GUEST ARTICLE: This was our first trip to Peru and before arriving we didn’t get too many rave reviews about Lima, in fact we heard it was somewhat dangerous being such a poor country. However Lima was much better than expected & has a lot to offer travelers willing to go off the beaten track
Lima is situated on the western coast of Peru and I think it is mainly used as a hub to the bigger tourist attractions like Machu Picchu, Cuzco and the mysterious Nazca Lines. Our flight from Buenos Aires to Lima took about 5 hours and before we knew it we were once again flying over the Andes and a vast desert.
Our driver took us to the safer and more westernized area called Miraflores. The first thing we noticed was the multitudes of people and old cars accompanied with an ever present thick pollution in the air. The diversity between suburbs varied from small run down graffiti riddled cement boxes to blocks of beautifully built modern condos lining the Peruvian coast.
Even though our hotel was located in the safe district we had armed guards in front of our hotel, actually there were armed police with dogs everywhere! We found it to be somewhat unnerving but safe?
Our hotel was situated right next to the Inca Markets, a major shopping area for all of the beautiful local artwork. Fine knits specializing in Alpaca and the most favoured soft baby Alpaca were abundant, along with multitudes of silver artwork.
The streets were teaming with people and it took some attention when crossing the road. Some of the main vehicles on the road were these old buses packed to the brim with locals, each of them had their own little man yelling out its particular destination. For about $1 Sole or .50 AUD you could hitch a ride if you could squeeze in
Our first sightsee was a walk toward the beach to a massive outdoor mall called Larco Mar located high atop the cliffs lining the ocean. We had some great eats at one of the cafe’s there, I would highly recommend their sirloin steak and sautéed mushroom sandwich – delish
They love their gourmet sandwiches there and do them all very well! The prices in Lima were also very reasonable and if you were smart you didn’t get caught up in the obvious tourist traps. Fortunately we always got our money’s worth and never had one rip-off
From Larco Mar we caught a double decker sightseeing bus for about $25 AUD. Perched at the top in the open air for a 3 hour tour (goodbye lungs) gave us a real feel of Lima but we had to watch our heads as they have some low hanging wires in some areas, can you imagine getting clotheslined at 50km/hr!?
The bus took us into downtown Lima, the poverty was rife and the air even dirtier, but amongst all of the chaos were some really beautiful landmarks. One very impressive square called Main Square had native Peruvian dancers in full garb and we even got a chance to see the changing of the guard at the government palace.
It was our last excursion though that topped everything we’d seen so far. It was the San Francisco Convent and Catacombs. The inside was incredible with some of the most elaborate woodwork we’ve ever seen. As we descended underground to the maze of Catacombs the air became very stale and musty, we soon discovered the reason for this.
There were piles of human bones everywhere! Categorized it seemed according to certain body parts. These bones were that of the monks and locals and there were thousands of them. It really was an incredible sight and one we will never forget.
We enjoyed ourselves immensely in Lima and we can’t wait to go back to go explore Machu Picchu and the other big attractions of Peru. Despite all of the hearsay about Lima our trip was completely safe and the Peruvians made us feel welcome. Obviously there are bad areas to avoid but that’s why you have common sense kids, use it!
This travel diary has been written by Rob Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!