THE Wild, the weird, the wonderful: welcome to Lima

Lima is a jumble of old and new, urban grit and glitzy malls, street shacks and some of Peru’s best hotels. At first glance, it can be hard to take it all in. But linger a little and Lima starts to work its magic: there’s world-class food, grand colonial architecture and plenty of unforgettable day trips.

Before you head on to the ‘must-sees’ of Peru, such as Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines, stop and make the most of this beguiling city. Here’s our guide to the wild, weird and wonderful sides of Lima.

The wild

It’s not just the Miraflores nightlife. Nature lovers and adventure seekers will find plenty of exhilarating things to see and do in the city and surrounding area.

Cool for cats

Ease yourself into the day with a gentle stroll through Parque Kennedy. This little park is home to more than 100 ‘domestic’ cats –although this number is rapidly falling as they are adopted and rehomed. Even if you’re not a cat person, it’s a lovely spot to relax, browse the local stalls, sip a coffee and plan your day.

Surf safari

Standing on the Pacific coast, Lima boasts some great beaches and is a magnet for surfers from around the world. If you’re just dipping your toe in the water, visit Waikiki and Mahaka beaches in Miraflores where you’ll find plenty of welcoming surf schools. Or, if you’re a more seasoned surfer, make for Punta Hermosa’s Pico Alto where four-metre-high waves roll in.

The ‘Little Galapagos’ of Lima

Venture a little further into the Pacific and you’ll discover the truly untamed side of Lima. The Palomino Islands, sometimes called the ‘Little Galapagos of Lima’, are home to a huge colony of sea lions, penguins and thousands of sea birds. Most boat tours depart from the city’s port of Callao and many even give you the chance to snorkel with sea lions. Remember to bring a mask, snorkel and an underwater camera.  

Surfing in Peru

The weird

Often, it’s the more unusual sights that really fire the imagination – and Lima has its fair share of quirky curiosities.

A brush with death

Hidden beneath the Convento de San Francisco lies an Ossuary where the bones of around 70,000 people are decoratively arranged. Eerie but also strangely beautiful, these catacombs were discovered in 1943 and are believed to be connected to the cathedral and local churches by subterranean passages.

Please take care of this bear

Say hello to one of Peru’s most famous ex-pats at the Miraflores boardwalk. Overlooking the ocean, alongside a playground, stands a statue of Paddington Bear. A gift from the British Embassy, Paddington may be lost without Great Aunt Lucy, but he certainly has a home with a view.

The wonderful

The closer you get to Lima, the more you discover: pre-Colombian temples, colonial cathedrals, colourful mansion houses. But, in our view, there are two experiences that can’t be missed:

Perfection on a plate
The original ‘fusion food’, Peruvian cuisine is an art form that’s really grabbing the headlines. Classic dishes include ceviche (zesty raw fish, marinated in citrus fruits), causa (colourful stacks of potato, avocado and tuna), and lomo saltado (a hybrid stir-fry of beef, peppers, onions, soy sauce and potatoes).

There’s a thriving street food scene serving local delicacies – such as antichuchos meat skewers – fresh from the grill. Or treat yourself and stay at one of Peru’s best hotels where you can sample inventive Peruvian gastronomy. Le Molière restaurant serves fine local specialities – as well as international cuisine – accompanied by home baked bread. Before or after your meal, be sure to order the classic South American cocktail: a pisco sour.

The light fantastic
After a couple of sundowners, make tracks for Parque de la reserva. One of Lima’s most popular tourist spots, it’s home to the Magic Water Circuit – a collection of 13 fountains that are illuminated by an incredible light show.

After taking in the sights, return to the elegance of the nearby San Isidro district and the Royal Park Hotel Lima. Among the best hotels in Lima, it offers a striking blend of European comfort and Pre-Colombian heritage. However wild (or weird) your day has been, you know that the night will be nothing short of wonderful.

Royal Park Hotel Lima, Peru