Landing in Lima – first days
So, you have spent the last however many hours travelling on a plane eagerly anticipating your arrival in Peru. You have everything packed and you are looking forward to finally getting your trip underway. As the plane’s wheels hit the ground, you look outside the plane window onto the runaway wondering what adventure may lie ahead.
Once you get through the immigration barrier as well as collect any luggage you may have, the city of Lima is yours to discover. It is true that lots of international travelers decide to skip Lima, especially if they are under time constraints during their trip. Many travelers fly into Lima due to the ease of international travel, and then catch a connecting flight to another part of Peru – for instance, Cusco or Arequipa. However, there are lots of things to do and see in Lima. So, if you are able to, take a moment to read on and see what you can discover in the Peruvian capital.
Best things to do in Lima
With a population of more than 9 million people, Peru’s capital lies on the Pacific Coast. There are a number of things that you can do and see while in Lima, depending on your interests and the amount of time you plan on staying there. I am going to talk about five of the best things that you can do in Lima, based on my own personal experience. When I was in Peru in the summer of 2019, I stayed for two days and three nights in Lima, which I think is a long enough time to truly absorb the atmosphere of the city.
- Lima City Walking Tour
There are so many cultural and historical attractions to see in Lima. These attractions are mainly found in the historical centre of Lima or the Centro Historico de Lima. If you are not staying in the downtown area of Lima, you can take a taxi or public transportation to this area to see more than 50 impressive attractions.
These include: Plaza de Armas, the Presidential Palace, San Pedro Church amongst so many others. There is even a chocolate museum, Choco Museo, where you can try various chocolates as well as the beans which are extracted to make the chocolate.
During my first out of two full days in Lima, I walked around downtown, stopping for a short while in the Plaza de Armas to watch people go by. I visited various churches and cathedrals to learn more about the Spanish culture and to soak in the atmosphere of the city. The architecture of these attractions, including the Basilica and Convent of San Francisco is really impressive. For instance, the Basilica and Convent of San Francisco was enacted in the 17th century and is an example of Spanish Baroque architecture – something that is different in some other parts of Peru.
I would definitely recommend walking around the downtown area and exploring the number of sites that are there. This is especially so if you enjoy culture and history!
Walking tours which exist to help tourists understand a bit more about Lima are:
- Exploring Miraflores
When I visited Peru, I stayed in Miraflores as it is an artsy area with things to do and see and it is close to the ocean! I would definitely recommend all travelers to consider embarking upon this neighbourhood in Lima.
Whether you take a bicycle, or simply walk, you can not only learn more about Lima, but also see street art along the way. Miraflores is located about 10km away from the centre of Lima, but is popular with locals and tourists alike. You can enjoy a picnic in Kennedy Park or walk the Malecon along the Pacific Ocean. The Malecon is about 6 miles in total, but being on top of cliffs looking down towards the ocean and hearing the thundering waves is a great feeling. Being able to cycle or walk along the coast adds a special something to the city vibe!
If you are up for some shopping, there is the Larcomar, a popular and famous shopping center where I bought a jumper made of alpaca wool. A must when you are in Peru! If you need any other shopping needs satisfied, then this shopping center has it all – right by the Pacific Ocean.
Tours which exist around Miraflores to help people get to know the area better are:
- Huaca Pucllana
I visited the Huaca Pucllana site on my second morning in Peru. It was towards the end of July, and the mild winter weather allowed me to make my way to the site from my accommodation in Miraflores. About a 20 minute walk, it was a great way to spend a morning in Lima.
Built from clay, this site was a local shrine or sacred place, where individuals located in the Miraflores area would come for ceremonial or administrative reasons. It was built from seven platforms and was an important centre of the development of the Lima culture. I think that it is an interesting place to visit and you could spend up to two hours of your day exploring the structure.
Within the site, there are structures which denote to the administrative area as well as the plaza or central square where you can let your imagination run wild as to what the purpose of these various parts of the site were. You should be aware that you can only explore the site as part of a group, you can either decide to go on a tour beforehand or pay a tour guide once you arrive at the entrance. The languages spoken are Spanish and English.
As well as the historical aspect of the site, there are also llamas within the area, which is always a bonus when in Peru!
Tours which exist beforehand which can help you understand Huaca Pucllana better:
4. Surf Lesson in the Pacific Ocean
Something else that is fun to do is to enjoy a surf lesson in the Pacific Ocean. Lima is quite lucky in that it lies on the edge of the ocean, meaning that you can cycle/walk or run by the shore or even go in to enjoy the waters. Being able to learn how to surf on the beautiful Playas which are mainly located in the Miraflores district is a great way to have fun on your trip!
Some great surf schools which can help you in your surfing experience:
5. Visit Sea Lions
Those who enjoy nature may find swimming with wild sea lions at Palomino Island a great activity to try out! Situated just off the shore of Lima, you can take a yacht on an about an hour voyage to the island. Palomino Island is known for habiting around 8000 sea lions! The operators will provide you with full body wetsuits if you would like to swim with the sea lions as the waters are quite cold – but a very unique opportunity to get up, close and personal with the animal!
It is a magical experience where you are literally surrounded by many curious sea lions. If you would like to, you are able to snorkel within the area of sea around them as well. Usually, people stay and can swim with them for about 15 minutes – but many would like to stay longer!
Tour who can help you enjoy swimming with Sea Lions off Palomino Island:
Best time of year to visit Lima, Peru
I travelled to Lima in the middle of July last year, and this was because the peak season (dry season in Peru) is May – October. This means, that if you are interested in also trekking during your trip, that the skies are often bright and it hardly rains. The rainy season is the rest of the year. Given that Peru is right by the equator, there are the rainy/dry seasons, but Lima does boast warm temperatures during the summer months if you are interested in a longer trip to the Peruvian capital.
If you have time on your trip, definitely consider taking a couple of days to enjoy and soak in the atmosphere of Peru’s capital. It has a variety of different kinds of architecture within the city as well as a Malecon where you can walk/run/cycle right by the Pacific Ocean.