Travel to LimaLima - Not Your Childhood Beans
The gateway to Machu Picchu and Cusco, Lima itself is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be. Lima is one of great cities of South America, with an impressively restored city center of colonial buildings and cathedrals, a long stretch of sandy beaches and a killer restaurant scene. A weekend here will not do justice to all the culinary experiences Lima has to offer, where the ceviche is taken to a high art.
The neighborhood to relax in is the beachfront Miraflores, which is home to the Orient-Express Miraflores Park Hotel. Lima’s reputation as a stopover city with rough accommodation is not at all the case in Miraflores, where the Pacific Ocean and white-sand beaches dominate. At the Miraflores Park, you won’t need to sacrifice on creature comforts – the rooms are well appointed, from high-end linens to beautiful bathrooms. When you arrive at the airport, arrange transport with one of the on-site taxi companies. CMV is reputable, offering fair fixed prices and clean, comfortable cars. Travel tip: Find a driver who can be your guide for the few days you’re in Lima. At about $15/hour, it’s considerably cheaper to set up at the airport than at your hotel – and you’ll be happy to have your own driver, because Lima is not a walking city, and the pubic transport is nil.
On your first morning, don’t miss breakfast at the Miraflores Park outdoor rooftop, which has gorgeous views of the beach and ocean. From here, join fit Peruvians and walk the shoreline to the Park of Love. Its name does not disappoint: The park features a crazy, large statue of two lovers in the throes of passion. On any given day, you’ll see multiple wedding parties snapping pictures at this landmark site. Ask your driver pick you up at the park or back at the hotel to start exploring the town.
Begin your excursion in the historic center of Lima, at the Plaza Mayor. The three main powers of Lima are represented here – the City Hall for law, the Government Palace for, you guessed it, government and the Cathedral for God. Churches are everywhere in Lima – a manifestation of Spain’s initiative to convert the Incas to Catholicism. One of the most beautiful stretches of buildings in the area is the Paseo de los Escribanos, known as “The Writers’ Way.” In the past, when much of the population was illiterate, Lima locals came here to have their messages to loved ones and friends transcribed. With its signature yellow buildings, it’s a favorite among visitors, along with a stop at El Virrey, a quaint bookshop. The cafés around here are non-descript, but any are fine for a coffee. From here, walk to the Río Rimac, one of the oldest (and less affluent) areas of Lima, before heading back towards the main square.
Afterwards, wander through the main shopping area in the center – while there’s probably nothing you’d want to buy, it’s the perfect spot to soak in the colorful, everyday life of Lima. From here, you’ll arrive at the Bolivar Hotel in San Martin Square, the oldest hotel in Lima, as evidenced by their lack of air conditioning. The hotel was in bankruptcy, but the employees rallied to refurbish it. The bones of the hotel are in place for a grand dwelling one day, and today it’s worth a stop to take in a bit of history and sip pisco sours on the terrace – the famed Peruvian drink is said to have been created here.
From the Bolivar, drive to the lively La Mar Cebichería,which is how a ceviche bar should be. At La Mar, ceviche is art – beautifully presented in boats for larger orders, or as toraditos, over mashed potatoes.
Be prepared to wait up to an hour for a table during prime time. Dining out in Lima is as much about the cuisine as it is about the cocktails, and La Mar is the place to do it up, with some of the most potent pisco sours in the city. If you’re still standing, pop in for a drink at the inviting outdoor patio at Pescados Capitales before heading back to Miraflores for an early evening snooze by the pool. Keep Pescados Capitales in mind if you have more time in Lima, it’s a great spot for dinner, with paella and ceviche.
On your first night, keep it local in Miraflores. Start with drinks at Las Brujas de Cachiche, known for ceviche and handcrafted drinks. Loosely translated, it means “Witches Brew,” and after a few too many pisco sours, it can certainly feel like it. For dinner, sample traditional cuisine at Pampa de Amancaes, which is off the tourist circuit in a beautiful house in Miraflores. It’s not the trendy scene, but that’s a big part of its appeal – the crowd is local and the Peruvian dishes are superb. For post-dinner cocktails, stop in to Huaringos and then enjoy a nightcap at Mensa 18 at the Miraflores Park – with its outdoor seating and white cushioned couches, this is much too cool for a hotel bar.
For your last day in Lima, conquer the newer neighborhoods like San Isidro, which is the high-end residential and financial district of Lima, adjacent to Miraflores. In the morning, head to the impressive Inca Huallamarca Ruinsand nearby Olive Park. Stop for a coffee at Trattoria del Vino, with sidewalk seating across from the ruins. For lunch, dine at the foot of the ruins at Huace Puccllana, one of the finest restaurants in Lima. The other local restaurant is Francesco, in Miraflores, with views of the Pacific Ocean and the best seafood in a town where the competition is stiff. After your late lunch, you may be tempted to go to the Indian Market, the touristy, overpriced handicrafts market. Our advice is to skip it – or at most, take a brisk walk through. Instead, spend a lazy afternoon at the beach, and then join the beautiful people for a cocktail at Cala.If you have more time, go on a day trip to Asia, about two hours away by car, which is the Hamptons of Lima. Soak up the sun and relax at the breezy Café del Mar.
On your last evening, hang out in the bohemian district of Barranco, which gets going later at night. Before or after dinner, drop by the inviting Santos, which feels like the casual apartment of a Peruvian friend. The best restaurants include the intimate, Nuevo Peruvian Chala, and the beautifully decorated Picas, with large picture windows and an outdoor terrace. Top off the night at Ayahuasca, set in a converted historic home where each eclectic room features a fusion of classic and contemporary, and the crowd is hottest on Friday nights. It’s one of the most beautiful watering holes in the world – and just another reason why Lima will linger in your mind long after you’ve left.