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Lima is the highly urbanized capital of Peru where your journey is likely to begin, as most international flights arrive there. You will never encounter a shortage of restaurants, shopping centers and museums, as well as accommodation. The bustling metropolis can seem overwhelming, but you should definitely take some time to get to know it firsthand, especially its historic center, where the oldest and most elegant buildings are found. Miraflores is the more affluent region of Lima which is great for shopping and relaxing in the parks with beach-views.
The constant honking of horns and dense population might take some getting used to, but Lima has an inherent charm about it. The city’s almost 9 million inhabitants ensure a variety of cultures, neighborhoods, and cuisine. Lima holds a part of each corner of the country, displaying its art in prominent museums, playing its music in lively nightclubs, or showcasing its artisanal wares at the tourist markets.
In the Miraflores district, you will find the popular Larcomar, a crisp and clean mall tailored to a foreigner’s every whim. From its observation deck you can see a wonderful scene of waves, surfers, beaches, the mountainous Costa Verde, and the wonderfully-lit cross on the southern promontory. In Larcomar’s food court are some familiar food joints like KFC, McDonald’s or Subway. Or get in touch with local gastronomy at the many—and there are many—local restaurants that offer a set traditional menú for a great price. Lima’s inhabitants (limeños) love their food, and there’s a vendedor on almost every street corner selling their delicious merchandise, from empanadas (meat-filled pastries) to picarones (fried batter rings served with sugar syrup).
The Spanish colonial center is only a handful of city blocks in this sprawling metropolis that has started to crawl up neighboring hills and valleys. From La Molina to Callao and from Ventanilla to Chorrillos, this city packs a punch. If you know major landmarks and avenues, it’s not too hard to navigate the bus system, which doesn’t come with any guidebook. Going from one area to its neighbor only costs about 1.50 soles, but the cheap fare comes with another price: space. Bus drivers have no qualms about stopping to let more people on the combis when you’ve already had your fill of someone invading your personal space. Open windows are a welcome respite from the sometimes stifling interior atmosphere. You will probably see some major landmarks from your bus window, like the tranquil and cat-invaded Parque Kennedy or Barranco’s Plaza de Armas.
Lima’s weather is mild year-round, and most months find limeños in a thin and expansive cloud that brings an occasional sprinkle of rain. To visitors from other countries, the weather might be really refreshing, but to its inhabitants, Lima can be cold. A light jacket should be enough to keep you comfortable while exploring the city’s sights.
Lima is named after its original inhabitants, who built the impressive Huaca Pucllana archaeological site. The mud brick pyramidal complex is contrasted by its surrounding modern-day buildings. In central Lima stand the colonial-era homes and civil buildings, as well as the famous Monasterio de San Francisco and its intriguing catacombs underneath.
Lima is a huge city and a conglomeration of all peoples found in Peru. It would take years to explore all of its inviting streets, but it doesn’t take long to get a sense of Peru’s engaging capital city. Lima should be the starting point for any trip around the country. From here you can learn de todo un poco—a little bit of everything.