So you’re set on seeing Machu Picchu, perhaps even Lake Titicaca or Arequipa, but have you considered a day or two in Lima during your Peru vacation? One-third of Peru’s population lives in this capital city, which is a historical, financial, and cultural hub. And unless you arrive by land, there is no way to completely bypass Lima, since it houses Peru’s only international airport. Embrace the layover! Here are some suggestions on how to spend 48 hours in Lima, Peru.
Machu Picchu isn’t the only ancient ruin in Peru, the country is actually overflowing with artifacts, ruins, and reminders of past empires. Lima is no exception. Right in the middle of the capital’s modern Miraflores distract is Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Incan adobe complex dating back to 500 AD. Although the site is still undergoing excavations, guided tours are offered about every half an hour in both English and Spanish.
To see shinier artifacts, head to the Larco Museum in Pueblo Libre. This private museum contains attractive and informative displays from several of Peru’s ancient cultures. It also has one of the largest collections of pre-Columbian pottery in the world and features an intriguing display of erotic pottery.
To experience Peru’s colonial period, no place is better than Lima’s historic center. The Plaza de Armas is surrounded by colonial buildings, including the Cathedral of Lima, the Archbishop’s Palace, and the President’s residence, which dates back to 1535. A few blocks over is the San Francisco Church and its historic (and creepy) catacombs that hold more than 250,000 bones.
Lima is the best place to experience luxury in Peru. The city generates over 50% of Peru’s GDP, and it shows. Thanks to its booming economy, Lima has become the place to pamper oneself. Stroll the streets of San Isidro to see how the wealthy locals live, and dine at some of the best restaurants in all of South America. The restaurant Astrid y Gaston, located in Miraflores, was rated among the 50 best restaurants in the entire world.
Lima is also overflowing with boutique and luxury hotels, many offering exclusive services such as spas and massage treatments. A favorite of many is the Marriott, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and sits next to the up-scale shopping complex of LarcoMar.
The district of Barranco is the artistic and bohemian area of Lima. This is a great place to explore art museums and browse boutique shops. This area really comes alive at night, when the penas (traditional bars that serve Peruvian food and feature traditional dances and performances) get going. A pena is a unique Peruvian experience, and a good place to sample your first pisco sour, the national cocktail of Peru.
To further your contextual knowledge of Peru, consider taking a tour of Lima tour to the city’s cultural highlights. During this, a visit to the National Museum is a worthwhile stop. The museum features displays on Peru’s ancient cultures as well as its more recent history, including a straightforward but shocking display about the Shining Path terrorist group, which threatened the country throughout the 1980 and early 1990s.