Peru's streets, colorful buildings and ancient ruins are nothing short of breathtaking. Expect to be awed by the timeless traditions, culinary scenes, and jaw-dropping sights in this magical South American country. A BIG thank you to my co-author, the nomadic Sarah Afifi, and all round awesome lady who shared her wanderful stories from her 10 fabulous days in Peru.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Taxis: I’d say the best way to get around the city hassle and worry-free is by making taxi arrangements with your hotel, especially to and fro the airport. Taxis around the city are plentiful but many are not regulated by the government so meters sometimes are amiss and you may waste valuable time bargaining for a fare. Other reliable options include Green Taxi and UBER. In all cases though, I always think it’s a good idea to share your ride and route details with a friend.
Walking: Lima’s streets are wonderful to wander in by foot. Dress your feet comfortably and you’ll enjoy the cobbled pavements along the way. Between neighborhoods, however, a taxi is essential.
WHERE TO SLEEP
The Lot Boutique Hotel is the perfect choice if you’re looking for an intimate stay in Lima. It is located in one of the quieter streets of Miraflores - one of the best districts of the lot to stay in -, has a lovely patio to sip your morning coffee in, and offers a no-frills vibe.
The Four Points by Sheraton Miraflores is a great pick for both vacationers and business travelers alike. The rooms are spacious, clean, and comfortable. Staff are very helpful in arranging transportation. The hotel also has a lovely outdoors terrace to sit in.
The impeccable experience at JW Marriott Hotel in Miraflores is definitely worth treating yourself to. Opt for a room facing the Pacific Ocean and I guarantee, you’ll find it hard to step out. The staff is super attentive and hospitable. The venue houses a Starbucks for those in need of an in-house caffeine fix, and lies opposite to the busy outdoors Larcomar Mall.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Take a stroll through the infamous Parque Kennedy, named in honor of the American president and his aid to Peru, and a place which almost 100 of Lima’s stray cats or gatos call home. The park is cleaned often and is a surely unique stop guaranteed to delight cat lovers. Or if cats don’t do it for you, stop by the Parque de la Reserva in the evening for a magnificent fountain display. You’re almost guaranteed to be soaked but the dancing waters are well worth the shower. Closed on Mondays.
Visit the Huaca Pucllana pre-Inca ancient ruins which lie in the middle of modern Miraflores. Admission includes a guided tour and a walk to the top of the Great Pyramid made of small adobe bricks stacked alongside and on top of one another, resembling a massive outdoors library. The site also houses remains that have been unearthed which reveal rituals and religious beliefs at the time.
Wander to the Plaza Mayor and Centro Historico to admire the marvelous architecture of Lima’s buildings and cathedrals. Visit the Monastery of San Francisco surrounded by swarms of pigeons. Inside you’ll find a Hogwarts-like library with almost 25,000 books and religious texts. Look for the painting of the Last Supper, showing the disciples eating a typical Peruvian dish, the guinea pig, and compare it with a printed original. What lies beneath the church is what draws its visitors. Almost 25,000 bodies, some say even more, are buried in its underground vaults.
Bring a little bit of Peru back home when you stop by the Mercado Indios and Inka Plaza. Both places offer souvenirs of all kinds, many of which are handcrafted. So skip the ‘I ❤ Peru’ tshirts and look for something truly unique. They have beautiful alpaca scarves and sweaters, Incan jewelry, and awesome coasters. Tips: look around before buying to compare quality, master the art of bargaining, and carry cash. Another great idea is to stop by a supermarket for a chance to buy some delicious superfoods such as maca and the ever so popular quinoa grains, believed to have helped boost the stamina of the ancient Inca warriors.
A visit to Peru is incomplete without a visit to The Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. The city, now a UNESCO World Heritage site and a new World Wonder, was once only known to peasants living in the region. It was stumbled upon in 1911 by an American archaeologist, and since its discovery, has become a popular hike up the Inca Trail. Tours typically start in Cusco, and offer different treks. The Alpaca Expeditions Travel Peru is highly recommended, as is the Salkantay Trek. Also, take a private day trip with a local cabbie from Cusco to visit the Sacred Valley, Sacsayhuamán, and Quenco.
WHERE TO EAT
Grab a massive sandwich and fries from the epic La Lucha Sangucheria right by Parque Kennedy, and enjoy the outdoor terrace. If you’re a big group, experiment with the orders so you can enjoy their famed chicharrones, roast beef, and chicken cheese.
Take a day tour with Lima Gourmet Food Tours so you can attest to Peru’s rightful place as the world’s most exciting culinary destination. The 5 hours/5 stops city and food tour is the perfect opportunity to sample much of the city’s cuisine, wander its colonial streets, and even take a shot at making your very own ceviche and pisco sour.
Wander to La Mar for an early lunch at one of Lima’s best cebicherias. This seafood restaurant has a great atmosphere and outstanding staff to guide you through its elaborate menu. For starters, the ceviche trio is out of this world paired with tiradito, where ceviche meets sashimi. For mains, ask for the pescado of the day.
Dinner at Central Restaurant is a truly gastronomic experience and one where you journey through the many altitudes and different climates of Peru. Ranked 4th in the world, Central offers 2 tasting menus inspired by various Peruvian ecosystems with up to 16 courses and an outstanding array of flavors. The Michelin star chef has transformed Peru’s local cuisine and is passionate about investigating his homeland’s underused ingredients.
Head to Cala Lounge in the popular bohemian Barranco district for an unrivaled view of the Pacific Ocean. The terrace outside is a great place to grab a Pisco Sour, catch the sunset, and feel the ocean breeze. Cala gets busy on weekends so expect slow service, and also arrange for your transportation to and fro the hotel in advance.