When people think of Peru, they often think of Machu Picchu and the picturesque city of Cusco, while the capital can sometimes be a little overlooked. In actual fact, Lima is a vibrant and varied city with a whole lot to offer, plus it’s brilliantly located in the very centre of the western coast of the country. With so much to see and do in the surrounding area, Lima make a great base for exploring Peru at a leisurely pace.
Huacachina: Surf the Desert
Lima itself is actually in the middle of the desert, although given the size of the city and the huge amount of parks and green spaces, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that fact. Head out of the capital a little way, though, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of the desert. The best places to explore this region are the desert city of Ica (5 hours by bus) and the incredible Paracas national reserve (3 hours by bus), while the tiny oasis town of Huacachina (just five minutes from Ica) makes a fantastic weekend trip. Take a rollercoaster dune buggy ride over the huge hills of sand, try your hand at sandboarding in the dunes, or visit nearby pisco vineyards for a tasting.
Nazca: Discover an Ancient Culture
Six hours from Lima by bus, the town of Nazca is the perfect place for lovers of alien conspiracies, archaeology, or ancient culture. The Nazca lines are one of the world’s great unsolved mysteries: who put them there, how did they do it – and why? Visit the viewing tower just outside of town, read up on the history at the The Antonini Museum, or take a flight over the lines – if you dare! The experience is a scary one: you can find out more in my post Should I do the Nazca Lines Flight? on Backpack South America (my second site).
Paracas: Meet the Wildlife
Not too far from the capital, the quiet coastal town of Paracas boasts incredible seafood restaurants, a pleasant hippy vibe, and a nice beach for swimming and kayaking. More interesting still are the Ballestas Islands, known as Peru’s ‘mini Galapagos’, which are home to a colony of over 4,000 sea lions, plus countless sea birds including Peruvian Pelicans and Inca Terns. On a day or weekend trip from Lima, you can take a boat ride around the islands to get a fantastically close experience with this exciting wildlife. Read more in my write up of the experience.
Pachacamac: Uncover the Past
At just 40km from Lima, the archaeological site of Pachacamac is great for a daytrip. Head out into the desert and discover a pre-Inca city, mostly built between 800-1450 CE, where archaeologists have uncovered at least 17 pyramids, as well as other buildings and temples. The city was built for the god Pacha Kamaq, considered the creator god by the people who lived in this part of Peru before the Inca conquest. Be warned, though, this is dry and arid land; take plenty of water and a sunhat!
Churin: Get Back to Nature
The sleepy town of Churin in Oyon Province is a great place to go for a little rest and relaxation. The six hour bus ride from Lima takes you through sub-tropical forestation, which can be a sight for sore eyes after all that time in the desert! With waterfalls and thermal spas, lovely hikes, and an enjoyable 12km biking route between Chiuchin and Huancasi, there’s plenty to keep you busy on a weekend trip to Churin.
What do you think – is anywhere missing from this list? If you’ve been somewhere awesome in Peru I want to hear from you!