Hola, traveler! Are you planning a vacation to Peru? As a Peruvian, I am very happy to hear that, and in this article I have compiled the best things to do in Lima!
Lima is the capital of Peru, and is located right on the Pacific coast – so there is a remarkable diversity of activities to match the interests of all types of tourists out there, from classic historical buildings to fun wave rides at the beach. It is located between the valleys of Chillón, Rímac, and the Lurín rivers, and has a population of more than 9 million people, which makes it the third-largest city in the Americas!
Although I have traveled a lot, I was born and lived most of my life (let’s leave it at “more than 20 years”) in Lima! I had a love-hate relationship with the weather changes, witnessed the main avenues go from dealing with crazy traffic jams to having a friendly bike lane. However, my favorite part of being a local and of therefore being able to share facts about my hometown is the food… and nothing is more evocative for a traveler than associating a flavor with a destination!
But what is there to do in the city of Lima? If you want to visit the beach, I suggest you try the unique culinary fusions that can be found there – your taste buds will have the time of their life. But that’s not all, keep reading, and you will find great tips and recommendations on what to see in Lima!
Here is my list of the 12 top things to do in Lima, Peru:
- 1. Walk around the Plaza Mayor
- 2. Take a sightseeing tour
- 3. Walk along the Malecón de Miraflores
- 4. Drink Pisco Sour
- 5. Enjoy a walk around the Saint Francis Monastery
- 6. Paraglide over the coast
- 7. Walk around the 18th century Larco Museum
- 8. Have fun at the Magic Water Circuit (Circuito Mágico de Aguas)
- 9. Try the real ceviche
- 10. See the street art in the neighbourhood of Barranco
- 11. Head down to the Beach circuit – Circuito de Playas
- 12. Learn more about history at Aliaga House
- BONUS 1: Extra things to do in Lima
- BONUS 2: Adventurous activities in Lima
- BONUS 3: Top 4 Lima day trips
- Practical information about traveling to Lima
1. Walk around the Plaza Mayor
No journey is truly complete without experiencing the heart of the cities you’re visiting; in this case, the historic center of Lima, where we find Plaza Mayor!
NOTE: Until 1990, Plaza Mayor de Lima was known as Plaza de Armas.
This “plaza” or square is the oldest public space in Lima. It was designed to have the most important institutional buildings around it, so as to be seen as the center of the city. Although a significant amount of time has passed, it is still used as a ceremonial center for religious, state, and military processions – mostly for religious ones – and related to the Independence festivities.
The Cathedral of Lima still stands around the Plaza Mayor, above the land that Pizarro (one of the Spanish conquistadors of Peru) had established as the area for the city’s first church, in 1535. With the passage of time, it has gone through numerous rebuilding processes, but it still keeps most of its baroque façade.
In the chapel you can find the remains of Pizarro!
PRICE: Entrance to the Cathedral is free / Entrance to the museum is PEN 10 (US$4). You can purchase your ticket at the entrance.
While you are in the area, head over to the beautiful and peaceful Plaza San Martin square in Lima center, a perfect place to escape from the crazy and hectic main avenue traffic! This representative public area has a central monument in homage to José de San Martín, Peru’s liberator, who declared the independence back in 1821.
2. Take a sightseeing tour
If you thought there was only one way to get a city tour in Lima, you were mistaken! With tourists flying in and out everyday, the city had to step up its game and now offers not only bus tours, but also walking tours – and even bike tours.
Even as a local, I always end up learning something new when I join my friends around the city center tours!
During all these sightseeing tours, you will find yourself going by the Plaza Mayor, the Santo Domingo Catacombs, Plaza San Martin, and you can even visit the Circuit of Water Fountains. You will find more useful information about each of them in my list below.
PRO TIP: I recommend taking any of the tours listed below, because this way you won’t get lost among so many similar streets, and you will also get to learn some unique historical facts!
a) Walking tour
As a tourist traveling on a tight budget, a free walking tour is clearly the best option. Go around the main plaza, the Presidential Palace, the Lima Cathedral and more, while also getting a personal appreciation of the sights directly from the guide. At the end of the tour, you’re the one who decides how much it was worth for you!
Free walking tours can be very crowded and tiring, so if you are looking for a more efficient option, you can take part in an organized tour with a hotel pick-up and then head on this 3-hour small group walk around the main sights. If you want to go on a traditional tour around the city center, but at the same time make sure you stay in a small group – so you feel free to manage your own itinerary – I recommend a private city tour.
b) Hop-on/hop-off bus tour
Go for the traditional panoramic bus; this will give you a complete taste of what the city has to offer, choosing between a city route and a historical one.
PRICE: tour prices start at PEN 100 (US$30)
3. Walk along the Malecón de Miraflores
Malecon is a boardwalk in the district of Miraflores, which gives spectacular views of the Ocean and the beaches below. Because of the beautiful views and easy walk, I always recommend this to any visitor, as part of the best places to visit in Lima, Peru!
Miraflores stretches for about 8 km along the coast, and it is a preferred area of both tourists and locals alike, since it offers great coastal views and it is very clean and spacious!
You can just walk around the area (best to do this during the sunset), stop by the Larcomar shopping center to check out the amazing view from there, see paragliders flying around the area (or better do it yourself – more details in #6!), rent a bike, or simply walk through football courts and lovely gardens filled with flowers!
You can find many bike shops in Miraflores, but I recommend “Lima Bike”, where you can rent bikes for 3 hours (which will cost you US$9) or for a full day (US$15) – and they offer tours as well! This way, you can enjoy the freedom of discovering the city at your own speed and through your heart’s content.
Some other things to visit here are the Love Park, devoted to all couples and known for its “El Beso” statue (located right in the middle of the park) and the nice mosaics found on the benches around it. I know it’s not exactly the same, but these mosaics remind me of Gaudí’s work in Barcelona!
Near the Malecón, you will also find the Miraflores Central Park, known as Parque Kennedy. I genuinely love this spot, because not only can you take a seat and enjoy the peace and quiet, but you can also find many handicraft artisans and shops around it.
I always suggest going to Manolo’s coffee shop (two blocks away from Kennedy Park) for some fresh churros filled with dulce de leche (manjar blanco)… YUM!
The last recommendation in the area is Huaca Pucllana, an adobe and clay pyramid built with staggered platforms. It was used as part of ceremonial and administrative tasks of the Lima society, back in the years between 200 AD and 700 AD. On one side, you can see evidence of the deep pits where the offerings of marine life were made to favor the Gods, while the other while the other side of Huaca is more of an administrative area where the findings show huts made out of adobe.
PRICE FOR HUACA PUCLLANA: Day-time entry fee is PEN 15 (US$4.50) / Night-time entry fee PEN 17 (US$5). The tickets can be purchased at the entrance gate.
4. Drink Pisco Sour
You have probably heard that Pisco is one of the Peruvian alcoholic delicacies, and from which the great Pisco Sour appetizer was created. It is made of blends of Pisco (a kind of liquor) combined with fresh lemon juice, cane syrup, and (don’t get scared!) egg whites that create the foamy part of the drink.
Believe me – it is a drink worth trying! But don’t drink it too fast; because it’s so sweet, you might get tipsy equally fast.
Most restaurants will offer you a glass of Pisco sour, but to actually get a drink that is worth tasting, these are the top places I suggest you go to:
If you are still not convinced by my recommendations, head over to this Pisco Pub Crawl adventure with a local who will take you to some great bars – and you will try nothing less than the best Pisco beverages.
UPDATE: Called the Peruvian Experience, this new culinary tour offers you the chance to go on a ride through Peruvian gastronomy, learn how to prepare your own pisco sour, get all the tips on how to create traditional dishes, or combine a tasting menu with a live show!
5. Enjoy a walk around the Saint Francis Monastery
The Basilica y convento de San Francisco (Saint Francis Monastery) has some great grounds that include an impressive library and even catacombs. Part of the Lima highlights is visiting the Monastery’s catacombs and the underground vaults that were used until the early 19th century as a resting place for members of fraternities; these have possibly had about 25,000 bodies. Once inside the Church, another site you will want to go to is the historic library that holds about 25,000 antique texts, some of which date back to the times before the Spanish Conquest.
FUN FACT: In the Monastery, you can also see an interesting local version of the last supper painting, done by Diego de la Puente, in which, instead of European meals, the painter uses guinea pigs, potatoes and chillies.
PRO TIP: I recommend going around opening hours (9 AM) – as the place is significantly less crowded then, you get better chances of visually savouring the interiors of the Church and catacombs!
To really enjoy this visit and to also understand the history of the Basilica, as told by none other than a local, I recommend going on an organized city tour that includes the Saint Francis church and its catacombs.
PRICE: Entrance to the church is free. Entrance fee to the monastery and catacombs is PEN 15 (US$5). Tickets are purchased at the entrance.
6. Paraglide over the coast
An activity that I definitely recommend for anyone up to the challenge and seeking an adrenaline rush (but not for people who suffer from acrophobia, the fear of heights!). You will find the base of departure along the Malecón de Miraflores.
This breathtaking 10-minute experience even includes pictures and videos of the flight, which you receive on an SD memory drive, so you can keep this treasured memory forever. Who wouldn’t want to go along the Costa Verde from above and feel the breeze sailing you away?
PRICE: PEN 260 (US$85) per passenger. No need to book! As long as there is wind, there are flights. But if you still want to book your spot beforehand, you can contact them through this site.
7. Walk around the 18th century Larco Museum
The Larco Museum houses an exhibition of pre-Colombian art in the interior of an 18th-century vice-royal building. The display includes more than 50,000 pots that show ceramic works of the Cupisnique, Chimú, Chancay, Nazca, and Inca cultures.
PRO TIP: Make sure to also stop at the on-site Café del Museo, which is located right across a private garden filled with bougainvillea. It’s simply gorgeous!
If you want to fully enjoy this experience and learn more about the museum while also discovering antique significance to ancient objects, I recommend an organized tour through the Larco Museum. It is perfect for those who do not want to stress over transportation factors and who wish to be able to ask as many questions as they like!
PRICE: the museum entrance fee is PEN 30 (US$10). Book your admission ticket here.
8. Have fun at the Magic Water Circuit (Circuito Mágico de Aguas)
Circuito Mágico de Aguas, found at the Park of the Reserve, might sound like a simple circuit of water fountains – but it is actually a performance that shows the local culture in an entertaining way, through videos and music!
There are more than fifteen water fountains, each different from the next that can be enjoyed during the day or evening. Some are just to go by and admire, while others are perfect to run across and try to beat the water shots before they get you wet!
I love the fact that they constantly change the show somehow, maybe just by using different images or by giving the smaller fountains a new décor.
Yes, I’ve been there at least 5 times in the past 6 years, which is A LOT!
PRO TIP: I recommend going in the late afternoon (6 PM-ish), so you will be able to catch their light performance! At specific times (mentioned below), a number of fountains are illuminated and coordinated with both music and a laser spectacle that creates an incredible light show!
NOTE: If you want to add this event to visiting the attractions nearby, I recommend you take a Lima night tour that ends at the Water Circuit.
MULTIMEDIA WATER SHOW TIMES: 7:15 PM, 8:15 PM, 9:30 PM. Check the updated times here.
PRICE: PEN 4 (US$1.50). Purchase tickets at the entrance of the Reserva Park (Parque de la Reserva).
9. Try the real ceviche
This beauty of a dish, made of raw fish cooked with a lemon based juice and served with corn and sweet potato is recommended for lunch time. This is because of a local perception, namely that of having the fish as fresh as the morning batch.
There are so many restaurants that offer ceviche on their menu, that you might not know where to go – here are some options of the best places to get fresh ceviche, which I selected for you based on where you will most likely stay:
Another great walking and gastronomic tour recommendation is this street-food tour around the city center, where you will get to try the classic flavors of picarones, anticuchos, and even some pisco sour glasses!
10. See the street art in the neighbourhood of Barranco
Barranco is a lovely district filled with color and street artists that will give you a sense of being the most romantic and bohemian area of the city.
Btw, please do not confuse this Lima area with the Barranco wall in Kilimanjaro – those two have nothing to do with each other! 🙂
Many of the houses here have an interesting colonial and republican style that perfectly matches the green and flower-filled parks around.
Puente de los Suspiros is found in the district of Barranco. You will find the bridge right above an old stone stairway that has local vendors along the way. If you follow the staircase, you will reach the beach.
Legend has it that those who see the bridge for the first time can ask for one wish to come true, if able to cross the bridge in less than 30 seconds without taking a single breath.
Near the bridge, you can find the statue of Chabuca Granda (one of the biggest Peruvian singers of Musica Criolla), who was born in Barranco and whom also titled a song after the bridge!
As for the bike tours, you can take one that shows you the main marvels and paintings around Barranco while also taking you back to Miraflores, or you can bike your way around the Miraflores Malecón until you reach El Morro Hill for an amazing view over the city!
11. Head down to the Beach circuit – Circuito de Playas
Circuito de Playas is the general name that refers to the beach circuit along Costa Verde (Green Coast). It is a long road that has numerous beaches along the way and which connects the distanced district of Callao to Chorrillos. This route can only be done with a bike or a car, if you want to go from one point to the other, but if you want to walk the entire circuit, so as to see each of the beaches, it is a total of 25 kms.
This circuit is the closest you can get to the Pacific Ocean and try out the water. My thermostat has always said that the water is freezing (16°C / 60°F), therefore I only dived in when I was younger than 10! But you might sense it is warm, as compared to other beaches in the world, and you might end up loving it! I see surfers in the water pretty much everyday, so there is no doubt that, if you like the feel of seawater, you will enjoy the idea of going for a swim.
12. Learn more about history at Aliaga House
Casa Aliaga is among the oldest Colonial mansions in Lima!
It was originally owned by Francisco Pizarro (a Spanish conqueror), who gave the land to Jerónimo de Aliaga in 1535, and it has been kept in the family ever since. Although it has gone through numerous rebuilding and some remodeling due to earthquakes, the mansion has now been standing for about 5 centuries!
Its beauty lies in the interior spaces, the poetic environments, and the original furniture and distribution of rooms. Once inside, you will be able to walk among the rooms of an old mansion that shows both Colonial and Republican history.
PRICE: PEN 30 (US$9). You can book your tour with the official guide here.
BONUS 1: Extra things to do in Lima
If you think the previous 13 activities were not enough, no worries – there’s a lot more where these came from! In fact, I have so many ideas on what to do in the city, that I could go on for a reeeeeally long time!
So, here are some extra places to visit in Lima, Peru:
1. Visit the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum in Lima has been running since 1918 and is part of the National University of San Marcos. They hold a great exhibition of Peruvian flora, fauna, and minerals, as well as fossils from amphibians and fish.
You can enter the Museum and walk around it by yourself or be part of a guided tour through the different exhibitions that show elements from both today and the past years, for a cost of PEN 20 (US$6).
PRICE: Museum entry fee is PEN 10 (US$3). You can purchase the tickets at the Museum entrance, and check the updated prices here.
2. Go out to a Peña
Going to a peña is a classical way of seeing the more local side of the city, namely the life and music in every note and especially the way in which the music reflects sorrow or love, depending on what the composer wanted to express.
Okay, but which place is better? That is something I cannot answer, but I’ll give you my recommendations below. I also recommend going on weekends! All places are unique and great, most of them located in Barranco and inside an art-deco or colonial-styled building:
3. See Lima Art Museum at Exposition Park (Parque de la exposición)
The Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI) is among the main museums located at the Exposition Park. This park is one of the most representative ones, and since 2006 it is also considered to be a cultural heritage. It was named after the Exposition Palace, which was then changed to the current Museo de Arte de Lima.
It is an amazing place to go for a nice walk, enjoy the big gardens and views of some Renaissance-styled buildings known as pabellón Morisco and pabellón Bizantino, both definitely worth taking pictures of. The park also has a lake, and you can go on a light pedal boat ride around it.
The MALI museum shares an exhibition of about 3000 years of Peruvian art, from pre-Columbian textiles and ceramics, to furniture from the Colonial and Republican eras.
If you arrive too early or too late to visit the Art Museum, you can go around the park and see the open-air fair with handmade products from many local artisans.
PRICE: Visiting the park is free / Entrance to the museum is PEN 30 (US$8). Book your online ticket here.
4. Join a local cooking lesson
If you like to cook and are an international foodie always looking for new flavors and recipes, I can whole-heartedly recommend an activity of cooking with a local person. I am more of a pastry and dessert fanatic, but have done this before, and it is really fun to get to learn the mix of ingredients and their personal tips on how to get the best results!
My best suggestions are joining a professional chef run cooking class that includes going to the market to purchase fresh ingredients, or a more local approach in learning Doña Mechita’s recipes in her own home. The main difference is that the first option gives you a selection of dishes that include a vegetarian dish, whereas the private home class has an established menu.
PRICE: about US$85
5. Go for a recreational day at Legends Park – Parque de las Leyendas
The Parque de las Leyendas is an authentic place to go spend the day while watching animals in their most exact habitat conditions and learn about Peruvian history and culture.
On the premises, you can find many temples and burial grounds that were used by ancient civilizations. You will also find Museo Ernst. W. Middendorf (which displays different artifacts and mummies), Museo Petroleo (which teaches the process of crude oil transformation), and the butterfly exhibition at Museo Celestino Kalinosky.
The area of the zoo presents as its main exhibition the Peruvian flora and fauna, and these are divided into their climatic regions – which are coast, highlands, and jungle. To complete the visit experience, there is a “baby zoo” area where you find baby animals, and which is the only area where kids can pet the animals.
PRO TIP: To be able to fully enjoy this experience, I recommend visiting the park on weekdays, since it is too crowded on weekends and on public holidays.
PRICE: PEN 15 (US$5). Book your online tickets here.
BONUS 2: Adventurous activities in Lima
If you are not staying in Peru for many days but still want to go on an adventure, such as sandboarding down some dunes, the good news is you don’t need to go all the way to Huacachina! The adventure takes place in the district of Aucallama, which is about 1.5 hours away from the capital city, but still in the same department of Lima.
PRICE: about US$120
2. Rappelling & Canyoning
The adventure is over at San Jerónimo de Surco, which is about 2.5 hours from Lima, and it starts with a trek up the top of the Huanano waterfall. Once there, you will obviously have a break to get your energy levels back up and rapel your way down reaching the Songos village. From this village, you will be able to go to the Songos Toboggans, almost an obstacle course of fun before reaching the natural slides and relaxing at the waters.
PRO TIP: This area is part of the Mountain areas, and it tends to be sunny there, so I recommend you don’t forget to include sunscreen in your day bag.
While being in the neighborhood, you might also want to head over to the circuit and go for some surfing lessons. If you don’t want to join classes but still want to see some surfing action, out of the numerous beaches, let me recommend the ones which are ideal for surfers, as based on the ocean waves: Los Delfines, Orrantia, Punta Rocas, and Playa Ravine.
These are surfing schools that I highly recommend, especially seeing as they also include pick-up from your accommodation, if you need it:
- Eternal Wave – the lessons last 1.5 hours and include a softboard (for beginners), a wetsuit, leash and wax. Each lesson (as part of a group) is US$30, while taking the lesson individually is US$50.
- Pukana Surf School – the lessons start at 6 AM until 4 PM and last 1.5 hours for a theoretical and practical lesson. Their group lessons of up to 3 people cost US$20, while the private classes are US$27.
If you are an experienced surfer and you just want to rent a board and wetsuit, I recommend finding these at the beach itself, instead of renting in the city and making your way to the beach with a board. The best option is Pukana Surf School, where you can rent the board and wetsuit for US$10, or the surfboard alone at US$7 for the day.
4. White water rafting
If you like water activities but surfing is not your style, you might want to go water rafting down the Cañete River. For this, you need to go to Lunahuana, which is about a 3-hour drive from Lima. Lunahuana is known for its pleasant weather, because during the winter you can always find sun here, and thanks to the mountains they have around, there are many adventurous activities that you can try.
PRO TIP: The best season for rafting along the Cañete River is during our summer, which is between December and March.
PRICE: about US$60 (depends on the level of difficulty)
BONUS 3: Top 4 Lima day trips
Thanks to its location, Lima also offers various day tours that you will find to be very interesting if you are into nature, mysteries or some extreme activities.
Here are my top 4:
1. Palomino Islands
The Palomino Islands are known for being 4 small islands close to the port of Callao (Constitutional Province in Peru), where you can find a big group of sea lions and sea birds!
Palomino is also known as the Galapagos of the poor. 🙂
The beauty of this visit is to see the historic lighthouse which served to guide boats that approach the coast and see the marine animals in their natural habitat.
Get the chance to ride a yacht from the Peruvian coast to the islands and join the sea lions for a quick swim, while also learning about the local marine and birdlife.
NOTE: Don’t worry, the tour includes a wetsuit, so you won’t freeze because of the low water temperature.
PRICE: US$125. Check the updated price here.
2. Nazca Lines
There are many theories that say aliens passed by the area and left us these varied drawings on the sand! The Nazca Lines area was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because it has been found out that it worked as an astronomical calendar. The lines represent different animals, like a spider, a monkey, a condor, a hummingbird, and many more.
NOTE: When I went to the Nazca Lines, because of my fear of heights, I only managed to climb up to the small viewing tower next to the main road that connects Nazca to Ica. It is a great view, but you can only see one or two of the lines – and not entirely because of the angle!
I recommend taking a tour outside of Lima and head over to Nazca, where you will go over to the small Aerodrome and board on a 34 minute flight over the Nazca lines. I don’t expect you to memorize all the geoglyphs that there are in the area – your pilot will be in charge of telling you the story of each one of them!
3. Paracas and Huacachina
If you want to visit some places on the south side of Lima, Paracas and Huacachina are definitely the places to go! This is a tour worth taking; although it is indeed an all-day extreme activity experience, the advantage is that you don’t need to struggle on transportation issues.
Paracas is a protected National Reserve that includes desert and marine ecosystems and which also has a museum with the local culture remains. Once here, you will go on a boat ride over to the reserved areas of the Ballestas Islands, where you can see sea lions, penguins, and pelicans. If you are hungry (and before heading to Huacachina), walk around the main streets to find many restaurants along the coast line for a great dish of fried seafood “chicharron” or “jalea mixta”.
Your next stop is the fun Huacachina, an oasis village in the middle of the desert, surrounded by sand dunes and a loved destination for adventurers that want to do some sandboarding or experience a dune buggy ride.
4. Lomas de Lucumo (Pachacamac)
Lomas de Lucumo, located in the Pachacamac District, are 150 hectares of hills about 34 km south of Lima, and are the best terrain for a sightseeing trek. If you go between June and November, the hills that face the sea will amaze you with a lot of vegetation, including the amancaes flower with their yellow color. During this time, you will also get to see vizcachas, robins, foxes, or even hawks.
There is no better way to discover nature than by experiencing it at its core. Because it has become considerably known by many locals and tourists, this is part of an Ecotourist Circuit and has its own access hours, as well as prices.
NOTE: because of the fog, if you go after 2 PM, a local guide is mandatory for this visit. You can find them at the Ecotourist Circuit entrance.
PRICE: PEN 10 (US$3) per adult. A local guide is worth PEN 50 (US$15) for 5 hours and can take up to 15 people. No prior booking needed.
Practical information about traveling to Lima
These activities are a great touch into knowing what things you can do and what sights to see in the city, but that is not enough when putting an itinerary together. That’s why I am including some useful tips to help you to sort out the plan.
Keep reading, and you’ll find out how to get from the airport to the city and vice versa, great places to stay in, what local dishes to try, and much more!
How to get from Lima Airport to the city
For most taxis and airport shuttles that head straight from the International Airport Jorge Chavez to the Miraflores district, the trip can take between 35 minutes or an hour, depending on the traffic.
NOTE: Companies such as Uber are not allowed to enter the airport, so you might want to skip that call!
For safety reasons, I recommend going for Taxi Green, Taxi 365, or Taxi Directo. They have service desks at the arrival areas, right after luggage pick-up and before heading outside. If you are heading to Miraflores, the trip costs between PEN 50 and PEN 60 (US$15 – US$18).
By Airport Express
The Airport Express bus costs US$8 for a single ride and US$15 for a round trip, but their services only have as pick-up and final stop the Miraflores district or the Airport.
Over in Miraflores, there are 7 bus stops from where passengers can get off and can also climb on if heading back to the airport. You can purchase tickets online, inside the airport, or you can pay the driver directly in Sol.
By Quick Llama Airport Shuttle
Quick Llama is a cheaper shuttle to the Miraflores district that costs PEN 15 (US$5), if you want to walk from the final point to your hotel, or PEN 20 (US$6), if you want to be left at your hotel door. It does not run during the weekends.
You can book your Llama bus online and pay immediately on the website, or simply pay when you get on the vehicle.
PRO TIP: Although I live on the outskirts, thinking as a tourist and taking into account my closest friends’ experience, I would recommend you book your hotel in Miraflores and take the Airport Express. It is comfortable, safe, and the schedule is easy to follow!
Transportation inside Lima
If you are staying in Miraflores or Barranco, you can walk around the district and find many of the main sights I recommend you go by and enjoy.
You can also rent a bike to move around both districts, the best option being that from “Lima Bike”, where you can rent one for 3 hours (US$9) or for a full day (US$15).
You will see many buses, some smaller than others, in most cases called “combis”. How to identify these? You will see a person standing at the door, calling for more passengers. Although this is possibly the cheapest way to move around town (after walking, of course), these buses are usually a driving wreck, so I would kindly recommend leaving this part as a visual experience only.
The express bus “Metropolitano”, on the other hand, I do recommend. This transportation is only convenient if heading to the historical center for a small price of PEN 2.50 (US$0.77).
NOTE: The Metropolitano is frequently used, so you might get a packed vehicle.
If you are traveling in a group, there is no problem with getting a taxi on the street – they are literally everywhere! You just need to know some words in Spanish, so they don’t try to overcharge you.
You can also contact Taxi Satelital by phone (355-5555) or ask your accommodation to get you a good taxi. Although you can find and make use of Uber in Lima, it is not a company I recommend there, simply because of too many complaints and bad experiences from close friends, so I suggest you go for Easy Taxi or Cabify, which are other app services. A 15-minute ride can cost about PEN 10 (US$3).
Where to stay in Lima
Here are some hotels in Lima fit for every wallet and which you can consider for your trip itinerary. I have only selected good hotels that are located in convenient areas. All accommodations have great reviews and facilities, hand-picked and categorized for your easy decision-making!
To see the prices for your dates, click on my suggestions:
Luxury (US$160 and up)
- JW Marriott Hotel Lima – This exquisite hotel has an ocean view for most rooms. The facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, a great fitness center, and a spa that includes sauna, massages, and body and facial treatments. Their soundproof and modern rooms have air-conditioning, an LCD TV, and a seating area.
- Innside Lima Miraflores – This hotel has a year-round outdoor swimming pool, a good fitness center, and an on-site bar. All the rooms have air-conditioning, a coffee machine, a private bathroom, free Wi-Fi, and a wardrobe. You’ll be at a walking distance from gourmet food sites and many enjoyably calm parks.
Middle-priced (from US$55 to US$160)
- Libre Hotel, BW Signature Collection by Best Western – The hotel is on a quiet side street near the attractions, but away from the noise. It is a reasonably new building with modern and comfortable furniture, and the rooms have warm colors to make you feel at home. It also has a rooftop lounge where you can enjoy an afternoon with some friends.
- Hotel Tierra Viva Miraflores Centro – In this hotel, all the rooms include a flat-screen TV, air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, a desk, and a private bathroom. The décor is simple but at the same time classy, with some plants to make you feel a bit closer to nature. Additionally, if having problems, the hotel staff speaks both English and Spanish, so they can help you in any way needed.
Budget (up to US$55)
- Hotel Ibis Lima Reducto Miraflores – It is a perfectly located hotel near the coast walk side (and many parks) whose every room has a flat-screen TV, air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, a private bathroom, and a wardrobe. The hotel has a very comfortable and modern décor; it is also a great option for a long-term traveler.
- Kokopelli Hostel Lima – It is a great option to go for a private bedroom or for a bunk bed dorm style room, while staying at this colorful and fun hostel with their on-site bar and game rooms for the guests to use. All rooms have shared bathrooms and are equipped with lockers.
- Pool Paradise Lima – If you are looking for a budget accommodation that includes comfy rooms, a bar, and a swimming pool, this hostel is the ideal place for you! And the reason why it’s so well-known is that it’s the only hostel with a pool in Lima!
Where to eat in Lima (and what to try)
Being the gastronomical capital of South America, Lima has many amazing restaurants that make their own creation of known dishes, while also keeping their classic flavor and concept.
I am proud to say that Lima has 2 out of the Top 10 restaurants in the world!
Here are some of the most popular and internationally known dishes that you must try during your visit in Lima. I have also included some of the best restaurants in Lima, Peru where you can find each of the dishes.
1. Causa Limeña – it is mashed yellow Peruvian potatoes mixed with oil, lemon, and spicy aji Amarillo, displayed as a lasagna. Punto Azul is known not only for their ceviche, but also for their delicious causa.
Fun fact: Every June 28th, we celebrate Ceviche Day! Always a good excuse to go exclusively for this dish.
3. Ají de gallina – it is a dish of shredded chicken mixed together with a chili (aji) sauce, usually served with some boiled potatoes halves, rice, and topped with a black olive and half a boiled egg. Get a homemade aji de gallina at Panchita or the Restaurant Huaca Pucllana.
4. Lomo Saltado – it is a fusion dish of beef stir-fried with tomatoes and onions, and then served with rice and French fries. I recommend trying it at Tanta, because it’s insanely tasty and also because it’s one of the Peruvian chef’s Gaston Acurio restaurants.
5. Picarones – it is a kind of donut made out of squash and sweet potato and covered with molasses syrup. If you don’t find them as part of street food stalls, you can find the best at La Panka and Puro Corazón.
6. Pollo a la brasa – is one of the most consumed dishes in the country. In an easy translation, it is a kind of rotisserie chicken or charcoal chicken served with french fries and fresh salad.
7. Carapulcra – it is a stew of pork with dehydrated peanuts and potatoes eaten with rice and yuca.
8. Arroz chaufa – a favorite combination of chinese and peruvian cuisines’. It is a fried rice dish with vegetables and meat and soy sauce. Frequently found in many restaurants, specially the Chinese-influenced “chifa’s”.
PRO TIP: If you want to try as many dishes from the Peruvian cuisine as possible on a single trip, I recommend heading to a buffet style restaurant like Puro Peru, where you can taste many of the local delicacies.
In case you actually want to learn how to cook some of these traditional dishes, I recommend going for a cooking tour!
Pisco sour already has an honorable place in my “things to do in Lima” list, but if you would rather try a local beverage that does not contain alcohol, I recommend you try Inca Kola (our “Golden” soft drink, which we love to have with our classic ceviche or pollo a la brasa) or a nice glass of Chicha Morada.
Chicha morada is our other option, instead of lemonade – it is a sweet juice made out of purple corn. If you are having a family meal, consider asking for chicha for the kids, as it’s a fun way to make them think they are sipping a glass of wine with the grown-ups (this is because of the dark purple color it has).
Nightlife in Lima
If you are wondering about the things to do in Lima at night, there are many options to choose from! A peña is a combination of bar and restaurant that offers a daily performance of música criolla, cajones, and huaynos.
PRO TIP: Have a pisco sour, chilcano (pisco with white soda and lemon), or beer while enjoying the fun and local show.
Here are some options of great bars and nightclubs that you might want to head over to, if a peña is not much to your taste.
- Huaringas Bar – it is a very popular bar that specializes in pisco-based drinks; try something different, like the Pisco Martini with chocolate and passionfruit.
- Ayahuasca – it is a well-known bar located on the insides of a Republican-era mansion from the 19th century that has different cocktails and unique appetizers to try and share.
- Sargento Pimienta – a famous place for all locals; you will mostly find rock music playing here – and if they’re not using a dj, it will be live. It is quite the full-house nightclub in the Barranco district.
- Cocodrilo Verde – it is a gourmet lounge and nightclub with regular weekly live music performances and shows.
Another option and a great combination of activities that will make your night in the city very different, all while still discovering the districts, is this experience of water fountains and folklore show.
How to exchange currency in Lima
In Peru, we use Peruvian Soles (PEN) as our local currency. When coming from abroad, I recommend you come with USD or EUR, which are the most international currencies, and you will need to change these, so below I will explain how to do it in the safest way.
Here is a general idea of what the conversion rates are (click on the link to see up-to-date rate):
NOTE: Whenever you give a banknote to pay, the other person will check it, so as to be sure it is not counterfeited. Please also know that ripped bills are not easily accepted in banks or stores, so if you get one as change, ask the cashier to replace it with one in a better condition.
Now, there are many ways to change currency in Lima; I’ll briefly mention them for you to familiarize with:
- Exchange House (Casa de Cambio) – it is among the safest places to exchange currency; unless indicated otherwise, there is no extra fee for the exchange, and they have correct rates. These are usually around shopping malls or tourist parks and have a sign that reads “Casa de Cambio”.
- Airport – but the problem is that you might not get the best rate. However, if highly needed, I suggest you exchange a small amount here, and then the rest once you are in the city.
- Banks – it is very easy to get your currency exchange at banks, as they usually have a good rate and English-speaking employees for help. You could always use the ATMs at banks; exchange rates for DEBIT cards tend to be friendly, but there might be a flat transaction fee.
- Street Money Changers (Cambistas) – they are literally people on the sidewalks holding different currency cash. If you don’t identify them because of their maroon vests, you will because most of them have a calculator at hand. Their job is legal, but because the “cambistas” are found on the sidewalks and have a lot of cash on them, they might be a target to robbers and you could be as well. So if you want to change money with them, I recommend going for small amounts only.
Is Lima expensive?
Here are some sample prices so you can get a better idea of the costs:
- A regular single-ride public transport system ticket – US$1
- Accommodation for two – about US$50 per night for two people
- Museum entrance fee – around US$9
- A well-served breakfast – US$7
- Traditional meal (ceviche with beer) – US$10
- 15-minute taxi ride – US$3
TIPPING CULTURE: It is customary to leave an ideal tip of 10% of the bill at a restaurant.
Getting a SIM card in Lima
PRO TIP: A SIM card is called “CHIP” in Peru, so now you know how to ask for one! You might find a place that sells them at the airport, but they are super expensive (kind of a rip-off, if you ask me), so it’s best to get one at the nearest store to your hotel!
The SIM card alone costs about PEN 15 (US$5). If you want to have phone credit, this needs to be purchased additionally and will cost you about PEN 5 (US$2), so PEN 20 (US$7) in total. You can get your prepaid plan with the main companies of Claro, Movistar, or Entel.
Which one should you go for? If you’re staying in the country for more than 3 days and want to be connected at all times, the best option is probably Entel and its “Super Chip Turista” offer – unlimited data for 15 days for the price of US$20.
PRO TIP: Don’t forget to take your passport; a sales representative will need it in order to generate the invoice for your chip purchase!
When to visit Lima
Because the city is right next to the coast, it is very likely for the Lima weather to reach 90% of humidity. So during the summer you feel very sticky, whereas during the winter you feel as if it’s 3 times colder than it actually is.
January to April are the hottest months, but an open window or a fan can fix (or at least improve) that situation. So if you like summer and are thinking of going for a swim or of doing some surfing along the coast, this is your best time.
For those travelers who enjoy the cold as long as it’s not too cold (13°C), June to August are your months. You will definitely need a jacket and a scarf, and you might get to feel our “rain”, which is actually a slight drizzle – but you can still enjoy the sights and might even get a bit of sun rays!
PRO TIP: The only thing that is not very recommended during the summer season are the nightclubs. They still run, but most people head out to the beaches, so the city becomes a ghost-town during the weekends.
I suggest you stay in the city for 2 or 3 days, unless you want to see EVERYTHING there is to see and eat as many dishes as your stomach allows – in which case I recommend spending one week.