Winter Break 2016 saw me go to South America, to explore a continent I had never been to and to interact with a metaculture that I had just started to become familiar with. The first portion of this trip was in Peru, and we’ll start with Lima. Let’s just say that quickly into the trip I learnt I can’t travel in South America the way I’ve been familiar with so far – I was about to be schooled.
Lima is the capital of Peru. When I talk to other SA travellers a lot of them mention how less alluring of an option the city is compared to other Peruvian wonders, but I’ve come to disagree. Lima has a rich past and a promising future, and that energy is something different that can be tapped into when you walk the streets. Historically, Lima also was a huge strategic city for the Spanish Conquistadors, who play an important role in most of my trip, and a good entry point to understanding Peru and other parts of SA. Lima is a lot more of a collective of districts, rather than one big city, and exploring these districts provide a lot of diversity and wholesomeness to the traveler’s understanding of Lima.
One of the more iconic districts is Barranco. Located in the south-eastern part of Lima, this district is known as the Bohemian District and has played host to the inspiration of many Peruvian creatives and intellectuals. Its colourful baroque buildings stand out and encourage you to consider indulging in your own creative moment. There are many beautiful graffiti pieces and architectural sights to look at as you walk through this district.
One of the more iconic parts of the district is the Bridge of Sighs – a beautiful wooden bridge that overlooks a deep ravine (Bajada de los Baños) and puts you in the heart of what Barranco is. Come here for some cool views.
If you want to see the historical (Spanish) part of the city, you have to take a 20 minute drive up away from Miraflores to the Centro area, which is essentially downtown Lima. Here you’ll find the Plaza de Armas, which is the main city centre for most Spanish cities, and a lot of beautiful Spanish buildings. Almost every Plaza I’ve seen has a Palace and a Cathedral almost assured, and the Spanish don’t hold back on the beauty of these structures.
Of course, Miraflores is where most tourists go to in Lima, and that’s because of the beaches, backdropped by tall cliffs and sights of the district behind you. I was lucky enough to be brought to a private beach which had sand on it, but some of the public access beaches are rock beaches so take your pick. There are also some pretty sweet spots amongst the cliffs if you look online for you to catch the sunset. They call some of these ‘Lovers Area’ because of the obvious connotation but the sunsets from Lima are amazing so you should go there even if you’re by yourself.
Onto food. You’ll hear it again and again. Lima is the culinary capital of the Americas. There’s not only direct access to a rich diversity of ingredients here, there are unique flavour profiles and cooking methods that really push the boundaries of good food. One of the things you must try is Ceviche – cured fish (or other seafood) with lime zest and spiced with aji, a Peruvian take on chilli. If you like sushi or sashimi, ceviche isn’t that far off, and Canta Rana in Barranco comes highly recommended for its local focus, so no touristy overpricing, and community vibes.
If you want to Fine Dining anywhere in South America, you have a number of options. Don’t let Lima slip away. Maido is an amazing Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant that offers stunningly exquisite dishes. If you want to try the kitchen’s best, go for the Nikkei Experience, a multi-course menu that takes you on a journey of Peruvian ingredients. My favorite was this reduction of a shrimp based broth over spices and herbs from the Peruvian jungle. It was eventually served a baked cod belly, and was absolutely mind blowing.
And don’t do yourself a disservice by not trying the fruits. Luquma is a sweet and addictive fruit that is served best when mixed with milk (so ice creams or yoghurts) and is readily available. This picture is also from Maido and shows a Luquma ice cream in a chocolate shell and served with milk foam.
Here are some general travel tips for Lima:
Location to stay in: Miraflores and Barranco are your go-tos. Miraflores if you want access to the beaches, Barranco for the beautiful bohemian district and bars. I stayed in a hostel called Family Backpackers Club. It’s a pretty no-frills and reliable hostel (6.5/10 from me) but don’t expect to leave feeling anything special about the place.
SIM Cards/ Data: Avoid getting a SIM Card in the airport. It’s overpriced and not worth it. Go into the city centre and get one for 10 soles (~ 3 USD) and add money to your account and purchase a data plan for around 25 soles (~8 USD). That should set you up for at least a week.
ATMs: Don’t be tricked into using any regular ATMs. Peru has ATMs that don’t charge local withdrawal fees like Scotiabank and a number of others. Save up to 8 USD per transaction by using these
Transport: Uber is available and super cheap in Lima. Try to use it wherever you go and avoid getting your directions misinterpreted.
Crime: Not as present. I’m sure there’ll be regular pickpocketing if you don’t keep your wits about you, but I didn’t feel unsafe in Lima at all.
I have to thank Elna for showing my around this beautiful city and telling me about what it has to offer. She was also such an amazing person in providing me tips around Peru in general and bringing me to some local haunts. People like Elna are hard to come by. Thank you!
In the next post, I’ll cover Nasca and Cusco so look out for that! Till then,