Lima blew my mind. I really didn’t know what to expect from Peru’s capital city, and discovered a TON. The coast of Peru is basically a desert and the city is covered in palm trees and gorgeous tropical flowers. It is a lot cleaner and less crowded than Quito, and even has skyscrapers; it reminded me more of San Diego than the other places I’ve seen in Ecuador.
We stayed at Backpacker’s 151 Hostel in the Miravalle sector of the city. The hostel was all dorm-style rooms but Becca and I had our room to ourselves the first night we were in Lima. The final four days of our trip we shared with a friendly Australian girl who was on a break from doing ecological work in the jungle in Ecuador (small world, huh?).
Miravalle is the tourist center of Lima, close to Barranco, which is the bar and night life center of Lima. It’s really nice and safe, which worked well for two girls traveling alone.
Lima has lots of parks- some large, some small, but all really well-kept. In Miravalle and not too far from our hostel was Parque Kennedy, where there was an outdoor photo exhibition and one night there was salsa music and dancing. In the historic center we found the Parque de Museos, a huge park with fountains and as promised, museums. We visited both the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI for short, and Art Museum of Lima for the Spanish-challenged) and the Italian museum. Both were small but had really interesting exhibits.
The historic center of Lima has two main plazas, the Plaza de San Martin and Plaza Mayor. Plaza de San Martin has a central statue commissioned by the city and completed by a Spanish artist, who, misunderstanding the word “llama” which is ‘flame’ in some countries and an animal in others, placed the animal version of a llama on top of the woman’s head. It’s pretty funny. The plaza is surrounded by gorgeous white buildings, which I believe are government buildings, but don’t hold me to that. Plaza Mayor, in contrast, has a fountain in the middle and is surrounded by yellow buildings. The two are connected by a pedestrian street with tons of restaurants and stores and plenty of opportunities to get D’onofrio, a Peruvian brand of ice cream bars which became my addiction in Peru.
Since the city is on the ocean, we spent two of our five days in Lima on the beach. The beaches in the city aren’t the best for spending a day in the sun, so we headed to the south. We ended up at Punta Hermosa, a little beach town an hour south by bus. April is the end of summer and therefore the beach season, so the town was basically deserted and the beaches weren’t mobbed with people. There were still some surfers and beach-goers, but not enough to make it crowded. Peruvian waters are freezing so we didn’t get in the water, but the surfing is great up and down the Peruvian coast. Maybe next time I’ll rent a wetsuit and bring someone to teach me to surf.
Lima is both what one would expect of a large city in South America and much nicer than what one might expect of a city in South America. The city was a nice counterpoint to Cusco’s natural beauty and perfect weather- not too hot and cool at night, made for a great trip.