Once upon a time three eager backpackers by the names of Lisa, Nicky and Patrick, arrived in Lima, Peru’s capital. This is a pretty big city, split up in various neighborhoods that are so different from each other that crossing between them feels very much like going to a different city, or sometimes even another country or continent – and it generally also takes about that long. This is because one basically has the choice between overcrowded buses or taxis and no matter which one chooses, getting stuck in traffic is inevitable.
Our hostel was located in Miraflores, that is Lima’s “Gringo town”, where all Americans and other foreigners working in Lima seem to be staying. Thus, everything here is super westernized and quite fancy: slick shopping malls, a scenic ocean view promenade, chick hotels and restaurants and of course plenty of Starbucks cafés. There is also a waterpark, called Circuito Mágico del Agua, which is lots of fun to visit. In fact, it almost feels like being in Disneyland there, with all its fountains, colorful light installations and magical shows. We even saw a princess, just like in a fairytale come true. We found that this park is quite a good impersonalization of Lima’s character: There are new things to discover around every corner, and despite seeming quite surreal or even fake at times, it’s still very likeable, beautiful and definitively unique. We also spent some Soles (that’s the Peruvian currency) in one of the many Vegas-style casinos which can be found all along the main avenue of Miraflores.
But of course we went to see some different parts of Lima as well. Thus, one day we spent exploring the city’s historic core where we had a great time walking around between impressive Spanish colonial architecture and other UNESCO protected world heritage sites. During our tour we also had ourselves convinced by a street vendor to take a tour to San Crístobal hill. Despite that we had to circle the city’s main square, the Plaza the Armas, for about 30 minutes (that’s roughly six times around), to pick up more passengers in our little bus, we did not regret the decision as it was an interesting ride through various neighbourhoods that eventually took us up to the San Cristobal viewpoint 500 meters above sea level. From there we could, for the first time really see how huge this metropolis actually is.
Another interesting area we visited is Barranco. Like Miraflores, it is also quite touristy and fancy, but it’s totally worth a visit. Mostly because it is full of restaurants serving the local delicates: anticuchos – that’s beefhearts but they taste way better than that may sound. This dish is best enjoyed in one of the restaurants overlooking the ocean. The ocean, however, is most beautiful from a distance, unless you are a keen surfer and not afraid of brownish water. Nevertheless, instead of taking a dip, it is possible to enjoy some fresh seafood or fish in one of the tiny plastic chair “restaurants” at the beach front neighborhood of Chorrillos. Here, one can observe Pelicans while munching on dishes like Ceviche (raw, lemon-marinated fish).
Somewhere, supposedly not too far from town, we heard there are nicer beaches too. However, we never made it there to confirm such rumors. This might partially be blamed on the already mentioned pretty bad public transport system of Lima but also on our complacency with quite relaxed days for a change. Nevertheless, after some time of blissful laziness, Patrick, took the chance to hit the school bench for a week to improve his Spanish skills while Lisa and Nicky went on to explore some other corners of Peru. Before long, however, we all met up again, this time Ecuador-bound, to travel on happily ever after.
When in Lima
Where to sleep: Alpamama – a perfectly located and clean hostel in Lima’s probably safest area, Miraflores. It’s close to the ocean front, supermarkets and plenty of restaurants. And all of that at fair prices.
Where to eat & drink: Visit El Tio Mario in Barranco to try some of the famous anticuchos.
What to do: Visit the Circuito Mágico del Agua for a magical evening.