by Virginia Crivelli
Travel Specialist in Trips SouthAmerica
Top 5 things to do in Lima
If you’re wondering what to do in Lima, according to our travel specialist here are the Top 5 things you should experience in Peru’s buzzing capital.
1 – The Catacombs of the Monastery of San Francisco
A city tour of Lima wouldn’t be complete without visiting the famous catacombs of San Francisco Monastery. Inside the basement of the monastery you’ll find the bones (femurs, forearms and skulls) of wealthy Limeños, who believed to be the last to rest in this expensive plots, artistically arranged in a circular pattern. This site is interesting from a historical and modern sociological, ethical, and religious standpoint.
The San Francisco and Catacombs Convent Museum was founded by Fray Francisco de la Cruz, in the year 1546. It has an approximate extension of 600 meters long by 300 meters wide and in its most splendorous years it became one of the most greats of America. The convent as part of the Monumental Complex and as the home of our Franciscan brothers underwent several modifications due to multiple earthquakes, being that of October 28, 1746, as the most destructive earthquake that Lima endured, leaving the city in rubble and much of our convent destroyed.
Who can do it? Anyone can do it. There’s no age restriction.
What’s included? English/Spanish speaking guide.
Times to Visit: Monday to Sunday: 9 am to 8:45 pm / Holidays: 12 pm 8:45 pm
Adults: 15 soles.
Students: 8 soles.
Children: 3 soles.
To have in mind: This tour lasts 45 minutes and entrance is in arrival order, you’ll be constantly accompanied by a guide.
2 – The Magic Water Circuit
If you want to do something different at night, The Magic Water Circuit is a good option for you either if you want to have fun or spend a romantic evening with your significant other 😉
I’ve been in different cities going to watch “dancing waters” and fountains and I have to say these ones were definitely a good surprise!
This isn’t just a fountain, it’s a whole park full of different fountains and trails made with water, laser lights, shows and music. The show with holograms will blow away your mind!
The Magic Water Circuit was inaugurated on July 26th, 2007, is still one of the major municipal projects; furthermore, Lima city icon and symbol of the recovery of public spaces in Lima. It has thirteen cybernetic fountains, which are supported by the latest technology, where music, water, sound and laser light are mixed to display unique and incredible shows.
Who can do it? Anyone but children under 12, people at risk and over 65 years of age. I have to say that I’ve seen families with little children here so I assume they wouldn’t allow children under 12 without their parents.
How long it takes? You can stay as long as you want between the opening times.
What should I wear? Comfortable clothing. You can get wet if you want to.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 12:30 pm to 7 pm.
General Admission: 4 soles
Parking: Car: 10 soles / Bus: 30 soles
3 – Salsa Dancing at “Sargento Pimienta” (Sargent Pepper) on Tuesdays
When I hear the word “salsa” the first thing it crosses my mind is people from the Caribbean with colourful clothes dancing by the beach or in crowded clubs having cocktails decorated with little umbrellas. Well, let me tell you that, besides the Andean music with flutes and cumbia, Peruvians love and are great salsa dancers and there’s no better place to enjoy a great local experience in a show with live bands than the famous “Sargento Pimienta” (The Sargent Pepper) in the trendy area of Barranco neighbourhood.
If you’re in Lima on a Tuesday night and you love dancing as I do, you’ll love this place! People are very friendly and don’t hesitate to take you for a dance if they see you moving on your site.
Even if you don’t know how to do it they won’t doubt about teaching you some moves! And, if you can’t dance but enjoy looking at pros doing it, this is also the place for you. Here you can enjoy a nice local dish for dinner or just to have a few drinks while the band plays.
Who can do it? People over 18 years old.
What should I wear? Casual clothes to go out. You don’t need to wear anything fancy but they wouldn’t allow men in tank tops, shorts and Havaianas. Women always wearing sandals or shoes, flip flops aren’t allowed.
Opening hours: For the Salsa night Tuesdays 9 pm to 4 am
Costs: Depending on the show they have that night. Check out their website: http://www.sargentopimienta.com.pe/
Address: Av. Francisco Bolognesi 757, Barranco
4 – “The Poor’s Man’s Galapagos”: Ballestas Islands
If you love wildlife and enjoy boat trips this is the perfect activity for you!
The Ballestas Islands are a group of rocky islands located off the coastal town of Paracas in the Pacific Ocean. Here you can see a lot of birds (be prepared for the smell!), sea lions, penguins, dolphins, pelicans and Inca terns. The only way to visit the islands is by speedboat from the fishing town of Paracas located 3-4 hs south of Lima by bus. You can spend the night or stay on board to experience Huacachina, only a short distance away.
Some facts about the islands:
- The Ballestas Islands are home to the endangered Humboldt penguin.
- Sea lion breeding season is between January and March. During these months you will see the beaches full of sea lion cubs and huge rival males defending their mating territories.
- Humpback Whales are frequently spotted in these waters between August and October as they move north for mating season.
- The islands are protected, meaning you cannot swim with the animals or walk on the islands themselves, but you can get very close to them on a boat tour.
Note: you have to leave very early from Lima because the tour starts at 10:30 am from Paracas. Leaving in a bus at 6 am is advisable, this way you can visit the islands and continue to Huacachina the same day.
Who can do it? Anyone can do it. There’s no age restriction.
How long it takes? You have 3-4 hs to get from Lima to Paracas and then 1 and a half to 2 hs doing the speedboat tour to the islands.
What should I wear? Sunscreen, hat, water, comfortable clothes, lightweight trousers & shoes
Operation: Every day leaving Lima at 6 by bus then taking a speed boat at 10:30 am.
Recommended bus companies:
Cost of the bus: Between 35 to 60 soles.
Cost of the speedboat tour: From 40 soles.
5 – Huacachina Desert: Sandboarding, Dune Buggies and Camping Under the Stars.
When people ask me what would I recommend to anyone going to Perú besides Cuzco and Machu Picchu I always say: Huacachina.
I’ve been all over Perú from North to South and one of the funniest and most exiting activities I’ve done is the sand dunes buggies (literally feels like jumping onto a rollercoaster going from dune to dune for your sandboarding), sandboarding and after watching the stunning sunset from the dunes a BBQ and pisco cocktails around a bonfire where you can share your experiences with your friends and other travellers, or you can dance under the stars 🙂 Your guides will gladly play music for you if you request it!
Who can do it? Anyone can do it. If you have babies or very little children I wouldn’t recommend it.
What should I wear? Sunscreen, hat, water, comfortable clothes, lightweight trousers & shoes. Take a good jacket with you, the desert can be very cold sometimes at night.
Opening hours: This is something you can arrange with the company but usually if you’re coming from Paracas you’ll start around 3:30 – 4 pm and you’ll go back to the town between 6:30 – 8 am.
Costs: From U$D 65
Please check the website of my suggested company: Desert Adventure
How do I get to Huacachina? From Paracas you can take a bus that takes around 1:20 hs to Ica and from there you need to take a taxi that takes only 10 minutes to Huacachina and usually cost 10 soles.
From Lima you should take a bus to Ica that takes around 5 hs and from Ica a taxi to Huacachina.
Recommended bus companies: Cruz del Sur y Peru Bus
Cost of the bus: From 8 to 35 soles depending on the company you choose and season.
My General Tips for Perú
Be patient. Have in mind that you’re travelling to a 3rd world developing country so things don’t work as they do in your country of provenance. Sometimes people take their time to do
things and they will do it in a slower and peaceful peace so waiting for your food in a restaurant longer than expected is possible and a company picking you up for an excursion 10 – 30 minutes later than you have agreed is also something that could happen (in this case make sure you call them to remind them about you!). I have to say that Perú is very well prepared to
receive international travellers and their standards are pretty good and much better than in other South American countries in matter of respecting time schedules.
Be respectful with people and their costumes. I’m sure you are coming to take a lot of pictures of the places and people wearing different colourful clothes but, please, before doing
this, ask if it’s OK to them. Many of the aboriginals do believe that you’re “stealing” their souls when taking pictures of them and they can have different and, sometimes, aggressive
reactions. If they agree on doing this, giving a tip is expected.
About safety. Another piece of advice is to not hang your amazing professional cameras from your neck while walking around, mainly in big, crowded cities where violent robberies can
occur. South America is not as dangerous as media shows but, like everywhere else in the world, you need to be careful and avoid going to slums, or places where locals tell you not to
go. Take with you just what you need for excursions and to go out for dinner or to a pub. Pickpocketing is pretty common. At night always take taxis and even better if you’re at least in
pairs, it’s pretty common to hear about “gringos” that got robbed while walking going back to their hotel after a party when being a little bit tipsy or drunk.
Drink mineral water. Not in every country but, in Perú, I highly recommend you to drink bottled water.
Avoid street food. I know that one of the activities that travellers like the most is trying typical and street food, my advice here is not to do it due to hygiene standards aren’t the best (of
course you have exceptions) this is completely related to the lack of safe water. Many of them re-use the same water to do washing over and over again. So, my fellow traveller, if you don’t
want to have a funny tummy during your excursions, do not have street food.
Eating Salad. I’m writing about this because a lot of my groups when I was tour leading used to ask me this question. Can you eat the salad? Yes, you can! In Peruvian Restaurants they usually
have high hygiene standards. Be careful of eating salads if you’re eating at the local markets.
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. In case that you need more info or alternative activities in Lima, do not hesitate in contact us!
We look forward to receiving you in South America!!
Travel Specialist, Trips SouthAmerica.