While thousands of visitors stop over briefly in Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport on their way to Cuzco and the ruins of Machu Picchu, the Peruvian capital city of eight million has much more to offer than can be seen in a single day. When visiting the country, plan to spend at least some time seeing the various attractions in the city of Lima. Taxis are abundant and cheap, although it is generally safer to arrange for one inside the airport, or in taxi areas near large stores or commercial centers.
Lima is divided into various districts, but among the more popular with tourists is Miraflores, where seaside cliffs along the coast offer spectacular views on sunny days. Those wishing to relax can stroll through Parque de Amor while listening to the pounding surf, while the more adventurous can rent a wetsuit and a board from vendors on the beach that also offer instruction. A wide variety of shopping and dining options are available at Larcomar, a mall built right into the cliff. No visit to this city would be complete without a taste of ceviche, a Peruvian favorite of raw fish marinated in lemon juice, but here next to the cold waters of the Antarctic Humboldt Current, all manner of seafood can be enjoyed in both street cafes and higher-end restaurants like La Rosa Nautica on the pier in Miraflores.
Central Lima, just a short drive away from the coast, offers an entirely different flavor. The buildings are a bit older and dustier, and the restaurants smaller, but shopping takes the form of artisanal markets, and street performers are commonplace. In the heart of Central is the Plaza de Armas, where the giant Cathedral of Lima overlooks a central fountain. Nearby is the Cathedral of San Francisco, where tours run frequently, and take visitors past giant wood carvings and oil paintings into the dark catacombs below, the final resting place of more than 70,000 former residents of Lima.
In the early evening, it’s worth a trip up Arequipa Avenue to the Parque de los Reservas, also known as the Magic Circuit of Water. This giant fountain complex is the largest in the world – 13 different fountains form moving aquatic sculptures. After dark, this enchanted place becomes even more so, as rainbow-colored lights are projected onto the fountains. A movie and laser-light show plays at regular intervals on the largest fountain sculpture. It’s well worth the admission price of about $1.60 USD.
Lodging in Lima varies widely, from the luxurious J.W. Marriott in Miraflores to more affordable hotels just off the waterfront, to inexpensive backpacker hostels.
No matter what options you choose, Lima is well worth a stopover on the way to a Machu Picchu tour.
The author has lived and worked in Peru for the past two years.
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Cuzco and Machu Picchu – Enjoying Peru’s Sacred Valley
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