Lima, Peru – What To Do In 48 Hours

It’s certainly taken me long enough. Between June and July of last year, I spent some time travelling around Peru. And now, almost a year after the fact, I’m finally getting round into publishing this travel diary of sorts.

Rather than posts on what to do in different parts of the country and how to posts, this series is going to be more of an honest reflection of my trip. Simply as I enjoy writing these accounts of my trips a bit more.

Anyway, on we go to Lima, Peru.

I headed to Peru laden with travel anxiety. I rarely suffer from travel anxiety, the last I’d experienced it was two years prior when I headed off to Japan for a month, but it was mixed in with all the last year of uni stress I was overflowing with. This time I was just really fucking terrified of this trip for no reason. I was unable to sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about just cancelling the trip and staying at home for the best part of a month. All very unlike me, but hey, life comes at you fast.

Anyway, I went ahead with it, got myself a flat white and cookie at Pret in Gatwick and felt much more relaxed. A 12 hour flight to Lima, a manic taxi ride through the capital (of which most I slept through) and we were (kind of) settled in for the trip.

The next day we headed on a guided tour of Lima. I was still anxious as all hell, on a continent I’d never visited before and feeling extremely jet lagged and ruined from travel sickness medication, so a guided tour was the exact amount of effort I could muster. When exploring Lima, a city I really didn’t know enough about, I began to relax a hell of a lot more and got to enjoy a very vibrant and exciting city.

Lima is the capital and largest city in Peru, and looks over the Pacific Ocean, as you can nose at above. Over 9 million people live in the Lima area, and it’s considered the cultural and political centre of Peru. Lima was founded back in 1535 by Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizzarro, and the city is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, founded in 1551!

Sadly the weather was smoggy during our few days in Lima, so I don’t think we managed to get a true experience of the city.

La Plaza de Armas

I thought England was the biggest football loving country in the world. I was ever so wrong. Everytime Peru played the country came to a standstill for a few hours. Shops rolled out TVs so the staff could watch, and squares like this had it playing for all to see. You couldn’t move for seeing hundreds of fans in Peruvian kit.

The architecture in Lima is pretty stunning, it wasn’t at all what I expected. Though saying that, I don’t know what I quite expected. It feels quite a mix of Spanish influence from the 1500’s, to more modern buildings that have survived the various earthquakes that have plagued the city over the years.  Above you can see the Archibishop Palace located on La Plaza de Armas, also pictured above. It’s located next to the Cathedral as a clear mark of the church and Spanish colonial power working together in their rule.  The building houses the Archbishop of Peru as well as the administrative headquarters of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lima.

Lima’s streets are so incredibly beautiful. The architecture is so grand and these grand buildings house everything from cathedrals and Government offices to small cafes and bookshops. Plus these street signs make me feel like I’m in Paris. Throw anything in that font and I’m completely and utterly sold on whatever you’re selling.

Basílica y Convento de San Francisco

Most of my pictures of the Basílica y Convento de San Francisco came out really, really shit. I’m blaming this on a combo of my camera slowly dying, my anxiety induced shaky hands (a fun side effect of stress/anxiety I’ve gained in my twenties) and a heavy dosing of smog. So apologies for just the one kinda mediocre pic. I promise all other posts will be full of MUCH better, much more vibrant photography.

The Basílica is one of the most iconically Lima buildings, it’s known worldwide and it’s what I thought of immediately when thinking of the capital. It’s almost 400 years old and is still standing, despite taking a chunk of damage from 1970’s earthquake.

For a small fee you can enter the catacombs, where photography is (sadly) completely restricted, as it is through most of the Basílica. It’s believed that there’s over 25,000 bodies in the catacombs, and if you have a ridiculous morbid fascination with death like myself, you’ll have a grand old time. The catacombs were only rediscovered in 1943, so it’s all relatively fresh!

Barranco

The Barranco District is famed for it’s mass amounts of lush street art. We got pretty lucky and happened to be staying in a hostel about a 5 minute walk away. Barranco is full of places to explore, including Bajada de los Baños, the Bridge of Sighs, and my personal favourite, Mario Testino’s gallery.  We spent a couple of hours here just walking around completely aimlessly. It’s such a vibrant area that has tons to offer. Definitely my favourite spot in Lima.

The art is huge. Like real huge. I’m a small guy, but I’m not THAT small.

Huaca Pucllana

Huaca Pucllana is one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been to. There really isn’t enough info about this place online, but the best description I can provide is that it was the administrative and culture centre of a civilisation that lived in the area between 200-700AD. This clay pyramid is still in the process of being fully excavated, but it’s a wildly fascinating construction.

Peru might be famed for the Inca culture, but Huaca Pucclana predates that. The Lima civilisation lived on the coast and built this up long over a millennia ago, it served as their administrative centre amongst an irrigation zone. The clay bricks the pyramid is constructed over also ensured it’s survival through the earthquakes that have hit Lima over the years, I can’t even begin to process the science of that.

    

It is a bit bizarre to see such a place slap bang in the middle of one of South America’s biggest cities. It still blows my mind how huge this ancient construction is, and how it was concealed under mounds of dirt for years. In the 1970’s and 80’s this place was being used as a motorcross area, but now it’s slowly being brought back into it’s original state. They estimate that it will be another 30 years before the full site has been excavated fully.

If you have a few days in Lima, make sure to head to Huaca Pucclana, it’s very cheap for a guided tour in English. Truly an experience you won’t find anywhere else.

Next stop: Nazca!

For all other travel posts click here.

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