An aerial view of Lima, Peru
travel guide

A first-timer's guide to visiting Lima, Peru

Dan and George

Contributing writer

The capital of Peru, Lima is a vibrant and bustling city that continues to be one of the most popular destinations to visit in the country.

With its international airport serving as one of the best-connected in South America, this is the city you’ll most likely arrive in when coming to Peru.

In this guide, we’ll explore Lima and the best places to visit. We’ll also take a look at the climate, foods, transport as well as other helpful tips for a first-timer visiting.

A paraglider floating over Lima, Peru

Best time to visit Lima

Lima is located on the Pacific coast, roughly halfway down Peru. The summer season runs from November until February where it’s at its hottest.

The chilly winter season runs from June until September. Due to its position between the Andes and the coast, Lima has a perpetual grey sky that never seems to change, and also with very little rainfall throughout the year.

Food in Lima

The food is very varied in Lima, with many of its dishes having exotic roots. chaufa is a popular dish that has its origins in Asia, consisting of stir fry and vegetables.

The classic ceviche is the must-try, with the mix of fish and citrus a nice surprise for the palette.

Other key dishes to try here include papa rellena, which is a baked potato stuffed with meat, papa a la huancaina which is sliced potato served with a special sauce as well as lomo saltado, which are strips of marinated beef served alongside french fries and rice.

Seafood ceviche, a typical dish from Peru.

How to get around Lima

Getting around Lima is quite easy with many different transportation options. The local colectivos (these are like small, shared vans) wizz down from the historic center to Barranco and Miraflores (these are the three districts you’ll most likely spend most of your time in) and are the cheapest way of getting around.

Taxis can be quite expensive, but if you do need one, we recommend using the InDriver app where you can hail lower fares. You can also use the metropolitan bus, which runs through the heart of the city from Chorrillos in the south up until the north. The downside with this option is that it tends to get very congested and potentially unsafe.

Things to do in Lima

Lima is full of great destinations to visit and an integral stop on any backpacking Peru itinerary especially if you wish to get a holistic view of the country and all it has to offer.

Below are three of the very best things to do whilst spending time in the city.

Barranco in Lima, Peru

Barranco

This district is located in the south of the city and is arguably both the trendiest and prettiest in the whole capital. It has a much more bohemian and laid-back vibe, which is quite rare to find in such hectic cities. And as a result, it’s become a very popular area to stay.

Here you can stroll around the romantic municipal park with its cute gardens and food markets. You can also explore the Malecón, with its spectacular coastal views, along with many quaint spots to watch the sun go down over the Pacific.

The Plaza de Armas in Lima, Peru

Plaza de Armas

Another must-visit when heading to the capital, and especially so for architectural lovers. The plaza itself features many beautiful gardens and buildings surrounding it, including the heavily-guarded Palacio de Gobierno where the current president resides.

Nearby you can also visit the Aliaga House, which is known to be the oldest house in all the Americas. Having been built in 1535 and gone through several renovations, it’s a great example to see a variety of colonial architectural styles within one building.

San Francisco catacombs in Lima, Peru

The San Francisco Church and its Catacombs

This is a darker, yet fantastic destination to visit when in Lima. The Basilica is located just a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas and features two impressive towers as well as a beautiful courtyard inside.

Here you’ll also find a well-preserved library, murals, and many other fantastic colonial features. However, it’s the Catacombs that lie beneath that tend to steal the thunder.

Serving as one of the largest underground burial sites in the city, this complex maze was large enough to accommodate over 25,000 skeletons. Nowadays, you can go on a short tour and see many humans remains and take in the eerie feeling, as you navigate the dark underground passages.

Meeting locals

Locals in Lima tend to live more hectic lives always running to get from point A to point B, as with any giant metropolis. Whilst not the warmest on the streets, you’ll find locals a lot more friendly in the evenings or on the weekend.

The locals here do speak somewhat more English, so if you don’t know much Spanish then you’ll have an easier time integrating and meeting locals here than elsewhere in the country.

Relaxing on the beach in Lima, Peru

Final thoughts

The capital is one of the most popular cities to visit in Latin America, and due to its expansive airport, is also one of the easiest to fly into.

As we’ve now seen, the city is home to many great things to see and do including the Plaza de Armas as well as the popular bohemian district of Barranco.

Those who are looking for culture will love Lima. As we’ve explored, the city has a hotpot of authentic foods that must be tried here. As well as this, we’ve also looked at Lima’s distinct climate as well as how to get around.

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Dan and George

Author - Dan and George

Dan and George are two seasoned backpackers with extensive knowledge of Latin America who write no nonsense backpacking guides for people looking to travel deeper when exploring Central and South America.

Last Updated 23 December 2021

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