City Highlight: Lima

Published on: Wednesday, March 14, 2018
City Highlight: Lima - Old town main square


Sunny beaches, lively heritage, ornate cathedrals, and otherworldly pre-Columbian ruins make Lima an exceptionally exotic getaway

As one of South America’s largest cities with a population of nearly 10 million, Peru’s capital, Lima, shines with its mild climate and familial culture. Lima provides its visitors with urban luxuries of high-rise hotels towering alongside ancient temples, with fried and spiced street food sold on adjacent sidewalks. Whether it’s a backpacking trip, a family extravaganza or a romantic holiday, Lima presents the ideal backdrop for a Latin American experience.

When to go

Lima’s climate remains relatively mild year-round and maintains only winter and summer seasons.

Winter (May to October) is considered offseason due to what locals call la garua, a thick sea fog accompanied by grey skies that can greatly restrict visibility. Watch out for micro-climates within the city – districts on the coast tend to be foggier.

Summer (November to April) is pleasant and makes for a popular time to visit thanks to clear skies and consistently warm temperatures that fluctuate between 16ºC (61ºF) and 27ºC (81ºF).

Getting around

The cheapest way to get around Lima is by bus. Visitors can hop on municipal buses, privately owned microbuses, or wave down a collective minibus (known as a combi or colectivo). These offer excellent rates and make transportation between the historic centre and the suburbs efficient.

Both licensed and unlicensed taxis operate in Lima, with licensed yellow taxis costing more than the alternative unlicensed private cars. Lima’s taxis don’t use meters, so plan on agreeing on a fare with the driver before speeding off to a destination.

For more information on transportation in Lima, see our Getting Around Lima guide.

Must-see attractions

Huaca Pucllana
You don’t have to travel all the way to Machu Picchu to experience Peru’s ruins – a number of ancient historic sites known as huacas are situated within the city’s borders. Head to the Miraflores district to see the Pucllana Temple – a great ceremonial pyramid made of adobe and clay that showcases remarkable artefacts and mummies dating back to 500 CE.

Monasterio de San Francisco
With its spectacular carved cedar ceiling, this grandiose Franciscan monastery is regarded as one of Peru’s national treasures. Its library boasts tens of thousands of rare and ancient texts sure to astonish any book lover – but most visitors come to see the subterranean catacombs that are said to lodge the remains of 75,000 people, with exposed bones and skulls available for public viewing. Ghastly yet fascinating.

Circuito Mágico del Agua (Magic Water Circuit)
Head downtown to the Parque de la Reserva after sunset to view a spectacular laser show featuring thirteen colour-changing fountains choreographed to music. The largest fountain sends water shooting up as high as 80 metres leaving spectators in awe.

See our Things to See in Lima guide for more must-see recommendations.

Quirky & offbeat

Learn to “hang ten” and surf
Peru’s sandy beaches and forgiving tides make surfing a fun activity for any novice. More experienced surfers head further south to the Chorrillos district and La Herradura, but beginners can try their hand on the shores of Waikiki beach in Miraflores.

Swim with 8,000 sea lions
An estimated 8,000 sea lions call Isla Palomino home. Even though visitors are prohibited from stepping onto the island, swimming in the surrounding waters is welcomed and sea lions regularly dip in with you too.

For other offbeat adventures, see our Things to do in Lima guide.

Travel tips

Must-try foods in Lima

  • Ceviche – this seafood dish features fresh raw fish harvested from the Pacific Ocean marinated in citrus juice and chilli.
  • Aji de gallina – a creamy, rich chicken stew served with a side of boiled eggs, potatoes, and rice.
  • Anticucho – these shish kebab-style beef skewers seasoned with garlic and cumin are delicious quick bites that can be enjoyed between excursions.
  • Pisco sour – made from a base of local brandy pisco and egg whites, this sweet and sour drink claims the title of a South American delicacy.
  • Choclo con queso – a popular street food of boiled corn on the cob served with fresh cheese.

Tipping: A service charge of 10% is added to bills and an additional tip of 5-10% is expected in better restaurants.

Check out our Lima Food & Drink Guide: Top 10 things to try in Lima, Peru for some more delicious recommendations. To find out where to eat, see our Restaurants in Lima guide.

Hotels in Lima

A prime travel destination, Lima offers exceptional accommodation options to fit any traveller’s price range. For an extravagant experience, book a stay at the Belmond Miraflores Park, a highly regarded hotel that boasts views of the ocean and a rooftop pool. For visitors on a budget, Lima’s Inka Frog Exclusive Bed & Breakfast offers cheap rates and a funky vibe.

To find the perfect in-budget hotel, check out our Lima Hotels guide.

Nightlife in Lima

From smooth jazz to festive salsa, live music dominates Lima’s dynamic nightlife. The city is home to a range of casual bars and swanky clubs, varying from hole-in-the-wall establishments to cosmopolitan colonial mansions. To experience a night out unique to Lima, take in a peña, or a colourful folk dance show with vibrant music, singing, and costumed performers.

For more on nightlife, see our Lima Nightlife guide.

Shopping in Lima

Though the city may not be classified as a fundamental shopping destination, the city still offers everything from modern shopping malls with designer clothing brands to small markets selling crafts and traditional Peruvian goods. Miraflores has several handicraft shops and is a go-to destination for alpaca goods. For international products, head to the Ripley department store on Parque Kennedy.

Check out our Shopping in Lima guide for the best shopping areas to visit.

Visa requirements to Lima, Peru

Canadian, Australian, American, British, or EU nationals can enter Peru without a visa for up to 183 days. To enter the country, all nationals mentioned above must have a passport valid for the duration of their stay.

For more information on the documents you need before you travel to Lima, see our Peru Visa and Passport Requirements page.

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