Peru's capital is a hectic, raucous city of 10 million people. With one of the most spectacular historical centres on the continent, and a heady nightlife that competes with BA and Rio, Lima is on the travellers' map to stay.
Expect: Chaos and bustle, relieved by a cool sea breeze.
Bring: A fork in one hand, a giant bib under your collar and an empty stomach. You're in the home of ceviche after all!
By Julia Taylor
When José took me on a tour of all the historical sights of central Lima, it seemed as though most narratives included the words: "The original building was completed in.... but destroyed in the earthquake of 1970 and rebuilt in ..." Indeed, it would seem that it wasn't just the city's political history that was turbulent. But despite many monuments requiring a rebuild at some stage or other the history of Lima and Peru is still etched in every corner and facade, like the character lines on the face of an old woman. In contrast, the new bustle of areas like Miraflores and Barranco offer the creature comforts of home (with a South American twist).
While much of commercial Lima has moved down to Miraflores, you will be walking amongst the busy locals as your admire all the splendour el centro historico has to offer. The Plaza Mayor cannot fail to impress, with the Governmental Palace expanding over the entire northern side, an ornate central fountain and, my personal favourite, the intricate design of the Archbishop's Palace. Outside the central plaza, a long list of beautiful historic buildings will help you understand the story of Lima - the San Fransisco Church, Catacombs (including an old library straight out of Harry Potter), the Santo Domingo Monostary, the old post office (sans earthquake destroyed ceiling) and the Inquisition Building are definite must sees.
Any stay in Lima will certainly take you to Miraflores. Even if you're not turned on by the many shops or casinos, the restaurants and bars in this trendy part of Lima are impossibly tempting. The parks and old buildings even add a certain charm to this busy and modern suburb. Lima's proximity to both the beach and the ruins of Huaca Pucllana are added bonuses. The light show in Parque Reserva is also a great way to kick off the night, and not to be missed. The nearby suburb of Barranco similarly has a long list of bars and restaurants and its beachside location and colonial architecture put it right at the top of my list of drinking places in Peru. It's a charming place and worthy of exploration.
Once you've ticked the historic sites off your list, strolled along the coast and tried as many restaurants as your budget will allow, get out to the archaeological sites just outside the city. These day trips are a fantastic escape from Lima's hazy smog. And if all that isn't enough, you can even paraglide over the city, enjoying spectacular bird's eye views of this diverse and eclectic city.
But whatever you do girls, keep an eye on those older local men. I caught one sneaking up behind me to take a close-up photo of my bum. When I turned around, he couldn't help winking and shuffled away smiling to himself. Cheeky old sod!