If you are planning a trip to Peru you are most probably (definitely) flying into the capital of Lima. Located on the west coast, Lima is the largest city in Peru which offers a mix of historic and modern districts.
A lot of people flying into Lima jump straight on to a connecting flight to Cusco, this is not only a bad idea because of the extreme change in altitude but you are missing out on all the fantastic sites Lima has to offer. I recommend starting any trip to Peru with 24 hours in Lima, this should give you enough time to see and do as much as possible.
So if you are adding Lima to your itinerary here is my guide to how you should spend 24 hours in Lima.
If you are visiting Peru chances are you will be using Hostels for the majority of your stay. Lima has a vast amount to choose from located in various parts of the city. Most people (and I agree) believe Miraflores is the best area to stay in. Most hostels will have a breakfast included in your stay, so make sure you make use of it when you can as it saves you a bit of money and sets you up for the morning. The breakfasts are usually quite basic, a hot drink, juice, toast and jams and maybe eggs. We stayed at one of the Flying Dog Hostels and although basic, the location just off Kennedy Park was absolutely perfect for exploring Lima in just 24 hours and our free breakfast was served at a nearby café overlooking the park, which was a great way to start the day.
The Street Art of Barranco
The public transport in Lima isn’t great but if like me you like walking then you are in luck. It is fairly simple to walk from Miraflores to Barranco. You will know when you arrive because of the amazing colourful signs. This part of Lima is probably considered the more ‘Hipster’ part of Peru. The colourful street art is everywhere and its pretty amazing.
Head towards the Bridge of Sighs, this is a specific street which has the majority of the art and is a beautiful walk down to the coast. There are also a few cafes in this area and would make a great place to stop (if you have the time). Most of these places weren’t open when we walked past, so we grabbed a quick drink at Starbucks. I hate using places like this when I am travelling but a toilet and free WiFi is hard to resist sometimes.
Walk along the Malecon
You will notice that a lot of walking is involved in my intinerary for 24 hours in Lima but I think it is the best way to explore a new place. The walk along the coast is an amazing one. The street mentioned above (Bridge of Sighs) leads all the way down to the coastline where you can start your walk and head northwards. The first part of the walk is right near to the sea, with the waves crashing into the big boulders, a lot of people were taking the opportunity to surf whilst we were visiting. One negative about Lima, if I had to pick one, is that its often very cloudy here due to its location next to the coast and I think if you are lucky enough to visit Lima on a sunny day it would look even more amazing.
There is probably a better route to walk, and my friend certainly had hoped there would be, but we then came to a busy road junction at which point we needed to head upwards, so that we could walk along the cliffs edge instead of at the bottom. After navigating a couple of trodden in paths and crossing some major roads we found a proper set of steps which took us to the top of the cliff, known as the Malecon. The views from up here were even more incredible as even on a cloudy day you could see a considerable distance along the coast.
During our walk we stumbled across the new shopping centre and if that’s something you enjoy then definitely stop here, its got a lot of high end brand shops and also some nice restaurants. We also walked past an area where you can go paragliding, something we really wanted to do, but with time constraints and the fact it was quite a cloudy day we decided to give it a miss. If you have time to continue walking along the Malecon you will stumble across a number of parks, my favourite being Parque del Amor (The Park of Love). Here you will see a large sculpture of two people kissing surrounded by mosaic walls, there were so many photo opportunities here. Continuing on there is also a small lighthouse and one of the parks even has flowers and hedges in the shape of the famous Nazca lines.
Whilst doing my research on Peru I quickly discovered that Ceviche was the countries signature dish and the best place to try this meal of raw fish cooked in citrus juice would be along the coast where seafood is at its freshest. I came across a restaurant called La Mar Cebichería which was conveniently located about 5 minutes walk from the end of our walk along the Malecon. There are loads of restaurants serving Ceviche in Lima, however if you want to treat yourself and pay slightly more (although the prices were still incredibly affordable), then I recommend eating here. The restaurant itself is half inside, half outside, the modern bar is lined with fresh fish and the staff were incredibly professional and friendly.
Snacks of vegetable crisps and dip as well as deep fried corn is provided whilst you look through the menu, which let me warn you is extensive. I was fairly overwhelmed, which is pretty standard as I will eat absolutely anything and everything. I knew I wanted to try Ceviche and after talking with the waitress decided on ceviche made from their catch of the day which was topped with deep fried calamari and octopus. I was asked if I liked spice as they adapt the heat of the meal based on your taste. There are plenty of other local dishes and fish dishes to choose from, with my friend opting for a cooked sea bass.
Ceviche is strange, an acquired taste perhaps. I enjoyed it although its hard to describe. I had a bowl of cold raw citrusy fish sat in a cold spicy soup, accompanied by sweet potato, corn, onion, lettuce and of course topped with my deep fried seafood. I would definitely eat it again and I am glad that I chose this restaurant to try it as I can imagine its a dish which could also taste very bad if it was done wrong. I also tried my first pisco sour of the trip….wow they are potent!
Visit the Historical Centre
I knew when I visited Lima that I just had to visit the historical centre which is centred on the Plaza de Armas, here there are a number of historic building including the Cathedral, Municipal Palace and Government Palace. The problem with the historic centre is it is some distance from Miraflores and if you are pushed for time you might think it difficult to fit this in to your itinerary. We had picked up a couple of leaflets in the morning from our hostel and found a company called Mirabus with a kiosk located near to the Starbucks in Kennedy Park which was a two minute walk from where we were staying. The company runs morning and afternoon tours to the historic centre in an open top bus with no pre booking necessary.
The afternoon tour started at 230pm and cost 75 soles, there were two tour guides on the bus, one English speaking and one Spanish speaking. The drive to the historic centre was fairly slow going as the traffic in Lima is so bad, however we were kept entertained by the tour guide giving us plenty of information about the city. We eventually arrived at the Basilica and Catacombs of San Francisco de Lima, the entrance of which was included in our tour price. This was the one place in the historic centre that I really wanted to visit. Once inside the tour groups split and we made our way through all the rooms receiving very detailed information about the Basilica. Finally it was time for the best bit, the catacombs, which won’t be everyones cup of tea. It is essentially a burial ground underneath the Basilica and the human bones are all on display for you to see.
Once we finished our tour we walked round to the main square, Plaza de Armas, where we were given a quick ten minutes to take our photos before jumping back on the bus and heading back to Kennedy Park. It was a long tour, lasting about 3 hours with all the travel time but it is the best way to fit the historic centre into your trip if you only have 24 hours in Lima.
As we got dropped off from our tour and had to walk through the park to get back to our hostel it was a great opportunity to have a look around. It was now dark and the park had come to life, the park was full of stalls selling handmade crafts. I am not sure if this is a daily occurrence but it was full of local people. There are also a few hot food stands and as we were still pretty full from our lunch we opted for a filled Churros which I cost only 3 soles, it was incredibly greasy and delicious, just what was needed before bed.
So there are my recommendations for 24 hours in Lima, have you been to Lima? I would love to know what you got up to, or maybe you missed it off your itinerary and wish you hadn’t.