Is Lima Worth Visiting? A Backpackers Guide To Peru’s Capital

Peru’s capital Lima is a vibrant city set on high cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and filled with world-class cuisine, lively nightlife, and fascinating cultural history. Whether you’re a culture enthusiast, surf lover or a foodie - backpackers are spoiled for choice here. Here’s 12 great reasons why Lima is worth visiting along with a detailed backpackers guide.


12 Great Reasons Why Lima Is Worth Visiting

a town square in Lima

1. The Historical Centre Is Filled With Culture And History

South American culture and history are your thing, then a walking tour of the historical centre is a must. The Spanish colonial architecture and bright yellow buildings of Plaza Mayor are an incredible sight.


The walking tour will take you around the highlights of the historical centre such as San Martin Square and the Santo Domingo Church, and like any excellent walking tour it will be filled with knowledge about both Peru’s colonial and indigenous past.


Hands down, the best walking tour company in Peru is Inkan Milkyway. They love this history of Lima and swear to only take you to historical sites and avoid tourist traps where you may be encouraged to buy things like markets or chocolate shops.


If you are staying in Miraflores, they offer a pick-up point for all customers from a come to the designated pick-up point, and they will guide you on public transportation towards Lima’s historical centre

  • Cost: Free ($2-3 tip is always welcome at the end as its run by volunteers)
  • Times: Tours start at either 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM or 3:00 PM. Every day except Sunday
  • Duration: 3 Hours
  • Website: Inkan Milky Way Lima

If you are a fan of walking tours then Inkan Milkyway run them in other popular backpacking cities in Peru such as Arequipa and Cusco. 

If you are heading to either of these places on your travels through Peru then be sure to check out my backpacker guides for them too. They are full of all the information you need from the top hostels to the best activities:


2. It Has The Best Seafront Walks Along The Miraflores Malecon

Lima is split up into two main areas you need to explore – Miraflores and Barranco. They are both situated next to each other and right on the coast, so they are the preferred places to stay for backpackers.


Miraflores has an abundance of trendy cafes and great restaurants all situated amongst seafront parks and boardwalks. In the evening, here is where you will find thriving bars, clubs, and live music venues.


During the day, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a walk along the coast and get a feel for Lima. For a nice walk, you can start at the ‘Park of Love’ and make your way down south along the Malecon (boardwalk), all the way to Barranco if you wish. Along the way you can stop off at the Larcomar, an open-air seafront shopping centre or sit in one of the many green spaces along the way and watch skateboarders and locals mingle. You can also


Just make sure to be by the waterfront for sunset as you are in for a treat.  Grab a spot near the edge of the cliffs and watch the sun go down as paragliders circle above and surfers catch the last waves of the day.

paragliding in Lima

3. You Can Explore It In A Day With A Bike Tour Or Rental

If you want to combine sightseeing around Lima with a bit of exercise, then rent a bike and cycle along the Circuito de Playas, the road that straddles the coastline, from Miraflores to Barranco.


This is also a great way to see the best bits of Miraflores and Barranco if you are short on time or just prefer to do it quickly.


There are two ways to go about this: either rent a bike and explore Lima yourself or pay for a guided bike tour.


Lima Bici tours rent bikes and have an office in Miraflores. They rent for $3 an hour.


Or if you would prefer an actual tour, then they several tours of Lima from 2 hours to 4 hours long starting at $31. Their ‘Tour Express’ will take you from Miraflores to Barranco and show you the highlights of Lima.

Gogo Bikes rent for $8 for 3 hours so they are a little bit cheaper, and you can rent for the full day for $12.


Their ‘Chorrilos’ tour will take you all the way along the coast from Miraflores to the top of El Morro hill for an incredible view of the Bay of Lima.

amazing coastal views in Lima

4. The Barranco District Is A Bohemians Dream

There’s something for every backpacker in the bohemian district of Barranco with tasty local gastronomy, cute coffee shops and a vibrant alternative art scene.


It’s one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods, with colourful street art, mural-covered buildings and trendy bars all set within the colonial-era mansions.


If you want to get a good rundown of the area then try the free walking tour or if you fancy heading there by yourself, a good starting point is famous landmark Puente de Los Suspiros, or ‘Bridge of Sighs’.


There are several fun things to do in Barranco for backpackers, but the best include finding a local restaurant to get your first taste of Peruvian food or checking out one of the many mansions turned bars to try a Pisco sour. Which leads to the next two points for why Lima is well worth visiting.

the streets of Lima

5. There's No Better Place To Try Ceviche In Peru

Lima is 100% worth visiting just to try ceviche.


It’s Peru’s national dish, and you can find the best versions of this marinated fish dish in Lima. Being right next to the ocean, any ceviche you will be fresh out of the ocean. 


La Canta Ranita is one of the best places to try ceviche in Lima, and that will become obvious from the queue that’s constantly outside this quaint little cantina. It’s hard to find, but if you’re lost ask a local, they’ll know where it is. Grab a beer from the bar as you wait to be seated before trying some of the freshest ceviche you will have ever tasted.

Tasting  freshly made ceviche in Lima is one of our many reasons to visit Peru. For more great reasons, check out the post below:




6. The Cocktail Bars Make Unrivaled Pisco Sours

After ceviche, why not head to one of the Barranco mansions turned resto-bars for Peru’s most popular cocktail – the pisco sour.


Trying a Pisco sour in Peru is a must. Peru’s national cocktail uses Peruvian pisco as the base liquor and adds freshly squeezed lime juice, syrup, ice, egg white, and bitters for a sweet and fresh taste.


You will be able to order one from any bar in Peru but if you are in Lima, why not head to the hip neighbourhood of Barranco.


The bars in Barranco are all set within the old colonial-era mansions found in the district and they are some of the best bars in Lima. Here you can find expert mixologist to make a Pisco Sour for you.


Try Ayahuasca first – they are well known for their drink making skills and it is arguably one of Lima’s best cocktail bars.

Be sure to check out our food and drink guide for the capital Lima for more information:



Lima Guide

7. Lima Has The Best Nightlife In Peru

While travelling through Peru, you won’t struggle to find a good night out. However, a night out in the capital is a must for travellers looking to tear it up with locals and other backpackers alike.


The nightlife in Lima is a lot bigger and louder than in places like Cusco, and at the weekend the streets will be lined with bars and big clubs full of locals partying the night away.


There are lots of backpacker hostels in the city (mainly in Miraflores) which will be full of people starting their Peru trip, so it won’t be hard to find other backpackers to party with either. The Selina Hostel bar becomes a popular haunt at the start of the night, with Loki and Pariwana also good options if you’re looking to mix in with fellow travellers.


For great cocktails, try Ayahuasca in Barranco or Barranco Brewing Company for craft beer. Dada is another quirky bar located in a stunning 19th-century mansion in Barranco. With a fantastic list of cocktails and an array of pisco-based drinks, it’s a great place to try Peru’s famous cocktail. The place has multiple rooms, each decorated with a different theme, as well as a spacious outdoor patio and terrace for the perfect hangout spot on a warm evening.


In Miraflores, head to Kennedy Park for a huge selection of bars, and from there you have a choice of three streets: Manuel Bonilla, Pizza and Berlin Street. Try La Destileria for good cocktails and if you’re looking for a club and dancing then either Bizarro and Lima Bar for later on in the night

Lima food and drink
Lima food and drink

8. It Has High Quality, Cheap Language Schools

Another reason Lima is worth visiting is that it has some of the best language schools in the country.


If you’re just starting out in South America and want to learn a bit of Spanish to get by or simply want to brush up on your skills, there’s a fantastic language school in Miraflores.


Peruwayna have great teachers and have lesson packages for beginners, intermediates and experts.


At the school, there is also a big focus on helping students immerse themselves better into Peruvian culture. They regularly organise surf lessons, cooking classes and weekend excursions. It’s a great way to make some friends and learn more about Peruvian culture if you have some extended time in Lima.

9. You Can At A Michelin Star Restaurant For Half The Price

The city of Lima is also known as the “City of the Kings” and is often referred to as the gastronomic capital of South America.

It is home to many incredible restaurants with world-famous chefs all putting their own spin on traditional Peruvian cuisine. The best part is, you will be able to enjoy a Michelin star meal for a fraction of the price if you were at home in America or Europe.

One of the best restaurants to try is Central. Frequently ranked as one of the best restaurants in the world, you’ll find Central in Barranco.

The family-run restaurant sources its ingredients from the vast biodiversity found in Peru. The 17+ course menu will take you on a tasting journey through Peru from 20m below the sea in Lima to 4,100 metres above sea level to Cusco.

You can check out “Chefs Table” on Netflix for a whole episode dedicated to it or the video from Munchies below for a shorter introduction:

10. It's A Great Place To Learn To Surf

If you are backpacking through South America, then surfing is something you are going to come across a lot. Whether it’s in Colombia on the Caribbean coast or further south down in Chile, surf schools are hard to miss.


Lima is no different and you’ll find several schools that take you out into Lima Bay to learn. It’s hard not to be a little jealous watching all the surfers from up on the cliffs in Miraflores. The long waves in Lima make it a great place either start to learn or continue to develop your surf skills.


If you fancy jumping in or taking lessons, then Eternal Wave is a great place to start.


The lessons last 1.5 hours and include a board (for beginners), a wetsuit, leash and wax. Each lesson (as part of a group) is $30.


Or try Pukana for board and wetsuit rentals from $10.

Lima Guide

11. It’s Super Easy To Visit Paracas and Huacachina From

The striking coastal desert of Peru should be on every adventure seekers bucket list. The protected area, spanning over 3,350 km², consists of rolling desert, jagged ocean cliffs and rocky islands populated with a diversity of wildlife.


Paracas is about a 3-hour drive from Lima and if you don’t have loads of time in Peru, a paid day trip from the capital may be worth it. Tours from the capital will leave early (around 5:00 AM) and have you back in the late evening. It’s a full on day but you do pack a lot in.


Here’s one on offer for $120. As mentioned, probably to expensive for backpackers but worth considering if you don’t have the time to visit yourself.

I would recommend spending a couple of days in Paracas if you can though as the desert is one of the highlights of Peru. Check out my Paracas backpacker guides for everything else you need to know about the town, including the best places to eat and some other great tours you can book:

Another 20 minutes away from Paracas is the desert oasis of Huacachina. In Huacachina, mountainous sand dunes surround a tiny town, all built around a calm desert oasis. It’s a place where you’ll find incredible sunsets, ride dune buggies across the desert, and hear the screams of backpacker’s sandboarding down the tallest dunes.


You can also find tours that combine Paracas and Huacachina but again, they are expensive. Here’s another example for you to see.

As always though, I recommend visiting yourself for a couple of days. The dune buggy tours are a lot of fun!

For more information on the incredible desert oasis of Huacachina, check out the post below:


Is Huacachina Worth Visiting - sand boarding!

12. The Backpacker Hostels Are Unrivalled

Lima is full of great backpacker hostels that will suit every type of traveller.


Where you stay is a matter of preference. Miraflores feels more like a city vibe and has most of the hostels, bars and clubs. Stay here if you want to be in the mix, surrounded by backpackers, locals and nightlife.


Barranco is the more laid-back area with some great local cuisine options perfect for travellers who don’t want to be smack in the centre of the city. Both are along the coastline with easy access to the beaches and the sea.


Either way, you have several hostel chains such as Kokopelli, Selina and Loki, which will suit every backpacker from those looking for a quiet place to those looking to party


Kokkopelli in Barranco is a great hostel that gets the balance perfect between comfortable dorms and social atmosphere. They’ve build their hostel in one of the huge colonial-era mansions. 

Kokopelli Barranco is one of my favourite all-round hostels that has a bit of everything. For more on the best all-round hostels across South America, head to the posts below:



Is Lima Worth Visiting?

The Best Backpacker Hostels In Lima

There are two main areas for backpackers to stay in Lima: Miraflores and Barranco. Both are safe areas for travellers.


Make sure you avoid staying in the historic centre as it can be dangerous at night and there isn’t much else going on.


Where you stay is a matter of preference. Miraflores is more of a big city vibe and has most of the hostels, bars and clubs. Stay here if you want to be in the mix, surrounded by backpackers, locals and nightlife.


Barranco is the more laid-back area with some great local cuisine options perfect for travellers who don’t want to be smack in the centre of the city. Both are along the coastline with easy access to the beaches and the sea.

The Best Backpacker Hostels In Miraflores

  • Pariwana – a lively hostel with breakfast included. Pariwana is a common place where many people start their nights out, and there are games and events to get people going. The rooms are separate from the party so don’t let this put you off if you’re looking to get some rest.
  • Selina – the Selina hostels are always an excellent place for digital nomads or people looking for a more comfortable stay. The downstairs bar becomes packed with locals at the weekend.
  • Kokopelli – similar to Pariwana this is a great hostel to meet people and have fun while also having comfort. You’ll find Kokopelli’s in Lima, Paracas and Cusco. Once you stay in one, you’ll probably stay in all three.

The Best Backpacker Hostels In Barranco

Lima Guide

How To Get To And From Lima

Arriving To Lima By Air

The Jorge Chavez airport in Lima is around a half an hour drive from Miraflores. If you are flying internationally or grabbing an internal flight down to Cusco, the easiest and cheapest way to get to the airport is using the airport express bus.


One way costs $8 or round trip $16, and the bus stops at multiple points in Miraflores so there should be one close to your hostel. You can purchase tickets online or in the airport as you’re leaving baggage claim. Uber is running in Lima if you prefer a taxi service. 


There isn’t a single main bus terminal in Lima, and the different bus companies have separate terminals. So, to get to Cruz Del Sur bus terminal, we found it on google (Av. Javier Prado Este 41, San Isidro, 15034) and hopped in a uber which cost around $5.

Where to next after Lima? If you are looking to do an extended South America tour and include more countries then be sure to check out our expertly crafted itineraries below:



Arriving To Lima By Bus

If you are leaving from/heading south along the coast to Paracas or Huacachina then bus is your best option. Bus companies have their own individual stations in Lima. 


The bus journey takes around three to four hours to Paracas, and there are several public bus companies to pick from.


We went with Cruz Del Sur due to the better reviews and weren’t disappointed. The process is the same for any bus company you choose so we’ll outline what we did here.


You can book your bus online or turn up on the day.

  • Red Bus – is specifically for Peru – the app works well, and there’s no need for physical tickets.
  • Bus Bud – an international company that we used a lot travelling around South America.

There isn’t a single main bus terminal in Lima, and the different bus companies have separate terminals. So, to get to Cruz Del Sur bus terminal, we found it on google (Av. Javier Prado Este 41, San Isidro, 15034) and hopped in a uber which cost around $5.

For more on backpacking in Peru, check out our itineraries and travel routes:


a tunnel in Lima

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