When people think of Peru they inevitably picture Machu Picchu – it’s hard not to. The World Heritage Site attracts thousands of tourists every year through the Ancient Inca Capital of Cuzco. Yet it’s the sprawling city of Lima that holds the title of Peru’s official capital. So what’s the deal with Lima?

Lima’s had a bit of a bad rep among the typical traveller crowd. For Peru’s capital city, it’s often overlooked by tourists heading to Machu Picchu, seeing it as a foggy, grey, transport hub. Well, in some ways they’re right. Lima lacks the scenic backdrops of Arequipa and the Inca heritage of Cuzco; being a far more urban metropolis, covered for most of the year in a blanket of fog.

THE HIDDEN TREASURES OF LIMA

I only ended up in Lima in order to catch a connecting flight to Brazil, and when I first arrived off the night bus into the run-down urban outskirts of the city, I was glad I only had two days there. Like so many others, I was simply passing through the historic Peruvian capital, ignorant of its hidden treasures.

When you strip away the dusty grey exterior and head to the coastal districts, Lima is an altogether more interesting place. As the oldest city in the Americas, Lima is steeped in history and refreshingly multi-cultural. Home to nearly 9 million people, Lima is a tale of two halves; on one side you have colonial mansions and 5 star golf clubs and on the other you’ll find shanty towns and derelict tower blocks. What Peru’s capital lacks in pastoral charm and beauty, it makes up for with food and nightlife. For those headed to Lima, either by choice or by circumstance, here’s a guide on how to get the best of the city.

THE LOWDOWN ON LIMA

GETTING THERE AND AWAY

Lima is known for being the transport hub of Peru, so it’s naturally very easy to get there and away. Lima is often the cheapest place to fly to in Peru, so it’s the gateway to visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu. The airport is a short taxi ride outside the city and has both domestic and international services. Taxis can be pre-booked but will be a lot more expensive than normal. Alternatively, Lima bus services are super cheap (if you’re brave enough to navigate the system!).

WHERE TO STAY

Out of Lima’s 43 districts, Miraflores and Barranco are the most tourist friendly. Barranco is a bohemian beach-side neighbourhood known for its nightlife and made up of smart walled properties and palm-lined streets overlooking the Pacific. Miraflores is an affluent neighbourhood near the centre, with attractive residences, plenty of shops and a great range of restaurants to choose from.

For party lovers, check in to The Point in Barranco where the amenities are good and the bar is lively! Located close to some good nightlife spots, you’ll easily sniff out the best parties. For those look for a little more luxury and relaxation, San Agustin Colonial is a 3 star hotel in the ever so fashionable shopping area of Miraflores.

EATING AND DRINKING

This is by far the best bit about Lima. Lima is the home of Peruvian food, so it’s the best place in the world to sample fresh ceviche, tangy Pisco Sours and traditional cuy or Guinea Pig (it’s a delicacy, didn’t you know?).

If eating Guinea Pig is far too much like eating your pet, then you’ll be pleased to know that Peruvian food is a lot more varied than this. With a strong Oriental influence in Peruvian food, there are many great and cheap places to grab a chifa (Chinese) in Lima – Salon Capon has an extensive dim sum menu and is very highly rated.

For those who have never tried ceviche, you’re in the right place to start. Avenida La Mar is so full of cebicherias offering the freshest and tastiest ceviche, that it’s known as the street of ceviche. This is the street where you can stuff your mouths with the tangy fresh raw fish and seafood dish that put Peruvian food on the map.

Heading out for a few cervezas of a Pisco or two? Barranco and Miraflores has the pick of the best nightclubs and bars.

WHERE TO EXPLORE

There are very aren’t many obligatory museum visits to do in Lima, especially if you’ve already had your fair share of South American museum trips. One that does stand out is the Larco Museum. Housed on the site of a pre-Columbian temple, the museum offers a varied range of ceramic and textiles, as well as some Inca mummies. Not only that but the museum has a special room devoted to erotic archaeological pots. Yep, you read right, I’m talking about ceramic pots that portray the ancient Inca version of Kama Sutra. I’ll leave you with that image and move on…

If you’re staying near Miraflores, you’ll soon notice that the area has lots of open green space which helps Lima to earn the nickname of the Garden City. Take a stroll in El Malecon, six-miles of parks spread along the cliffs with Pacific Ocean views.

Head a long the cliff edge towards Larcomar, a shopping, food and entertainment complex set in the Cliffside underneath Miraflores. Do some shopping or enjoy a Pisco Sour in one of the many bars overlooking the ocean.

Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores is a great place to see some remains of Peru’s ancient civilisations without the trek to Machu Picchu. The Pucllana Temple is thought to have been built around 500 AD and the occasional mummy has been found during its many excavations. Accessible Wednesday to Monday, the ruins are cheap and easy to visit without venturing too far out of the centre.

Thinking of checking Lima out for yourself? Excellent idea! You can get your flights and accommodation with us, and even book some pretty incredible day trips. Already been and loved it? Tell us about it in the comments!

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