Spurred in part by its world-class restaurant scene, the Peruvian capital has undergone a transformation from stopover to tourism hotspot
Author Chris Wilson Photography Jessica Sample
Population of metropolitan Lima, the sixth-biggest city in South America
Tons of asparagus shipped out of Peru in 2012, making it the world’s largest exporter of the crop
Varieties of potato grown in Peru, more than anywhere else on the planet
Year Morris’ Bar, where California-born owner Victor Morris invented the Pisco Sour, opened in Lima
Height, in feet, of the tallest hotel in Peru, the Westin in San Isidro
Number of government districts in Lima, each of which has its own mayor
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No visit to Peru is complete without a trip to its most glorious ruins
If you have an extra day or two to spend in Peru, hop an 80-minute flight to Cuzco, the massive and mountainous region that contains the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. Check into the Palacio del Inka, a storied luxury hotel with a bar that features an original Incan wall and Spanish Colonial–style suites with terraces overlooking the narrow cobblestone streets of downtown Cuzco.
It’s a five-minute walk to Plaza de Armas, where you can watch women in traditional Andean garb bottle-feeding adorable baby llamas (they expect a few sol coins if you snap a picture). Drink coca-leaf tea and eat at Limo, one of the best restaurants at the Plaza. If you’re feeling fragile due to the dizzying altitude change, skip heavy fare like guinea pig confit and alpaca steak in favor of fresh sushi rolls and a green salad. Spend the rest of the day gaping at the gold- and-mirror-gilded Cuzco Cathedral and the Temple of Qorikancha’s stone ruins.
The next morning, take a PeruRail train to Machu Picchu. It’s about a four-hour trip, but the slow-moving, glass-topped cars are a great way to view the stunning mountains, rivers and cliffs rolling past. Then it’s a short bus ride to the jaw-dropping ruins, worth seeing even when clogged with tourists (though some say the only way to experience Machu Picchu is to go the night before and climb to the site just after dawn, when it’s virtually empty).
Now it’s time to tend to your stomach. If you can’t wait to venture into the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge at the foot of the ruins offers a very good spread of roast pork, steak, grouper and accompaniments. After a leisurely train ride back, during which PeruRail attendants will try mightily to sell you alpaca scarves and sweaters, luxuriate at the Palacio del Inka Spa before dinner.
A more refined version of the roasted guinea pig served by many humble Cuzco stalls can be found at Map Café, a cozy glass cube inside the courtyard of the Museo de Arte Precolombino, which also offers elegant updates of Peruvian staples like corvina and pork adobo. Afterward, catch a flight back to Lima to transfer to the next leg of your trip, or better yet, stay another night in Cuzco.
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The inside scoop from those in the know
“Go for a walk in El Malecón de Miraflores, with the sea and beautiful landscape. Look for the paragliding area and go flying over the city. Then have a nice creole breakfast at Tanta, El Chinito, La Lucha or El Farolito.”
“I recommend the Parque de la Reserva, an amazing place where you can spend a couple of hours at night delighting in the colorful magic water show. The way the water waves with the melody of the music is so beautiful.”
“If you like coffee, you have to try Bisetti in Barranco, which has fresh, single-origin coffee from all over the Peruvian Amazon. Amazing. Malecón de los Suspiros is good for traditional desserts like picarones and suspiro a la limeña.”
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