There are many magical cities overlooked by western travelers, but few are as criminally underrated as Lima, Peru. Legions of tourists forgo exploring the vivacious city in favor of a connecting flight to Cuzco, home to the world-famous Incan ruins, Machu Picchu, and featuring numerous opportunities to liase with alpacas. However, while Lima may not be for faint palates or those who get easily tied, it’s inarguably worth working into your itinerary.
Combining South American and European influences, the city is so versatile when it comes to its occupants’ desired experience, that it’s incomparable to any other. In the historic center, you might be convinced you’re strolling the streets of Madrid, Barranco vibes of the artistic attitude of Bushwick, and the city’s coastal suburb, Miraflores, is reminiscent of the New Zealand West Coast’s crumbling cliff-flanking, black-stone beaches paired with the picturesque piers and sea-situated eateries of Malibu. All this variety creates a destination that is uniquely itself.
Despite its storied heritage, the city emanates youth. The younger generation will find learning opportunities throughout the city’s historical center, as well as breath-taking city views from the top of Huaca Huallamarca, a thousand-year-old, climbable pyramid. True to its roots, business is still the beating heart of Lima (precious metals and coffee among their primary exports), but it attracts just as many freewheeling creatives. Perhaps that’s why the popular accomodation chain, Hyatt Centric—which carefully evaluates the cities which best fit its criteria of remaining in the “center of the action”—opted for a new hotel in San Isidro, Lima’s financial district. It’s located a mere 15 minute-ride from Mira Flores, the district that offers breathtaking views of the ocean, surfing lessons, cliff-side paragliding for the adventurous and seaside ceviche, and even less to Barranco, the Brooklyn of Lima.
If you’re looking for a place to peruse by foot with a paramour, Barranco is exactly that. Stop for pictures afront its pink biblioteca, or cross its bridges hand-in-hand and holding your breath (it’s good luck). For the art-inclined there are an abundance of museums and murals, as well as bohemian stores and cafes, perhaps the best coffee of the Southern Hemisphere (La Latteria is everything you could dream of). And of course, Barranco wouldn’t hold up to its Brooklyn parallel without a bustling nightlife scene, head to Ayahuasca or Rustica for some after-dark fun.
You’ll also find many delicious Peruvian dishes in Barranco with which you can either enjoy a chilled white wine because, of course, it’s in the local cuisine that Lima maintains the most pride. The city’s proximity to the Pacific means its seafood is superior, with much of the culinary scene dominated by Peruvian photographer Mario Testino’s nephew and restaurateur, Carlos Testino. Not only has Testino lead the Hyatt Centric’s kitchen, Isidro, to become the epicenter of Lima’s fine dining (come for the lomo a la pobre, stay for the crushable chocolate-filled churro ball) but he owns multiple other restaurants throughout the city.
The ocean-overlooking Cala in Mira Flores and San Isidro’s Lima 27 have become the shining stars of the city’s food scene (the latter’s tasting menu is a must), with delectable Chilean and Peruvian wine to accompany melt-in-your-mouth takes on the region’s specialties. If you’re hoping to continue your evening, but searching for an experience more refined than Barranco can provide, consider mingling with the city’s rising talent at sushi-restaurant-cum-dance-party, Okura.
Lima is not just a pit stop, it’s the destination.