What to do in Lima: Discover Lima through your 5 Senses!
We admit that Lima isn’t exactly the city that travelers adore at first sight. Five months a year (June through October) the garúa covers the city sometimes high in the sky, sometimes even in between the buildings and homes of Limeños. This mysterious sea mist is caused by the interaction of warm inland desert winds (don’t forget Lima’s a desert!) and the cool water streams of the Pacific Ocean.
Even Herman Melville (the author of ‘Moby Dick’) describes the melancholic city as “the strangest, saddest city thou can’st see. For Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe.” Nevertheless, with a changed mind-set, these insider tips and another intelligent quote as “I wanted to grab the fog, but I mist”, it’s not hard at all to see the capital of Peru has much more to offer than first expected. Discover Lima!
See the vibrant colors of Lima
Lima is huge and super diverse. The urban area of Lima consists of more than 30 districts, all with their own unique atmosphere and character. The different districts almost seem like small cities within the colossal vastness that is Lima. It might seem more difficult to find the beauty in some districts than in others but, if you take the time to have a closer look, in each and every one of them you’ll find the typical cheerfully bright coloured houses. Take your time to walk around the different neighbourhoods and have a good look around. If you just pay a bit of attention to your surroundings, you’ll see the majestic colonial mansions in the historical centre, the hidden casonas between the modern apartment buildings in Miraflores or pretty much every other house in the flower-filled streets of bohemian Barranco.
If you’re in the historical centre of Lima, it pays off to visit the terracotta painted sanctuary of Santa Rosa de Lima. Here locals write their wishes on a little paper and throw it in the wishing well. Now you can even follow Santa Rosa on facebook or twitter. This way it is now possible for Peruvians living abroad to send their prayers to this modern señora online!
Besides the beautiful casonas that enrich Barranco’s buena onda (good vibes), dozens of graffiti paintings contribute to its image and reputation as the hip and artistic neighbourhood and hub of alternative subcultures in Lima. They’re cheerful, bold and often politically engaged. This explosion of colours sure makes your vacation in Lima feel a lot sunnier!
In the so-called pueblos jovenes (young towns), the human settlements on the side of the sandy hills on Lima’s outskirts, all houses are also painted in bright playful colours. The people that live here might live in harsh conditions, but they work hard to make their communities a nicer and better place to live. It is really important for them to show everyone they’re an open and welcoming community and to make it a real home, something to be proud of. That’s why they spend the little money they have on paint, mix it with water and share the leftovers with their neighbours. They might live in small houses but they all have a corazon grande (big heart). Do you want to get to know more about these communities and their great efforts to make their communities a better home for their kids and hard work towards a better future? Join us on a visit and take a book your trip online here!
Hear the buena onda
Lima is alive and kickin’! Rhythms and sounds are filling the streets, often accompanied by people dancing. Do you feel like your gringo moves don’t really match the hip-shaking dances of salsa, bachata or even reggaeton? Why not prepare yourself to dance all day and night and take some classes while you’re here! Peruvians were born with great dancing skills (or so it seems to gringos) and love to shake on different types of music! Even president Kuczynski likes to put some music on to stretch his legs and do some fitness!
It’s hard to miss the constant chatter on the streets, restaurants, pretty much everywhere. Peruvians sure love to talk, chit-chat and negotiate everywhere. Limeños have a richly coloured language use! A real Limeño calls someone he doesn’t know a broder (Spanglish for brother), flaco (skinny guy) or hermano (brother). They only use the word señor (sir) to refer to someone who’s a lot older than them. Girls often get called flaca (skinny girl), hijita (little daughter), mamita (little mother – with affection), mamacita (little mother – with a bit more sexual connotations) or even gordita (chubby, but usually in a sweet way) and fea (ugly). It’s all straight to the point, but with lots of cariño and a tad bit of playfulness. If you want to blend in in this Peruvian street life, you can take some Spanish classes to learn all about their slang!
Smell the variety of fragrances
Not convinced of Lima’s liveliness yet? Set off to one of Lima’s many cheap local markets, and especially the flower markets. Smell the variety of fragrances of herbs, cheeses, vegetables and fruits! Ask for your own personalised jugo (juice) while you’re exchanging stories with locals sitting on a flashy plastic (not really gringo-sized) little stool! And make sure you don’t forget to ask for “la yapa” (the free leftover) in the end.A lot of tourists ask themselves why there are so many different stands selling exactly the same products right next to each other. In Peru, every aspect of daily life, including shopping, depends more on personal contact. Peruvians don’t just go and buy their fruit or meat, they go to their casera (favourite sales person – there’s really no way to properly translate this into English), have some small talk and make deals about the price of the products.
Taste without haste
If you want to dig deeper into market life and learn more about local food, why not join us on our full-day Food and Socio-Cultural day trip? It will become very clear why Lima is called the food mecca of South America. More in the mood for a snack or a picnic? Buy the best ceviche from La Calé, an ecological ceviche food truck (solar panels included) or enjoy the taste of delicious empanadas and support Empanacombi, an initiative that wants to improve employment opportunities for disabled people. For updates about their food trucks and where they will be next, you can follow this facebook page.
Feel the authentic Lima
To complete your Lima tour of senses, let your sense of touch gather some more impressions for you. Let your fingers glide over the smooth dry paper of old second-hand books, discovering hidden treasures in the numerous book stores between Plaza Francia and Plaza San Martin. Enjoy your newest purchase while caressing your new furry friends in Parque Kennedy (aka “cat park”), where cats (and humans) are just being lazy, lying around and relaxing on the lap of locals and tourists. The cats are all clean and cared for.
You can also wander around in antique outlets where they don’t mind if you leave a fingerprint on a piece of furniture! Take a bus to Mercado Surquillo 2 and explore the peculiar stands in the streets surrounding the mercado. Feel the rough wooden closets, cold curly metal chairs and upcycled decorations. Enter through little doors, get lost in corners and narrow hallways. You will feel like Alice in Wonderland, who knows where you’ll end up if you enter a wardrobe…
Lose your preconceptions and discover Lima with a clean sheet. The city is a kaleidoscope of people, fragrances, melodies, tastes, activities and places. Limeños are vibrant and positive people. They’re not mistaken when they refer to the furry mist as “the soft belly of a donkey”. So if you wake up in this city, don’t let the weather dominate your mood but act like locals and enjoy the big colorful feast in this safe spot under the fluffy burro.