, by night

Brief introduction to the history of Lima

When Francisco Pizarro founded the capital of Peru on the feast of the Epiphany, January 18, 1935, the weather was sunny and cool, however, who has lived in Lima knows that one of the characteristic features of the city is its gray sky and that “garúa”, which does not become rain, that accompanies the city with humidity for several months a year and makes it have beautiful gardens that contrast with the surrounding desert.

Lima, also called the “City of Kings”, quickly became the most important city on the American continent. It is the only South American capital city with an extensive coastal strip. Since its origins it has enjoyed a relevance that still remains today. In 1551 the National University of San Marcos, the oldest in America, was founded; and in 1569 the Holy Inquisition was installed. Since the 1940s, the city experienced an enormous growth: from 662,000 inhabitants at that time to more than nine million inhabitants today.

This demographic explosion brought a consequent urban growth that forever changed the face of the city and created cultural expressions of the different regions of Peru. It is a multicultural city, and as such, offers the traveler countless experiences to live.

In the historic center, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, impressive examples of colonial architecture blend with the scenery and bustle of this dynamic and changing city, which in recent years has positioned itself on the international culinary scene thanks to its rich gastronomic offers. Lima is thus a city marked by its colonial past where the melting pot of cultures of the present make it unique for those who seek experiences.

What we recommend for you.

A good start to get to know the city at the local rhythm is walking through the center; like any city designed by the Spaniards the start is the Plaza Mayor, which brings together the main symbols of power as the Cathedral (religious power), the Government Palace (political and military power), and the Municipality (local and economic power) and from here we can immerse ourselves in the different worlds that the city offers.

A trip to the past to know the present is always a good start and to do so I recommend a stop at one of the best museums in the city, the Larco Museum, installed in the XVII century Viceroyalty mansion and exhibits three thousand years of pre-Columbian history, highlighting the Gold and Silver Room of Ancient Peru, as well as the Erotic Art. Another outstanding museum is that of Yoshiro Amano, who opened his house to the public in 1964 to exhibit his collection of pre-Columbian handicrafts and textiles, perhaps the most outstanding exhibition is that of ceramics and textiles of the Chancay culture. 

Fardo-Huari at Larco Museum
Mummy of the Huari period in the Larco Museum

A trip out of the city can also be a good idea, the south of Lima is full of valleys formed by rivers that flow down from the highlands to meet the sea. If you only have one day, Lurìn and Pachacamac are the best option, since they welcome you with a very good gastronomy, renowned Ayacucho artisans (southern Andean region) and the famous Pachacamac Sanctuary, formed by large pyramidal temples and buildings with ramps. For more than 1500 years it was a sacred place for several cultures, as it was consecrated to the most important god of the coast, Pachacamac, who was said to be the creator of the universe, the temple of the Sun and the Acllahuasi, both built during the Inca domination, stand out.

What do you think dear traveler if we advance the clock a few thousand years to know why the city looks so messy, and to understand a stop at the Museum of Memory, whose rooms show us a tour of the last two decades of the twentieth century, when terrorist movements were active and there was a great migratory movement, mainly from the countryside to the city. Then I propose a trip to the heights or suburbs of the city, to meet in first person, families who had to migrate because of the intolerance of some and overcome with creativity and courage to a new reality, it will certainly be a journey that will make you question – or so I hope, the complexity of the world in which we live.

When leaving for another destination or returning to your country I would recommend a visit to the province of Callao where the airport is located, it has become one of the epicentres of a great transformation due to the new urban art and where a large number of art galleries have been located.

As you can see, dear traveler, Lima has a lot to offer and the angles to approach it are many, depending on your interests, for that reason to be able to count on good advice is indispensable.

I want to finish by saying that there are two things that all Peruvians agree on, the love for their soccer team and their gastronomy, so in the course of your trip you will be asked several times which is your favorite soccer team and your favorite dish, and there is no better start to educate yourself, dear traveler, than to do it in the gastronomic capital of Latin America. Lima offers two of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants: Central y Maido, as well as having the The World’s Best Female Chef 2021, Pia León.

Let’s start the trip to the world of flavors in the markets, where an overwhelming variety of products that spice up one of the best cuisines of the continent is concentrated. About restaurants, there are proposals for all types of travelers and wallets, but personally I like to start with urban cuisine, visiting street food stalls and huariques (places where you eat well, at a good price and in a homemade atmosphere), while continuing to travel between different worlds, whether the Nikkei World, Creole World, the World of the Brasas, the World of the Chifas or the Andean and Amazonian World, flavors that certainly will not leave you indifferent; the options are extensive and we will help you to have the best dining experience possible.

In conclusion to experience Lima is to do so with the greatest of openness, letting go of the apparent chaos with the intention of enjoying this city where multiculturalism gives rise to a genuine identity and where its people are proud to label themselves as Limeños.

How to travel from Lima to other destinations

Lima is connected to several cities on the coast of Peru; Ecuador and Chile by the Pan-American Highway. To the east, the Central Highway is the main communication route to different cities in the highlands and the central jungle.

There are direct flights to the country’s main cities, departing from Jorge Chavez International Airport, 40 minutes from San Isidro and 50 minutes from Miraflores or Barranco. There is also a wide range of quality interprovincial buses. Ask your travel designer about the best transportation options.

How long should I spend in the Lima?

It all depends on your interests, as the city can certainly be a very attractive place with its cultural offer, its surfers’ coast, its rich gastronomy and nightlife. I would recommend a minimum of 2 days or more.

More info on weather and best time to travel to Lima

Although Lima is located in the middle of a desert making it the second largest city in the world after Cairo, the climate is fairly stable with two distinct seasons: the grey season from April to November and the sunny season until March.
These are our general recommendations on when to travel to Peru.

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