This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.
Once called the “City of Kings,” Lima was the center of Spanish power in the New World following Pizarro’s conquest of Peru in the 16th century. Fast-forward 500 years and you’ll find a night-lit colonial center with the Plaza de Armas cleaned and restored to show off the cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Presidential Palace. It shows an economy supporting stable growth; shopping malls—Jockey Plaza and clifftop LarcoMar for starters—packed with high-end shops and trendy discotheques, plus a dining scene not to be topped anywhere on the continent. The city of kings reigns again. While Lima is no urban beauty, the capital has beautiful baroque churches, such as La Merced with awesome gold-leaf altars, and the Convent of San Francisco with its gallery of fine paintings and labyrinthine catacombs. And the capital’s museums are outstanding, too, from the Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology to the newly remodeled Museo Larco with a mind-boggling 45,000-piece collection of pre-Columbian pottery, textiles, and gold and silver jewelry. You need an appointment to see two worthy private collections—ancient textiles and ceramics in the Amano Museum (weekdays only) and the Pedro de Osma Museum of Colonial Art. The latter is located in seaside Barranco, an artsy, welcoming neighborhood of vintage bars and restaurants occupying graceful old mansions.
In summertime, Barranco’s beaches are favorites with the surfing set. JW Marriott has a seafront location overlooking the surfing beaches of Miraflores, a neighborhood where you’ll find bargaining’s the rule at the Mercado Indio craft market and dining’s a treat of Nouveau Peruvian cuisine at Restaurant Huaca Pucllano, located within the compound of a 1,500-year-old pyramid. While in Lima, do make the day trip to the archaeological complex of Pachacamac, an important pre-Columbian citadel of palaces and temple pyramids. And then, of course, fly on to Cusco and Machu Picchu beyond.
- Best time to go:
May to November, the dry season; however, in coastal Lima, those months can be gray and misty
- Fun fact:
Peru’s greatest contribution to the world is probably the potato. All modern varieties— roughly 5,000—can be traced to a single species first domesticated in the southern Andes around 10,000 years ago. Today, Peru cultivates hundreds of different kinds of potatoes—in nine different colors. In Lima, dine out at Mi Causa, a temple to the humble potato
- Getting there:
Delta flies from Atlanta to Lima
- Entry documents:
Valid passport; tourist card issued free on arrival
- Must-try local food:
No city makes ceviche—raw sole or other firm white fish, marinated in lime juice and spices, served with cold sweet potatoes and white corn—better than Lima
- Best buys:
Hand-woven textiles and alpaca wool clothing to gold and silver jewelry, paintings, ceramics
- Information please: