5 Fun Things To Do In Lima
Honestly we came to Peru to visit Machu Picchu (MP). Initially, Lima was to be our entry and exit point, as it turned out we managed five days total in the capital city, sandwiching MP and Cusco in the middle. The following are our highlights of Lima.
1. Visit Plaza de Armas/Downtown
We stayed in Miraflores, a modern, swanky upscale district with policeman stationed every half block. To get to the older colonial downtown district, the Plaza Mayor (aka Plaza de Armas) required a 25-minute cab ride from our hotel.
We arrive at Plaza Mayor, filled with people and police. One side is the Presidential Palace, where at noon daily you’re able to see the changing of the guards. We were too late for that, but the guards were friendly enough to take photos with us. This is essentially where Lima was started. Pizarro and his conquistadors lived on or near the Plaza and the colonial architecture is reported to be some of the oldest in all South America.
We decided to take a tour of the San Francisco Monastery around the corner from the Plaza. The highlight is walking through the dusty catacombs where the remains of tens of thousands of human are on display.
We cannot help but imagine what the monastery smelled like in those days. Something about this dusty, bone filled cellar was affecting morbid side and thoughts of an earthquake suddenly happening filled my now claustrophobic grey matter. Our guide began explaining how safe the catacombs were, having survived countless earthquakes whereas the upper, terrestrial portion of the monastery had been completely destroyed.
We highly recommend this tour, the only downside is photos are not allowed.
2. Museo de Larco
The Museo de Larco is a private museum boasting a large collection of pre-Columbian artifacts and a substantial display of erotic pottery. The museum is neat and clean and one could possibly spend hours looking at the remnants of this once powerful Incan civilization. Spoiler alert, there are no large gold idols encrusted with emeralds to be seen here, the conquistadors were very thorough in removing these pieces long ago. On site is a restaurant and bar. In about an hour we had our fill of x-rated Inca art.
3. Go Surf
The Miraflores district is perched on cliffs overlooking the Pacific. Spending our first day soaking up Lima’s culture we were more than ready to hit the beach. Then something quite unexpected happened.
Objects on the shelves started rattling and the hotel started vibrating as if a jackhammer were beneath us. Oh yeah, earthquake. Thankfully we weren’t in the catacombs. That would have been too weird. We peered into the streets expecting buildings to empty out and civil defense sirens to blare, but nothing. We searched the web and indeed a 5.0 had struck in an outskirt of Lima. We decided to wait a while and see if there were any reports of tsunami activity or aftershocks before hitting the beach. So we waited, about an hour. After the all clear from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center we walked for about twenty minutes to the nearest beach, ironically named Waikiki. We actually live less than a ten-minute walk from the real Waikiki on Oahu.
Surf lesson/board rental entrepreneurs lined the parking lot. We settled with a young businessman who charged us the equivalent of $10 USD each for a board and wetsuit for two hours. We lasted about 90 minutes with the water temperature being far less than what we are accustomed to. We love surfing new spots especially in other countries. The vibe was very friendly, and the waves were plentiful and long. We felt as if we were surfing alone. Teo braved the inside where the kids, longboarders and surf lessons were. Johnny sat outside where a handful of local surfers were getting their fill. When I came out of the water Teo was shivering, and had wrapped herself in both of our towels. She got a nice souvenir, a bruise the size of a grapefruit on her thigh coming in on the slippery cobblestones.
4. Bike Tour
Returning to Miraflores after hiking to Machu Picchu we wanted to see more of this wonderful area without having to walk so much. We opted for a bike tour with Bike Tours of Lima. For about $25 USD each we joined a group of nearly twenty daring souls, trailing a guide through the streets of Miraflores and nearby Barranco District. This proved to be an excellent idea. Much of the ride is along the cliffs offering great ocean views. Our guide pointed out the best remaining examples of colonial architecture in the Barranco district and was full of historical information and local lore. At the turnaround point a local fisherman dressed as a monk dives off a 30 foot cliff re-enacting a centuries old tale of two lovers torn apart. Afterwards he runs up to our group for tips. We certainly were impressed. But things got even better. We stop at a local bar for refreshments, included in the tour price. We are treated to olives and a delicious ham sandwich and a soda. We opt for a cold beer and sit back enjoying the World Cup on TV.
While we could have easily rented bikes on our own without doing the tour, we would have missed all the extras, making this money well spent. Plus the safety factor. Lima’s drivers aren’t the most bike or pedestrian friendly, in fact we were warned that cars have the right of way. In this scenario riding as a herd made us stick out, possibly safer option.
5. Magic Water Circuit
The Water Circuit (Circuito Magico del Agua) is located in the older downtown area of Lima and contains some 13 separate fountains. We arrived at night and each fountain was illuminated by various colored lighting. Several times per evening there is a laser light show at the Fantasy Fountain complete with music.
Looking around it appeared most in attendance were local families. This was a very relaxing way to spend an hour after dark and the entrance fee of a few soles did not harm our budget.