Discover Lima, Peru: 10 Must-Do Activities

Lima, the vibrant capital of Peru, is a city brimming with history, culture, and gastronomic delights. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or an adventure seeker, Lima has something for everyone. Here are the top ten must-do activities when out to discover the best of Lima, Peru.

Discover Lima, Peru – 10 Must-Do Activities

Discover Lima, Peru
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  1. Stroll through the Plaza de Armas
  2. Explore the Convent of San Francisco
  3. Savor the Food Scene
  4. Watch the Sunset from the Malecón
  5. Enjoy the Magic Water Circuit
  6. Paragliding Over the Costa Verde
  7. Explore the Park of Legends
  8. Take a Half-Day Trip to Pachacamac
  9. Discover Paracas and Hucachina
  10. Experience a Peruvian Market

1. Stroll through the Plaza de Armas

Start your Lima adventure in its historic heart the Plaza de Armas (main square), a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wander through the plaza, where you’ll find the Government Palace, the Cathedral of Lima, and the Archbishop’s Palace. Visit at noon to enjoy a show when the changing of the guard takes place at the Government Palace. It is a lively spectacle with a full band. The colonial architecture and rich history found in the plaza make this area a perfect introduction to the city.

2. Explore the Convent of San Francisco and the Catacombs

Convent of San Francisco in Lima, Peru
One of the towers on Peru’s Convent of San Francisco. Photography isn’t allowed inside the convent of the catacombs.

The Convent of San Francisco is one of Lima’s most remarkable landmarks. This Baroque-style church and convent complex is famous for its stunning architecture, intricately carved wooden ceilings, beautiful paintings, and extensive catacombs. The catacombs, which contain thousands of human bones, offer a haunting glimpse into Lima’s colonial past.

3. Savor the Food Scene in Lima, Peru

Lima is a gastronomic paradise, known as the culinary capital of South America. Indulge in a ceviche at a local market or dine at one of the city’s world-renowned restaurants like Maido, Central, or Astrid y Gastón. Be sure to try traditional dishes like lomo saltado, ají de gallina, anticuchos, and of course ceviche.

4. Watch the Sunset from the Malecón

Sunset Lima Marine Lighthouse in Lima, Peru
The sun sets on Lima, Peru’s Marine Lighthouse.

Miraflores is a bustling district with stunning coastal views, upscale shopping, and vibrant nightlife. Take a leisurely walk along the Malecón, a clifftop promenade with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. This is an especially beautiful spot to take in a sunset. Don’t miss the spectacular views around the Marine Lighthouse.

5. Enjoy the Magic Water Circuit in Lima, Peru

Magic Water Circuit  in Lima, Peru
The Magic Water Circuit is a must-do when out to discover Lima, Peru.

Visit the Magic Water Circuit in the Parque de la Reserva, the world’s largest fountain complex. The park features 13 illuminated fountains that put on a dazzling water and light show in the evenings. It’s a perfect family-friendly activity and a magical way to spend an evening.

6. Paragliding Over the Costa Verde

Sunset Paraglider
The sun sets behind a Lima Paraglider.

For adrenaline junkies, paragliding over Lima’s Costa Verde is a must. Soar above the city’s coastline and enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the urban landscape. It’s an unforgettable experience that provides a unique perspective of Lima.

7. Explore the Park of Legends Zoo in Lima, Peru

Park of Legends Zoo  in Lima, Peru
Jennifer hangs out with a giraffe at the Park of Legends Zoo.

The Park of Legends Zoo (Parque de las Leyendas) is Lima’s premier zoo and botanical garden, offering a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages. It features a diverse collection of animals from the Amazon, Andes, and coastal regions of Peru. Additionally, the park is built around ancient pre-inca ruins, beautiful gardens, and a small lake with an amusement park.

8. Take a Half-Day Trip to Pachacamac

Pachacamac Archeological Site in Lima, Peru
The ancient ruins of Pachacamac are found on the southern edge of the sprawling modern city of Lima, Peru.

Just 40 km southeast of Lima lies Pachacamac, an archaeological site that dates back to AD 200. Explore the ancient pyramids, temples, and plazas, and learn about this unique desert culture that pre-dated the Incan empire by more than a thousand years. The site’s museum offers further insights into the ancient city’s historical significance with a lot of artifacts including pottery, quipas (accounting strings), and a carved totem believed to be one of the sacred idols all recovered from the archeological site.

9. Discover Paracas and Hucachina

Huacachina Oasis
The sun rises over the unique desert oasis town of Huacachina, Peru.

Take a two-day trip to Paracas and Huacachina, two stunning destinations south of Lima. Paracas is known for its beautiful desert coastal reserve and the Ballestas Islands. Ballestas is often referred to as the mini-galapagos of Peru. It is home to diverse wildlife including sea lions, penguins, and unique birds.

Huacachina is a true desert oasis surrounded by towering sand dunes, perfect for thrilling dune buggy rides and sandboarding. Make sure you catch a sunrise or sunset from the top of the dunes and explore the gorgeous promenade around the watery oasis. Birds of all kinds call this desert oasis home. Hucachina is one of the most unique places we have ever visited and should not be missed when discovering Lima, Peru.

10. Experience a Peruvian Market

Peruvian Market
Exploring a lively Peruvian Market is a must when out to discover Lima, Peru.

Dive into local culture by visiting a traditional Peruvian market like Mercado Central or Mercado Surquillo. These bustling markets offer a sensory overload with colorful displays of fresh produce, seafood, meats, and local delicacies. It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs and taste authentic street food.

Travel Tips to Best Discover Lima, Peru

Ocean Cliffs at Night  in Lima, Peru
The ocean side cliffs of Lima, Peru at night.

Getting Around Lima

Lima is a sprawling city, and getting around efficiently requires some planning:

  • Public Transportation: The Metropolitano bus system is a reliable and affordable option for getting around the main districts. Lima also has an expanding metro system.
  • Taxis and Rideshares: Taxis are plentiful, but for safety, it’s best to use registered taxi services or rideshare apps like Uber or Cabify.
  • Walking and Biking: In districts like Miraflores and Barranco, walking or biking is enjoyable and convenient. Many areas have bike rental services.

Staying Safe with Food

Lima is renowned for its cuisine, but it’s essential to take precautions to stay healthy:

  • Street Food: Enjoy street food from vendors with high turnover and visible hygiene standards. Stick to cooked items to avoid potential issues.
  • Water: Drink bottled or filtered water. Avoid ice in drinks unless you’re sure it’s made from purified water.
  • Restaurants: Choose reputable restaurants, especially for raw dishes like ceviche. High-end and well-reviewed establishments are generally safe.

Where to Stay

The Miraflores area of Lima is widely considered the safest area of Lima with many modern hotels, supermarkets, and high-end restaurants. It is also the most expensive area of Lima but affordable hostels and Airbnbs can be found in the district as well. For a truly memorable experience stay in an ocean-view room perched on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.

Money

Peru runs on the Sol. While many establishments do accept credit cards, especially in Lima, they will often charge you more to cover the Credit Card transaction fee. It is best to use the Peruvian Sols as you will get a better rate and most establishments will round down since Peru doesn’t have anything smaller than a 10-cent piece.

The best way to get Peruvian Sols is out of local ATMs however most will only issue the equivalent of about $100 (USD). Banks in Peru are also notorious for charging outrageous ATM fees. Currently, the Banco de la Nación branches don’t charge any transaction fees. If you are a US citizen check out our post on banking as a full-time traveler which explains how we get reimbursed for all ATM fees worldwide.

Recommended Number of Days

To fully experience Lima’s highlights, plan to stay at least 4 to 5 days. This allows time to explore the historic center, enjoy the food scene, visit museums, and take day trips to nearby attractions like Pachacamac, Paracas, and Huacachina.

Discover Lima, Peru

Pachacamac Pottery
This piece of ancient pottery can be found at the Pachacamac Museum.

Lima is a city of contrasts where ancient history meets modern sophistication. With its rich cultural heritage, diverse neighborhoods, and world-class cuisine, it’s a destination that promises unforgettable experiences. Pack your bags and get ready to discover the magic of Lima!

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