Lima is the capital of Peru and with a mind blowing population of 10 million people, it can be overwhelming at first. There are cars, buses, taxis, motobikes and people everywhere, it is a city that never stops and never sleeps, shrouded in coastal fog and chaos. But once you work out Lima’s intricate transport system, learn its history, understand the culture and try some of the gastronomic delights, it becomes less scary and more fascinating.
Divided into different areas, Lima is completely different from the West to East and North to South. Miraflores and Barranco neighbourhoods are the most popular with backpackers with their trendy and slightly ‘western’ vibe, with lots of arty cafes, graffiti spots, cocktail bars and shopping malls. But the old town of Lima is also magical for lots of different reasons.
Try and reserve judgement on first impressions and make time to really get under the skin of the ‘City of Kings’, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Lima is incredibly well connected along the Pan American Highway running north to south, along Peru’s coastline. To the north it connects with Trujillo, Chilayo, Piura, Tumbes as well as Ecuador. To the south, it connects directly with Paracas, Ica, Nazca, Arequipa and down to Chile. You can also go inland to Cusco as well as into the Peruvian Andes region.
There are many bus companies going to and from Lima at every hour of the day. I recommend Cruz del Sur, Tespa or Oltursa. Each bus company has their own bus station so make sure you check when you are booking your tickets. The stations tend to be around 30 minutes from Miraflores.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Keep a close eye on your belongings. I was absolutely fine but I did hear of some thefts on the local buses. Always keep your bags on you.
If you are a little nervous about catching buses on your own, you can use the Peru Hop. Whilst it is more expensive than the companies mentioned above, they offer well planned itineraries where you pay a set amount, and you can 'hop on' and 'hop off' the bus whenever you like. They have a good route servicing the coast of Peru with English speaking guides and a door to door service. This is a great option for first time or solo travellers. For more details, head to their website here
Jorge Chavez International Airport is located 13Km from the city centre of Lima and 18km from Miraflores. There are many airlines serving Lima’s airport including:
- American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Iberia and Air Canada.
Getting the airport can take a while due to the intense traffic, so make sure you leave plenty of time. I left 1 hour time window to get from Miraflores to the airport and I missed my flight! There is so much traffic around the airport that you become gridlock for a while – leave double the time you think you should!
If you don’t want to spend out on a taxi, grab the Airport Express Lima bus which is a safe and cheap alternative. They stop at multiple points in Miraflores where you can jump on.
** For transport from Lima to Machu Picchu, you can catch a direct flight from Lima to Cusco and then make your travel plans from there. You can also take a bus from Lima to Cusco, but it is not advised as the road route is particularly dangerous - on of the worst in Peru.
The Metropolitano Express bus connects Lima’s city centre and Chorrillos in the south to Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro. It is fairly reliable and cheap, 1.5 Sol for one way. Or you can buy a travel card for 5 Sol and each time you use the Metropolitano Express, it will be taken off your card. You can buy these at dispensing machines along the bus route from some of the bus stops – they have a modern platform looking style. To pay your fare, hold your card in front of the reader and the amount will be deducted automatically.
Lima’s answer to the metro. At the moment it only has one route but it is a much quicker way to get around. Check out this website for more information.
You can either use UBER, book one through your hostel, grab one off the street (make sure it is a licensed taxi) or book one with a popular taxi company such as Taxi Satelital. You must negotiate the price before you get into the taxi.
Fine if you are in the safer neighbourhoods (Miraflores, Barranco, San Isidro) but do not walk around the centre on your own and especially at night. Be sensible with your belongings and keep your backpack on your front at all times.
Free walking tour:
Because the city is so huge, it can be overwhelming. The best way to discover downtown Lima is via a free walking tour, or a bicycle tour (see below). Lima by Walking has been rated the number one free walking tour company in Lima. They have local bilingual guides who take you through the history and culture of this bustling capital city. Make sure you take in the wonder of Plaza de Armas.
Photo credit: @Lima by Walking
Take a bicycle tour:
This is the perfect activity to do in Miraflores and Barranco. Head to Larco Street and the mall or book online with Green Bike. You can choose your type of tour; from cliff edge to inner city to tailor made to suit your needs and wants. You can go few a hours or a full day. Prices vary, from 50-140 Sol depending on what type of tour you book.
If the walking tour or countless shopping malls have tired you out, head to the beach at the south of the city. El Silencio and San Bartolo are popular with tourists. You will also find beaches along the areas of Miraflores, Barranco and Chorrillos as well as La Punta and Cantolao in Callao. However, the best beaches are found just outside of Lima. Check out Cerro Azul (2.5 hours away) or Punta Hermosa (1 hour away). Ask at your hostel for transport options.
Or why not get up high with a paragliding trip? Glide down to the coastal path, El Malecon, and get a true birds eye view of Lima and the pacific coast. A 10-20 minute glide can cost anywhere between 80-120 Sols ($23 - 35 | £18-27)
Check out the ancient ruins of Huaca Pucllana:
Located in Miraflores, you don’t have to travel far to get your history fix. Dating back to around 500AD, Hucac Pucllana is said to be a place where spiritual ceremonies and sacrifices were made.
- Cost: 12 Sol for a day time visit and 15 Sol if you go in the evening.
Discover the catecombs of San Francisco Covent (Jr. Ancash 571, Lima):
There is no denying the incredible architecture of the churches found in Lima. However, San Francisco church has a hidden underground treasure trove of intricate catacombs where the rich and powerful were once buried. It is estimated that there are over 70,000 bodies buried here.
- Based 45 minutes by taxi from Miraflores
- Open from 9.30-5.45pm every day
- Cost: 2 Sol for entrance although I would advise paying a little more and getting a guide or booking it as part of an organised tour through your hostel.
Miraflores is one of Lima’s more expensive neighbourhoods with beautiful green spaces, exquisite restaurants and cocktail bars, huge 5* hotels and a waterfront location offering insane views over the ocean. Parque Kennedy is right at the centre of the district, a park dedicated to the stray cats who are fed and looked after by a local NGO. A dream for me, but if you're not a cat fan, probably not the best place to hang out.
If you head towards the sea front from here, passing by houses similar to those in London, you will reach the coast path (El Malecon) and Parque del Armor (the love park) with beautiful sculptures and perfectly maintained flower beds and lots of couples making out! Rent a bicycle and cycle down the stretch of the coast or pick a spot and watch the sunset, you wont be disappointed.
If you are looking out to the water, head left, walking along the cliffs and you will reach Barranco. Barranco is the trendy, arty and cool kid district of Lima.
As Lima’s bohemian neighbourhood, it is home to artisans, singers, writers, actors and artists. Head to The Bridge of Sighs (El Puente de Los Suspiros) and take in the views of the beaches below or grab a bite to eat and people watch on the main square where most of the action happens. Don’t miss out on the The Bajada de los Banos, a walkway that connects Barranco to the seafront, traditionally used by fisherman to reach the beaches of Barranco.
- Use maps.me to guide you.
Make your way out to Paseo Billinghurst in the Chorrillos district. Grab a bite to eat at the El Salto Del Fraile (The Friar’s jump) at a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean. Head there on a Sunday and watch a resident monk jump off the cliff into the ocean below.
Check out Cerro San Cristobal for a panoramic view of the city:
Make sure you take a taxi here as walking is not safe. You can flag one down on the street or head to the Plaza de Armas.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Pick your moment wisely! Lima's position on the coast means it is often shrouded in coastal fog, preventing clear views. If you head here later in the afternoon / early evening, you will see the city lit up in all its glory – but make sure you go with someone if you choose to go at this time.
Kaclla The Healing Dog is the MOST AMAZING hostel I have ever stayed in. The vibe is super chilled, homely, a bit hippy-ish and super revitalising. This hostel is peaceful yet sociable. The staff are incredible, Pisco the hairless dog is the perfect sofa companion, the beds are comfortable and come equipped with reading laps and storage and the included breakfast will knock your socks off. Make sure you book in advance and book for all the days you are in Lima, I promise you, you wont regret it.
Based in Miraflores, it is a 5 minute walk to Parque Kennedy or the ocean front and coastal path. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Cost: 40 Sol per night for bed in 6 bed dorm.
I realise not everyone is like me and some people do like party when visiting Lima. So, if that is the case, the Dragonfly Hostel or Loki Lima are probably better for you! Both in Miraflores, super sociable, lots of themed nights, bars on site and cool roof terraces - oh and not much sleep ;)
- Churros or Picarones (fried sweet potato-squash fritters). Once you get a taste of them, you will be hooked!
- La Lucha, a fried pork sandwich and juice – head to Parque Kennedy for the best ones.
- Ceviche! Lima is infamous for its Cevicherias – fresh fish caught from the ocean below and served with onions, chilli peppers and sweet potatoes marinated in lemon, de-fish-lious (sorry couldn’t help myself).
- Not food but famous in Lima: Pisco Sour – pisco, lemon juice, sugar, egg whites and bitters, blended with ice to create heaven in a glass.
- Restaurant Sonia - owed and founded by a fisherman and his wife, found in Chorrillos district.
- Chez Wong - rustles up some of the best Ceviche in Lima!
Vegan / Vegetarian Food:
- Head to Veggie Pizza in Barranco and feast on their delicious pizzas, coffee and sweet treats.
- Armonica Cafe for vegan deserts.
- Germinando Vida in Barranco (delicious plant based meals)
- El Jardín De Jazmín in Miraflores
- Las Vecinas (cafe with family feel and super friendly staff).