The days when Lima was considered a stopover for travellers on the way to Machu Picchu are long gone. In recent times, Peru’s capital has emerged as a vibrant destination and culinary hot spot. Here are some things to do in Lima and ideas on how to taste the best food in Peru South America.
Day one – food in Peru South America
Even if you’re not a fan of visiting museums, a visit to Larco Herrera Museum will help you unravel mysteries of Peru’s ancient civilisations.
5,000 years of archaeological wonders are housed in a private mansion built on the site of a pre-Columbian temple. On display are ceramics, textiles, precious metal artefacts and mummies.
Don’t miss the basement room of erotic archaeological treasures; the collection of ceramic pots is a unique Karma Sutra in clay, portraying a variety of sexual positions.
Brunch at the museum’s café serves up lovely garden views from a shady verandah and delicious pan Peruvian menu.
Hail a taxi and head to Lima’s historic centre, which is the former capital of the conquistadors and a World Heritage site.
The bad news is Lima’s traffic is chaotic and getting around requires patience. The good news is taxi fares are inexpensive.
At Plaza Mayor pop into the Cathedral of Lima, where Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro is buried, then explore the streets around the plaza for an eye-popping show of colonial churches, monasteries and historic pastel-coloured buildings with wrought iron work.
Take a tour of the 17th-century Basilica of San Francisco. The baroque basilica has an impressive lattice dome and the adjoining monastery has a collection of ancient religious texts brought over by Spanish priests after the conquest of the Incas. The catacombs under the church were part of Lima’s original cemeteries and remains of bodies buried here are stacked in the circular stone pits.
Order a pisco sour at Hotel Bolivar, an elegant, blue-velvet hotel near Plaza San Martin. Peru’s national drink is a frothy, egg and brandy concoction that slides down smoothly.
Peruvians usually dine after 9pm so late afternoon is a good time for a siesta, a swim or a soothing spa. Swissotel Lima is located in the upmarket San Isidro area and has a gym, tennis court, outdoor heated pool, Jacuzzi and spa.
There are many ways of preparing ceviche, a classic seafood dish originally eaten by the Incans, served with a spicy citrus sauce. The Peruvian fusion version combining Asian and Peruvian flavours has become all the rage. A newer twist is the fusion of Peruvian and Mediterranean flavours, which are on the menu at La Locanda.
Day two – day trip from Lima
30km south of Lima, the Pachacamac ruins are a collection of crumbling pyramids, temples and plazas. Built by the Incas, Pachacamac was once the largest religious centre on the Peruvian coast.
The Pachacamac Museum, which is located at the entrance of the ruins, has displays of ceramics, textiles and carvings excavated from the site. From the top of the ruins, there are lovely views of the Pacific Ocean.
The Bridge of Sighs, or Puente de los Suspiros, is a wooden structure that crosses the Bajada de Banos, a stone walkway through Lima’s bohemian district, Barranco.
A table at Chala has the best views of the bridge and the ocean behind it. Located in a restored manor, with a verandah shaded by huge fig trees, Chala is a culinary hotspot with chic interiors and a coastal fusion menu that blends Asian, Mediterranean and Peruvian cuisine.
Wander around Barranco and soak up the 19th-century atmosphere. The precinct is packed with colonial buildings, bars and restaurants. It’s also home to Lima’s contemporary art museum, the MAC, and the Museo Pedro de Osma, which has a good collection of colonial art.
Ask the taxi driver to drop you off at Miraflores, a few kilometres away. If you dare, a glide off the dramatic cliffs on a 15-minute tandem paragliding flight offers bird’s-eye view of the coastline.
Then walk along the cliff top through the “Love Park”, which is home to a sculpture called The Kiss, and to Larcomar, a multilevel entertainment complex built into the side of the cliff.
Larcomar has a choice of restaurants and cafes, where you can sip coffee and enjoy the view after browsing upmarket jewellery stores and boutiques selling fashionable Peruvian designs.
You don’t have to travel out of the city to see Peru’s ancient civilizations as Lima has several historic ruins, known as huacas, right in town.
Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores was built around 500 AD and has a 23m pyramid used by Wari priests to worship the gods. The ruins are illuminated at night and a table at Restaurant Huaca Pucllana offers a meal with a view.
The Magic Water Circuit is one of Lima’s newest attractions. The dazzling choreography of 13 fountains that shoot water into the air in sync with music and lights is open from Wednesday to Sunday between 4pm and 10pm.
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of Scenic Tours
Swissotel Lima is in an upmarket part of the city. Rooms and suites are well-appointed.
Scenic Tours’ 32-day South American adventure includes four nights in Lima. Scenic’s FreeChoice programme provides a selection of activities described in this feature. Phone 1300 SCENIC (723 642).