Lima & Paracas Travel Tips: Hindsight’s a Wonderful Thing
Bags are packed and off we headed on our three week adventure in South America. We spent three nights in Lima, Peru and two nights in Paracas, Peru - our time there was amazing, but both of us agree we would do it very different now that we’ve actually spent time there. Instead of you wasting precious travel days, we thought why not share what we learned with everyone else so they can have the best possible trip to this vast country and continent. Below is our four day itinerary of how we would have planned it now. Scroll down to the bottom to find the TDLR itinerary - save it to Pinterest and pull it back up when you are starting to plan your trip.
Take an Avianca overnight flight from New York to Lima, ours had a short layover in Bogota, Colombia, that had us arriving into the capital of Peru at 10am in the morning. Don’t worry too much about getting through Lima airport immigration - for us it was a breeze, 15 minutes max.
Login to the airport WiFi and order yourself an Uber - this will save you money, the taxi cabs will most likely rip you off. Overall, Ubers are a great way of getting around here. They are cheap and reliable. The 45 minute journey to Barranco district cost about 45 PEN (or US$13) - taxis outside the airport were quoting us 40 PEN. We notified our Airbnb host of our early arrive and were able to check in at 11:00am.
We stayed in an AirBnb very close to the action. Our host was extremely welcoming and was practically on call if we had any questions or required recommendations. If you’d like to stay in the same apartment the link is here.
We recommend staying in the Barranco district due to the abundance of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, wall graffiti, galleries, and the beach to spend your time at. Read below for our recommendations.
It’s almost noon and you’re probably starving by now. Head on over to Canta Rana for lunch - you’ll likely have to wait, but it’s worth it. This family-styled restaurant is fun, full of character, and your welcomed by a cute little old man selling plants. The ceiling is covered in football (soccer depending where you’re from) flags and scarves and the walls covered in newspaper cuttings and photos of friends and family. There’s a real community feel about this one.
Ok you’re now seated and ready to tuck into some delicious Peruvian food - but wait, the menu is huge and all in Spanish! Don’t worry we have a few recommendations. To drink, grab a local beer (Cristal or Pilsen), Pisco Sour, or a Chicha Morada (Kelly loves this non-alcoholic purple corn drink now) if you don’t fancy alcohol just yet. Peru is known for its ceviche and beef dishes. Go for the Lomo Saltado and a Pescado Ceviche (order both if you’re very very hungry or more than two people). Dishes in Peru run large, so order less if you aren’t famished - plus you can always order more later or save space for ice cream.
Now that you’re refueled its time to explore the district of Barranco. Walk toward the town square and veer right to the Bridge of Sighs (Puente de los Suspiros). This is a great view point above the sloped walk down to the beach where you can admire all the people, buildings, and art.
Head down to the beach walk and get up close to all the graffiti art. There are some great instagram spots (check ours out for some inspiration). Walking down to the beach from here takes about 10 minutes. The sloped walk is lined with colorful walls and small street vendors selling their hand-made local goods (they literally make the bracelets, weave art, wire art, etc. all there on the spot).
Walking along the beach/waterfront (full disclosure: it is mostly along a busy road) can be tiresome and hot, so get yourself an ice pop to cool you down. The beach is packed so don’t expect to get a lounge chair or umbrella, but it is still something to admire at.
We recommend heading back to your hotel (or AirBnb), most likely the flight and day have knackered you out already. Also note, people just generally eat later here - so take a nap and get ready to go eat at 8/9pm. We recommend a great little Italian spot - yes we know we are recommending Italian in Peru, but we are saving the best to last, just trust us on this one! Pan Sal Aire is a delicious Italian restaurant just off Av. Almte. Miguel Grau, serving fresh pizzas and pastas.
After dinner head on over to Ayahuasca to enjoy a cocktail or two. Barranco is home to many mansions that have been converted into boutique bars. Ayahuasca is a huge mansion serving an even bigger cocktail list. We’d recommend something of the Pisco variety. Pisco is a type of brandy produced in winemaking regions of Peru and Chile.
Ayahuasca has all options of seating areas from little secluded rooms to the bar to an outside terrace in the back.
Hopefully you aren’t suffering from jet lag because day two is another busy day. Since we are only recommending two days in Lima you need to pack a lot in. Start off by enjoying a tasty breakfast over at La Bodega Verde. This indoor/outdoor cafe is the perfect location to enjoy the warm morning weather Peru has to offer.
Once energized (you’ll need it), head on over to the Malecon boardwalk. We walked it but there is a bike hire here as well. The Malecon boardwalk starts in Miraflores and stretches for six miles, following the cliff side and over looking the Pacific Ocean. The walk on a hot day can be relentless but the views are incredible.
Follow the boardwalk all the way along to the to Parque del Amor. The Parque del Amor is unmissable with a giant statue of a man and a woman kissing.
After your stroll take a taxi back to Barranco and explore the Dedalo artisanal market. They have the cutest cafe in the back so rest your legs and eat some empanadas. Dedalo market offers a quaint market experience with not-so-pushy vendors and an inner courtyard with a coffee shop and small food stand.
MATE Museum offers both free and paid exhibitions. The admission fee is 25 PEN or $7.50 and the art on display is modern. There is also a delightful ‘gift shop’, however this gift shop is not flogging the typical museum souvenirs but instead offers one of a kind bags, clothing, jewelry, etc.
Then head to Isolina for dinner. This is what you’ve all been waiting for. This Peruvian restaurant offers some of the best food we’ve ever tasted. It’s simple yet delicious. The portions are very large. You can get one main dish between two. We opted for the Arroz de Tapado for main course.
After dinner head to Bosco Magico, right next door, to get some ice cream served in a light chocolate cone or a glass jar (how hipster!).
Why we only spent two days in Lima, because quite frankly we don’t think the rest was all that interesting. There are the Huaca Pucllana ruins near the Old Town, but if you are planning on going to Sacred Valley and/or Machu Picchu then the one hour tour at these ruins can be skipped.
You could also head over to Indian Market to browse the very generic souvenirs from hundreds of vendors all selling the same stuff. We prefer to find unique, one of a kind stalls to purchase things we actually want and need. The ones we suggest in Barranco and Cusco are more authentic than anything you’ll find in the Indian Market of Lima.
Time spent in Lima and Barranco district has been fast and furious but it is now time to enjoy that hot weather in a seaside resort town three hours south of Lima. Paracas is well-known for its proximity to the Islas de Ballestas, also known as the Poor Man’s Galápagos Islands. If this doesn’t interest you, then alternatively you could visit the desert oasis of Huacachina, where you can enjoy sand buggies, sand boarding, or even visit a winery.
Get an early morning bus to Paracas. There are several bus companies offering departures almost every 15 minutes. We chose Cruz Del Sur and were pleasantly surprised with the service. The buses were clean, came with comfortable chairs and ample leg room, entertainment systems in each seat, and “attendants” serving drinks and snacks. The journey takes about three and a half hours and the first stop is Paracas.
On arrival in Paracas, the bus terminal is situated a couple minutes walk from the village and there were no taxis waiting to ferry people to their final destinations. We started to walk toward the hustle and bustle and quickly were called out if we need a taxi. Paracas is small so you’ll be at your hotel in less than five minutes.
Check-in to your hotel and soak in those equatorial sun rays. We stayed at The Hotel Paracas, A Luxury Collection Hotel by Marriott. The prices are comparable to what you’d pay in the US, however the amenities and relaxation made up for the steeper prices. This hotel in particular offered complimentary water sports including kayaking, paddle boarding, and a catamaran ride. We obliged and paddle boarded the next morning.
(Top tip: The winds pick up in Paracas from midday onwards, so many water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding are only offered in the morning before the currents get too strong).
If you are planning on seeing Islas de Ballestas, it is recommended you purchase your tickets ahead of time in town. Stroll into town and immediately you’ll see signs for the tours. Each one is identical so it doesn’t matter which you pick
The morning excursion to Islas del Ballestas, cost 86 PEN for the two of us. It is a 2 hour excursion on a boat (you don’t leave the boat), to take in the Paracas Candelabra, and the natural wildlife on the Islas del Ballestas, which includes sea lions, penguins, and a multitude of species of birds. The tours leave at 8am, so get there a few minutes earlier. (Top tip: the boat journey can be chilly due to the wind, so bring a light sweater)
Head on back to Lima on a bus that fits your connecting schedule. We had an early morning flight the next morning to Cusco so we opted for a late evening bus back to Lima, and on arrival went straight to the airport.