I spent a little over a week in Lima, Peru’s capital and largest city. Prior to heading up there I had heard average reports from people coming south. The phrases I most frequently heard included the words: ‘boring’, ‘cloudy’, ‘dirty’ and ‘dangerous’.
Wrong. And as a side note, this iterates a very important point for all travellers to remember: always research a place and visit it based on your own judgements. Time and time again I’ve cringed when overhearing a conversation between two backpackers only for one to declare “You’re going there?! Why? It’s boooring.”
No, no, no, amateur travel advisor. You thought it was boring, that doesn’t mean that everyone else will!
Nevertheless, the naysayers had gotten to me, and with my expectations dramatically lowered, I arrived at Lima’s central bus terminal around 9:30pm. Trying to navigate a city of this size at nighttime can prove dangerous and for the cost of the taxi I was happy to forgo the inevitable hours of bus hopping and searching. Miraflores, the upper class district where the majority of backpackers base themselves, is a 20 minute taxi ride and should cost no more than 20 Soles (~$7AUD). Half an hour later, despite his best tyre-screaming efforts, my Subaru-wielding taxi driver couldn’t find my hostel either. Knowing I was close by, I opted out of the taxi and started searching on foot. Seeing my quandary, two Limeños offered their help. They knew where my hostel was and insisted on driving me there. There you go, human kindness again eh?
Now don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you all with a blow by blow description of my week. However, as the title suggests, here are some of the major highlights and places that I totally recommend for a visit if you find the time on your travels.
Parque de la Reserva: Circuito Mágico Del Agua
Wednesday to Sunday between 3-10:30pm this park is transformed into a dizzying array of light shows and 13 fountains comprising the Circuito Mágico. For just 4 Soles (~$1.50AUD) we were granted access to this awesome display. Some fountains shoot water over 80 feet in the air, while others project video and laser onto a fine mist in a one-off event for the evening. My personal favourites included the Fuente Túnel de las Sorpresas (pictured below), 35-metre long tunnel created by arching jets of water, and the Fuente Laberinto del Ensueño, a circular guessing game fountain where you’re challenged to get to the middle without getting wet. I chickened out. You can check out the photos below, and find more information on their website here.
Incredibly, this market features on absolutely zero tourist maps. The result is a very authentic Limeño market feel that includes amazing (and I mean amazing) food and local produce. Local markets with tasting stalls are held here each Sunday, too. When you visit, be sure not to miss the Chicharrón de Pescado or the standard Ceviche. You can find the market opposite the Ricardo Palma metro station, on the other side of the bridge as you walk away from Miraflores. Sorry I can’t give more accurate directions, like I said, it isn’t on the map.
Shiny New Things!
What’s the most fun you can have, for free, with your pants on? By putting on some other pants of course! And a few shirts, some shoes and a suit jacket or two. At Hugo Boss in the Jockey Plaza Mall just north of the city, I may have induced a bit of bad karma by leading the sales representatives that I was going to actually buy the $2000 grey suit that I spent 30 minutes strutting around in. But hey, it was worth it. After 7 months in the same clothes, this experience bordered on feeling reborn, no exaggeration.
Jazz Zone Peru
In an effort to make myself more interesting I have decided to listen to jazz music and read comics. I fulfilled the first part of this resolution thanks to my friend Myles, who dragged up their website and discovered a live jazz gig that very night! A little on the pricey side, but totally worth it because, well, I’m cooler now… right?
Not to be missed. The colonial centre boasts the historic importance of Lima and has the world-class museums to match. Among my favourite places worth visiting were:
- Museo Larco. The historic centre’s top rated museum and often cited as one of the best in the whole of South America.
- The monastery of San Francisco. The guided tour is free and offers a fascinating insight into the history of the city, church and the religion attached to it. The claustrophobic catacombs are super eerie and great for human bone lovers.
- The Plaza Mayor and its surroundings are an obvious starting point for anyone visiting a city with so much Spanish heritage. The changing of the guard is daily at 12pm and is one of the most flamboyant I have ever seen.
Aside from these highlights, what else did Lima have to offer? Well, basically the comfort of having a home away from home. McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, even Domino’s Pizza! Okay, so not exactly cultured (or cheap!) I know, but it’s nice to be ensconced in some home comforts every few months.
Don’t listen to the haters, give Lima a chance, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
[Title photo credit: Neo-Kat, Flickr.]