What is there to see in Lima Peru? Is Lima safe to visit? Is Lima even worth visiting? These were questions that we asked ourselves as we got ready to embark on the second half of #DrJSabbatical, a 6 week trip to South America starting in Peru, continuing with 2 weeks in Patagonia, and ending in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. Lima is often overlooked by visitors in a rush to get to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. However, we found plenty to do in Lima to fill three days. There are so many things to do in Lima, especially in and around Miraflores, the upscale tourist hub of the Peruvian capital. I argue that you owe it to yourself to spend 72 hours in Lima to experience modern Peru before rushing off to find Peru's Incan past. Read on for ideas for your 3-day Lima itinerary.
The Airport in Lima Is Easy Peasy
Lima is the main international airport and gateway into Peru. We'd heard horror stories about South American airports and were bracing for long lines and delays. Instead, we found that Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima was super easy to manage. Our checked bags were out on the belt in 10 minutes. There isn't even any annoying paperwork for fill out on arrival now that the Tarjeta Andina de Migración has been deprecated. There was no queue at all at immigration. We arrived really late into Lima via Panama City and chose to stay at the Lima airport hotel: the Wyndham Costa del Sol. It took just 45 minutes from landing until we were tucked into bed.
Getting from Lima Airport to Miraflores
How far is it from Jorge Chávez International Airport to the city of Lima? The transfer from the airport to Miraflores (where the majority of tourists stay) takes about an hour. While researching our visit to Lima, we discovered Taxidatum, an airport transfer service that's bookable via an online form. We used Taxidatum to get to and from the airport in Lima. Taxidatum also offers service in other parts of Peru and we used their service to get to and from Cusco in Peru's Sacred Valley. It cost us 20 USD (60 Peruvian Sol) at the time of writing for the taxi service from Lima's Airport to Miraflores.
3-Day Lima Itinerary: Day 1 - Exploring Miraflores
Upon arriving in the city of Lima, we checked into the comfortable Tierra Viva Miraflores Larco hotel for 3 nights. Miraflores is an ideal home base for sightseeing and walking in Lima. Our hotel was in a super convenient location less than a 10 minute walk to Parque Kennedy; at the center of things to do in Miraflores.
Miraflores' Parque Kennedy
Parque Kennedy is a hub of activity in the Miraflores neighborhood of Lima. We walked to the park on a Sunday afternoon and enjoyed admiring the landscape and historic colonial architecture. Parque Kennedy is clearly named after former American President John F. Kennedy and there is a bust of JFK prominently displayed in the park.
A large feral cat population calls Parque Kennedy home and you'll see various felines lounging in the grass and trees or stalking potential prey.
Experience Lima's Craft Beer Scene at Lupulo
Dinner at Pardos Chicken in Miraflores
Lima is known for cheap and cheerful rotisserie chicken places. Pardos Chicken was just a 5 minute walk from our hotel in Miraflores so we decided to do what the locals do and go for a chicken supper to finish off our first of 3 days exploring Lima. Pardos was packed which is typical for a Sunday in the early evening. I enjoyed a plate of juicy roasted chicken garnished with hot peppers and washed down with Chicha Morada, a non-alcoholic local drink made from purple corn and strongly flavored with a bit of cinnamon and cloves.
3-Day Lima Itinerary: Day 2 - Great Food, the Miraflores Boardwalk, and Incan Erotic Art
Lima Gourmet Company Food Tour
The second day of our 72 hour itinerary in Lima started off with a focus on food. We booked a half day tour with Lima Gourmet Company. The Lima Gourmet Company is a family business and Silvia was our energetic guide. She worked at Nestle for many years but now spends her days helping visitors discover the unique flavors of Lima. There were seven of us in total embarking on this foodie adventure in Lima.
Lima’s Streets Come Alive in Barranco
We stopped at Cafe Bisetti for organic coffee roasted onsite. We learned that Peru is the second largest producer of organic coffee in the world.
La Bodega Verde
The next stop on our Lima Gourmet Company food tour was La Bodega Verde. We sampled a lucuma smoothie. What is lucuma? It's a Peruvian fruit that tastes like cookie dough! Imagine that, a healthy food that tastes like sinfully delicious cookies. We did learn from Silvia that the smoothie is made with a fair bit of cream which is likely what gives the lucuma that irresistible flavor.
Lima's San Isidro Mercado
We piled back into the van and left Barranco to make our way to San Isidro, another posh neighborhood in Lima. We visited Mr. Ortiz and his fruit stand where we learned about and sampled a variety of Peruvian fruits.
Just a quick public service announcement for when you are dining out in Lima. We learned that Peruvian rocoto peppers look deceptively like bell peppers but are bam! crazy hot and ubiquitous throughout Peruvian cuisine.
We visited Mr Sanchez and his fish stall where we spied amazingly fresh scallops. Mr. Sanchez also dissected a squid for us and showed us how the squid doesn't have bones but rather a firm for flexible cartilage.
Learn How to Make a Pisco Sour, Peru's Signature Cocktail
Our Lima Gourmet Company food tour was getting better by the hour. Our next stop was Embarcadero 41 in Miraflores. Here we learned the secret of making a top notch Peruvian Pisco Sour. We mixed lime, pisco liquor, and egg white; shook the combination vigourously over ice and then topped our perfect frothy cocktail with 3 drops of angostura bitters. Perfection! The Peruvian Pisco Sour is by far the best cocktail that I encountered in our travels in South America. In the world, only my beloved Margarita is a worthy rival.
Make Your Own Ceviche, Lima's Signature Dish
Next up at Embarcadero 41, we learned how to make another Peruvian specialty: ceviche. We were presented with a bowl of cubed raw fish, lime juice, onions, peppers, and other spices. We watched as the chef demonstrated the right ratios of ingredients and noted how vigorous mixing with the lime is what 'cooks' the fish. While ceviche is served at dinner in many places around the world (including in Peru), Silvia cautioned that the people of Lima are very particular about their ceviche and no local would ever deign to have ceviche for dinner. The fish is just not fresh enough to eat raw if it goes that long between catch to plate. Ceviche is exclusively for lunch as far as she's concerned.
Lunch at Huaca Pucllana
Lima has a reputations for incredible food. We got to sample even more of Peru's finest cuisine with a tasting lunch and more Peruvian cocktails at Huaca Pucllana as a capstone to our Lima Gourmet Company food tour.
Huaca Pucllana is situated in a beautiful setting beside Incan ruins in the heart of Lima's Miraflores district.
Walk Along Lima’s Malecón (aka The Miraflores Boardwalk)
After our morning of non-stop eating, a bit of exercise was called for to work off those delicious calories. We asked Silvia to drop us off along the Miraflores Boardwalk. High on a hill with views overlooking the sea, the Malecón is a scenic path that extends for several kilometers. A walk on the Malecón is one of the top things to do in Miraflores in my opinion. Aside from the sea views, you can expect to see sculptures, Gaudi-esque mosaic stonework, a lighthouse, and even a park featuring mini-reproductions of Peru's famous Nasca Lines.
Take an Uber to the Larca Museum
In the early evening on our second full day in Lima, we decided to visit the Larca Museum, the premier museum of Pre-Colombian art in Peru. We saved the Larca Museum for late in the day because they are open every day of the week until 10 pm.
The best way to get to the Larca Museum is with Uber. We found Uber to be a very effective and safe way to efficiently get around Lima. Uber works everywhere in Lima except for runs originating at the airport. The ride from Miraflores to the Larca Museum took about 30 minutes and cost 19 PEN (less than $6 USD at the time of writing).
The Larca Museum is most famous for its large and well-preserved collection of erotic sculptures. We were definitely blushing by the end of our visit!
Taste the Amazon Without Leaving Lima at ámaZ
We were still quite full from our Lima Gourmet Company food tour so we were thankful that ámaZ offers half portions. We sampled wild boar empanadas and plantain salad to round out our second of 3 days in Lima. After all the delicious Peruvian food that we encountered that day, we slept very well that night!
3-Day Lima Itinerary: Day 3 - A Foray on Public Transit, Walking Tour, and More Great Food
Lima City Tour
On our final day in Lima, we decided to do a free walking tour. The Lima by Walking website indicated that the tour would leave from Parque Kennedy in Miraflores. The tour guides would help folks on the tour buy transit tickets and shepherd us on the crowded buses to Lima Central. It turns out that the departure point had moved from Parque Kennedy to Parawana Hostel. We were a little nervous at first when the would be tour guides tried to direct us to the hostel (i.e., were they really the Lima by Walking guides or was this some kind of scam). It was hard to tell since the guides were not wearing the blue vests we were told to look out for. It turned out to be just fine though. The guides were being extra-cautious because they'd had some issues with the police not liking the fact that they were running the tours from the park.
The bus is the best way to get to Lima Central. It took 20 minutes to get downtown thanks to a dedicated bus lane. A taxi would be much more expensive and would likely take more than an hour according to our guide Ricardo. Tourists in Lima can't buy tickets to the bus on their own. All the payments happen via a card that you tap at the entrance gate. For the Lima by Walking Tour, Ricardo charged us all on his card and we paid him cash later.
We watched the first part of the changing of the guard ceremony and then moved on to see more of Lima Central before circling back for the grand finale.
One fascinating that we learned about Lima is that it never rains. The city is built on a desert and survives on water that runs down from the mountains. There is so little rain in Lima that when the glass roof of this arcade was destroyed in an earthquake, it was never replaced since it effectively served no purpose other than decoration.
Ricardo was super-energetic and knowledgeable and constantly referred to us as chicos which translates in English to friends. In addition to exploring the architecture of Central Lima, the tour also covered a bit about literature and politics too. Lima by Walking is a great way to get a half-day overview of Lima and Peruvian history. We also felt safer taking public transportation for the first time with Ricardo there to make sure we got on the right bus and could figure out how to pay the fare. Thanks to Lima by Walking, we felt much more confident exploring on our own later that day.
Have A Menu del Dia for Lunch in Central Lima
After the walking tour, we looked around for a place to have lunch. There are lots of small local restaurants offering a business lunch (aka menu del dia) for as little as 10 sol (about $3 USD at the time of writing). A plate of lomo and rice was the perfect way to recharge after our morning of exploration on foot in Central Lima.
Bus C to Barranco
Now came the moment of truth...We had to get back from Central Lima to Miraflores or Barranco on our own. We took Ricardo's advice and waited at the bus stop. We smiled and asked someone in broken Spanish if they could pay for our fare on their card in exchange for cash. It was surprisingly easy to find someone willing to do it and we were soon boarding Bus C back to Barranco.
We spent the final afternoon of our 3-days in Lima admiring Barranco's famous street art.
We also took time out for a pint of craft beer at the Barranco Beer Company. The Fifti Lager was nice and refreshing after a day of exploring mostly on foot.
Cocktails at Nazca Pisco Lounge
Our final day in Lima coincided with Halloween. The residents of Lima were out in full force to enjoy the evenng. We spent our time strolling around the neighborhood near Parque Kennedy in Miraflores. There is a strip of bars on a little pedestrianized street called Calle de las Pizzas. We sipped happy hour priced pisco cocktails and reflected on our 3-day visit to Lima. I enjoyed a maracuya (passionfruit) chilcano.
Lucuma Ice Cream
We'd eaten so much in less than 72 hours in Lima that we decided to skip dinner on our final night, or rather, we had ice cream for dinner :-) Lucumu ice cream to be exact. What a sweet way to end our visa to Peru's capital city: enjoying a refreshing treat made from locally sourced fruit.
Is Lima Worth Visiting?
As you can see, I think Lima is definitely worth visiting for a few days and is an underrated destination in South America. Many tourists stop by for a day or less before rushing on to Peru's Sacred Valley. If you do this, you aren't doing Lima justice. A 3-day itinerary in Lima will give you enough time to see the major sites and get your fill of Lima's food scene.
Is Lima Safe?
The bigger question on many people's mind's is: Is Lima safe? Well-traveled friends cautioned us about Peru in general and Lima in particular before we visited. We heard horror stories of people being kidnapped and held until money could be withdrawn from the ATM. We were understandably on our guard when we first arrived. I felt much safer in Lima that I thought I would. If you use common sense, you should be fine. Wear your bag on your front instead of your back and leave your valuables locked up in the room. Stay in a tourist-friendly neighborhood like Miraflores where you should be perfectly fine doing a self-guided walk around nearby neighborhoods in Lima. I just don't recommend wandering around alone after dark. We used Uber as a safe and easy way to get around Lima, especially after dark.
Have you visited Lima? What did you think? Leave a comment with your top recommendations for a 3-day visit.
Map of Things to Do on a 3-Day Visit to Lima
Click on the image of the map below to open up an interactive Google Map highlighting places of interest covered in this 3 day Lima itinerary.