When tourists plan a vacation to Peru they tend to skip over Lima. Instead of planning a Lima vacation they'll look at Cuzco with Machu Picchu nearby, or the Amazon jungles of Iquitos to satisfy touristic curiosity. Lima isn't even given a second thought. For tourists Lima is simply used as a stop-off point at the international airport before heading off to the more publicized attractions that Peru has to offer.
There is a fog that hangs over Lima for most of the year which seems to cover the tourist's eyes from seeing what hides beyond. When a person gets past the smog and the bustle of nearly 10 million inhabitants on its crowded streets, one finds a gem of cultural history going back to times when the Inca Empire ruled the country and afterwards the Spanish conquistadors.
Lima was known to the Spaniards as the "City of Kings" and was the capital city of Spanish South America. The Incas made Lima a major part of their Empire, who had trading routes going from Cuzco to Lima. There are still colonial buildings and remnants of ancient civilizations in Lima. The city also offers a wide variety of Peruvian food, dance, theater, art and culture.
When planning a vacation to Peru consider taking a Lima vacation to experience another flavor of this mystical land.
There are two main areas in Lima that are of interest to the tourist:
Historic Center of Lima and Downtown Lima
The historic center of Lima is a UNESCO World Heritage site which includes a number of things of interest to the tourist. The Plaza de Armas, or Plaza Major (Main Square), is the central focus of Lima. This was a part of the Spanish Inquisition after Inca rule and is now a place to take a stroll and see the magnificent colonial architecture that the Historic Center has to offer. On the four sides of the Plaza de Armas stand the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral, the Archbishop's Palace and City Hall. For a small fee you can be taken around the Square in a horse-pulled buggy.
Many of the old buildings have beautiful balconies that were once famously used by the Tapadas, the covered women of Lima, who elegantly wore clothing that covered everything but their eyes.
The Iglesia de San Francisco is a remarkable church that is most famous for the catacombs beneath it that hold the skeletal remains of 25,000 people who were laid to rest during the 16th and 19th centuries. No Lima vacation would be complete without a visit. The Museo de Arte has exhibits of ancient and modern Peruvian art.
Take a stroll just off the Plaza de Armas to discover a wide variety of restaurants offering some of the finest Peruvian cuisine, which is considered to be one of the best in the world holding several Guinness World Records. Handicraft stores sell a wide assortment of souvenirs at very reasonable prices and of high quality.
The Plaza de Acho bullfighting ring was once the largest in the world and is still the oldest in South America. Nearby is it's Taurino museum with displays from Peru's bullfighting history. The area called Cerro San Cristobal has a large cross on it's hill with a good viewpoint of Lima city.
The Park of the Reserve hosts the Magic Circuit of Water which is comprised of the largest fountain complex in the world and is a fun place to visit if you have enough time during your Lima vacation. There are several fountains at the park, including a walk-through water tunnel and the Children's Fountain. The largest fountain sprays water 80 meters high. In the evening there is a laser and picture show accompanied by synchronized music.
Miraflores is an upscale part of Lima that is popular hangout for tourists on their Lima vacation. It's central point is Parque Kennedy (Kennedy Park) where outside shows are performed, artists display their work and chess players gather. Just off the park is Calle de las Pizzas (Pizza Street) with several restaurants that serve not only pizza, but Peruvian dishes as well. There are also several discos and karaoke bars in the area that are open all night long. The popular Luis Miro Quesada Garland Hall exhibits superb artwork from Peruvian and foreign artists.
Shopping is abundant in Miraflores although higher-priced than downtown. The shopping center Larcomar has restaurants, stores, a movie theater, a bowling alley, arcades and two discotecas. Larcomar is located on a hill which provides great views of the ocean and it's beaches below. Miraflores beaches offer excellent opportunities to swim, surf and paraglide.
On Calle Piura 135, just a few minutes from Parque Kennedy, is located the South American Explorers clubhouse. This is a great source of information for anyone who travels in Peru and South America. They also host weekly events.
The only remaining ruins in Miraflores is the Huaca Pucllana which dates back to 200 - 700 AD and was an important site to the ancient Lima Culture. It is 22 meters high, made of sun-dried adobe brick, and is divided into a ceremonial and administrative section. Sometimes events and music shows are held there. On site is also a museum and a restaurant with a great view of the ruins which are floodlit at night.
There are several tour agencies located in the blocks around the Plaza de Armas. Miraflores has tour agencies centered around Parque Kennedy. All of these agencies offer city tours of both areas. Tours show highlights of the two districts, and some extended city tours include a few extra things to see. Right off the Plaza de Armas there are benches available where people wait for a tour bus that stops by regularly. This tour includes a brief overview of Lima city, then moves on to the bullfighting ring and San Cristobal. If you don't have much time on your Lima vacation, then this is the tour to take.
A good alternative to traditional tours is the Mirabus. It's office is located at Larco 345, Mezzanine 9, Miraflores and offers several different panoramic bus tours of Lima and Miraflores. The company also gives tours of Lima's port Callao and of the archaeological site Pachacamac.
As you can see, Lima has a diversity of options available for the inquisitive tourist. So before being too quick to jump on a plane elsewhere, give a second thought to your potential Lima vacation.