Machu Picchu must be on everyone’s to do list, the Inca Trail is the most exhilarating way to get there.
Lima | What to do with a few hours in the capital
So you’ve just landed in Lima for a short stay and you’re wondering what to do until you move on; we were in the same situation. It’s not a place I’d recommended spending a lot of time in, when we were here we didn’t see the sun at any time. There seems to be a permanent haze hanging over the town you can see it forming as you ride in on the bus and it doesn’t really clear until you get close to Paracas further down the coast.
We were here on our way to Cusco. We had spent two weeks trekking and hiking in Huaraz and wanted to break the journey. I’m glad we came here but I was also pleased to leave. If you’re in a similar situation as us either waiting to fly out or get the next bus here’s how we recommend you spend your time.
How did we get to Lima?
As I said in the introduction we had been hiking in Huaraz. To go straight from there to Cusco would have been a very long journey by bus and we didn’t want to fly so we got the Cruz del Sur morning bus which took about six hours. The bus cost 70 PEN each for a good reclining seat.
If you’re flying in to Peru then you will most likely enter the country through Lima international airport. It’s the most common route in from Europe and the UK. If you have a day to kill before your onward journey then we have a few ideas in the post below, that could help.
Where to stay in Lima
There are a few good options for areas to stay in Lima if you need to spend the night before moving on, although they all seem to be well out of the centre. We ended up in an apartment in Barranco which was quite far out from where all the main city centre attractions are. The Backpacking area is in Miraflores which is also where a lot of the international chain restaurants have their outlets. Like Miraflores, Barranco is a modern area, quite clean looking with high rise apartment blocks and hotels and loads of bars and restaurants. Both Barranco and Miraflores have good bus links into the city.
How to get around Lima?
The buses, in Lima, are crazy. They are all run by individual companies and basically do whatever they want. You have to flag them down or hop on at the traffic lights and we found them quite difficult to use and on more than one occasion resorted to a taxi.
There is a kind of metro system, the Metropolitano, which is basically buses on a dedicated lane that the cars can’t get onto. This is easier to use than the regular buses, you just need to buy a card for five PEN and then put some money on the card at the ticket machines in each station and you’re away. It’s just over three PEN per journey and we quite enjoyed using it but it can get crowded during peak times. Both Barranco and Miraflores are quite close to the Metropolitano line.
What to do with a few hours in Lima?
Here is what we did when we visited Lima. You can fit it all into a day quite easily without having to rush around like a headless chicken. I think this gives you a taste of the city but without becoming an ordeal.
Free gastronomic walking tour
We had been recommended on our travels to do a free walking around the market area of centre of the city taking in some of the food vendor stalls situated on almost every street corner. Our tour with Peru Experience started off really well and took in a lot of different classic Peruvian foods and drinks which we really enjoyed.
Interspersed with the food were interesting facts about the local people which we both found really entertaining. The tour started in Miraflores and we got the bus into town but note that if you’re staying in Miraflores then you will need to get back under your own steam as the tour ends in the central square. The tour is tips based so if you enjoy the tour you are expected to give a good tip. We went with Peru experience but there are a few other walking tours to choose from if you can’t get on this one.
Visit Huaca Pucllana
Right in the middle of Miraflores is an ancient pyramid. Yes it’s hard to believe but it’s true. It doesn’t open every day but if you’re lucky enough to be in town on the right day then you can visit. If not, then you can get a good look at it from the outside of the fence. It’s open to visitors 9am to 4pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately we were there on the wrong day so could only view from outside the fence.
Tour the catacombs of The Basilica and Convent of San Francisco of Lima
This is a really interesting thing to do in the historic centre of the city. You don’t just get the catacombs or crypts on the tour it’s basically a tour of the whole building with the catacombs visit at the end. It’s only about an hour all in and the tours alternate between Spanish and English so make sure you choose the correct Language. This tour costs approx 15 PEN per person and is, in our opinion, great value for money.
Wander round Plaza Mayor and the historical centre
The same company that does the food tour also do a free historical tour but if you’re all toured out after the morning tour around the market why not, like we did, chill out with a coffee in one of the cafes just off the square then just have a wander round before taking in the catacombs. There are some fantastic impressive buildings surrounding the square including the Presidential Palace. The streets leading off the square have some quirky little artisan shops and cafes. It’s well worth exploring.
Eat some Picarones in Kennedy park
If your staying in Miraflores and you’ve still got room for more food why not go into the park and get some Picarones at one of the stalls. The are a deep fried sweet snack a bit like a doughnut covered in sugar and a sweet sticky sauce. Really delicious.
Lima isn’t the most beautiful city you will ever visit but if you’re there anyway you may as well make the most of your time and have a look around. The food culture is very interesting with an oriental twist and the ceviche is amazing so much so that I’m now addicted to the stuff.
Booking resources for your stay in Lima
Tours & Tickets
You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site. Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.
For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.
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The Cusco tourist ticket is an essential buy when visiting the city as you will need this to enter most of the more famous archeological sites and attractions.