A Quick Tour of Lima
So, this trip to Peru I planned, was my first foray into South America. While I was charmed by Cuzco, and in awe of Machu Picchu...to me, Lima lacked something. Perhaps I need to give it another chance. I actually returned a few months later for work, but didn't even venture out into the city.
I think I would have enjoyed Lima more, but the parts of the city that I wanted to see were far apart, and I spent a lot of the day in a taxi.
If you're headed to see Machu Picchu and have a stopover in Lima, I would definitely recommend going into the city. Would I suggest you stay a few days...no. But to each their own. You may just fall in love with Lima and need to tell me all the amazing things I overlooked.
My favorite part of arrival at Lima's airport was that I had a driver waiting for me. I had rented an apartment for my friends and I through Casa Bella Peru (www.casabellaperu.net) in the San Isidro neighborhood. The apartment was a reasonable price, had two bathrooms, one bedroom, a kitchen, dining area, and a living room with two full size couches. It was very nice and comfortable. I would definitely stay there again. It was an approximately 30 minute ride from the airport.
We arrived late at night/early morning...so we waited until the sun came up to head out to see the sites. First up was Central Lima's Plaza de Armas, the main square that is lined with the Archbishop's palace and the Presidential palace. The Plaza was 8 km away from our apartment...depending on traffic...may take some time.
After checking out the Plaza, we decided to stop for lunch. One thing I really enjoy about traveling, is trying out the local cuisine. My guidebook recommended a classic Peruvian establishment just a block off the plaza called El Cordano (Ancahse 202). It mentioned that it was known for it's tacu tacu, a local pan-fried rice and beans dish. Figuring that I needed to try something local, especially if the place was known for it, I ordered it.
The waiter said, "It's mush, you want it?" I should have listened.
Although, the Inca Kola pictured is definitely a must try. Some people love it, others hate it. But see for yourself. I think it tastes like bubblegum. My friends ended up with decent sandwiches, so stop by El Cordano...just follow the waiter's advice and don't order the tacu tacu.
Nearby is the Monasterio de San Francisco, it's bright yellow. Hard to miss. We stopped by to enter the bone-lined catacombs.
We then made our way to the Miraflores area to see the clifftops. Miraflores is 9 km away from Central Lima. Near the cliffs was a shopping area and food court type scene. One of my recommendations for food in Lima (or the Lima airport) is the chain restaurant Pardo's. Great roasted chicken, fries, and a delightful dipping sauce. You can also get a similar dish from the grocery store deli section.
For dinner that night, we searched for a nearby Chinese restaurant. My friends and I have a strange tradition of eating Chinese in every country we travel together to. Lima is known as quite a foodie city, with lots of fusion restaurants. Check Yelp and see what speaks to you.
Later that night, looking for something else to do...we hit up the El Circuito Magico del Agua. This is a water fountain park with illuminated fountains set to Peruvian folk music. It was definitely a delight to the local children, so unless you're traveling with youngsters, you won't be missing out on a must-see site if you skip it.
While Lima wasn't my favorite destination in Peru, if you have a layover between your flight into Lima and on to another part of the country (usually Cuzco), it's worth checking out. I just wouldn't spend a lot of time there when there's so many other parts of the country that interest me more.
FYI: Lima's airport was easy to navigate. You aren't allowed directly into the gate area until it gets closer to your flight, but for international flights...there is a nice sized food court that in 2013 contained a Papa John's pizza, Pardo's Chicken, and a few other establishments.