In my opinion, Peru’s capital city of Lima, is so underrated. Rather than seeing it as a destination, many people only see it as the airport you have to land at before heading to Machu Picchu. But, after spending a couple days there I realized that Lima is so much more! So here are four reasons why Lima is a great city!
History and Culture
Lima was founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro and lies roughly on the crossroads of the Pacific Ocean and Rimac River. The name Lima comes from the Aymara language meaning "yellow flower"), or possibly the Spanish pronunciation of the Quechua word rimaq (same as the river and meaning "talker", but pronounced limaq). Today, the “City of Kings” as Pizarro called it, is a sprawling metropolis of almost 10 million people, comprised of 43 districts. In some respects it reminds me of New York City in how vast it is.
While Lima doesn’t have the number of World Heritage sites as Cusco (see post “5 Reasons to Visit Cusco”), until the mid 18th century, Lima was considered the most important Spanish city in South America. The architecture of the historic city center combines European and Peruvian and in 1988 that historic city center was named a World Heritage site.
Besides being the location of a World Heritage site, Lima also has pyramids right smack in the middle of it! Where else can you find a pyramid next door to someone’s house? In Lima, there are about 250 of the adobe and clay pyramids, known as huaca, registered with the National Institute of Culture (INC).
The food in Lima is so varied, delicious and incredible! For 2017, Lima has three restaurants on the list of 50 best restaurants in the world - Central, Maido and Astrid y Gaston (none of which I could get reservations for – darn!) Peru’s Asian population is the second highest in South America (behind Brazil) which has influenced the food in an unbelievable way! Chifa is Peruvian-Chinese fusion cuisine and Peruvian-Japanese food is known as Nikkei. Both types combine the flavors and cooking techniques of Chinese or Japanese food along with those of Peruvian cooking for a totally unique experience. Chifa and Nikkei are now becoming popular all over the world ….. And for good reason!
Like I mentioned earlier, Lima is comprised of 43 districts and each one has a distinct personality. Some of the more popular districts with tourists are Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco - all three are worth a visit. Miraflores has tons of great restaurants and plenty of shopping. It’s also home to the Malecon (Spanish for “jetty”) that overlooks the Pacific. Then there’s San Isidro, which is a pretty upscale neighborhood where many of Lima's wealthy live. And Barranco - it's the funky bohemian neighborhood.
In addition to having excellent restaurants and shops, Miraflores has the Malecon, which in my opinion is the real star of the show. We took a bicycle tour that led us through Miraflores and past the Malecon (see post, “A Totally Different Way to Tour Lima”). You can stroll along the walkway of the Malecon to catch the breathtaking scenery high above the Pacific, stop in Love Park to admire the famous sculpture “The Kiss”, then have a bite at one of the restaurants located at the outdoor Larcomar mall overlooking the ocean. There, tourists and locals alike take in the spectacular cliffside views of the Pacific Ocean while enjoying a fantastic meal!
What About Safety?
Some people may think or may have read that Lima is unsafe. Lima is a big city, so as with any big city, being aware of your surroundings is key. Also, do your research and pay attention to any State Department advisories or warnings. There’s no guarantee that any place in the world is 100% safe. Sure, there may be pickpockets in touristy areas – but aren’t they everywhere? And yeah, taxis can be, let’s just say, an “adventure”, if you don’t settle on your fare price in advance or happen to take an unauthorized taxi. But, Lima also has the Tourist Police – seriously - the Policia de Turismo is a special unit of the Peruvian National Police, set up specifically to help tourists who may find themselves the unfortunate victims of crime. The Tourist Police aren't just in Lima either. They're in other popular tourist destinations in Peru and you’ll see them walking around. Some even speak some English. As for me, I didn’t feel unsafe, but that may be due to the company I was with (my hubby strikes an imposing sort of figure). In the end, you have to decide what is best for you, but if you do go to Lima, just remember – it’s got a ton of fantastic stuff to offer!
Have you been to Lima? What'd you think? Let me know on Facebook!