Lima is a bustling city of almost 10 million people - just under half the population of Australia – unfortunately, for most travellers, Lima is seen as merely a stopover or somewhere to catch up on missed sleep.
But after spending two weeks in the Peruvian capital, I’m here to tell you it’s a beautiful place that provokes, inspires and amazes.
Like so many people before me, I had intended to use Lima as a layover stop. I didn’t plan on leaving the airport as I had heard about the city’s dangers and been told there was nothing to do or see there. But my plans changed suddenly (as plans tend to do) and I found myself with two weeks in Lima to explore the city.
When I first arrived, it was about 10pm. With thoughts of how how dangerous and scary Lima is, whirling through my head, I reluctantly found a taxi after my organised pick up didn’t arrive.
During the entire taxi ride I was on edge, waiting for the polite driver to take me down a back alley and rob me. Instead, he drove me straight to my hostel door and helped me with my bags. I could feel my misconceptions about Lima start to unravel.
The next couple of days I explored Miraflores, the upmarket area I was staying in. The coastal neighbourhood sits on cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean. A heavy haze sat over the water most days, creating a moody effect but the lush green parks cheered up this part of the city.
Paragliders leapt from the cliffs and surfers were abundant in the water. Holidaymakers sprawled along the pebble beaches and filled Parque Kennedy, Parque Del Amor and the surrounding restaurants.
As one of the safest areas in Lima, I had no issues walking alone or carrying my expensive camera around. I got royally sunburnt on the beach (don’t forget your sunscreen) I danced in lit up water fountains and unknowingly ate cow intestine. The most dangerous situation I got into was attempting to cross the busy roads.
With some newfound friends I then explored the central part of the city, and in turn discovered the ‘real Lima’.
The dirty, chaotic city filled with colonial style buildings in a various array of colours quickly stole my heart.
Wandering through the busy streets, my neck was sore from constantly looking around. I was in awe of the Plaza De Armas, San Martin Plaza and the chilling catacombs. I ate a three course lunch for AUD$4 and chowed down frozen coconut icy poles. I watched brass band play-offs create impromptu dance parties and learnt to cross the road like a local. I walked and walked and walked, never tiring of the flurry of activity.
We then discovered a part of Lima rarely visited by tourists and spent the afternoon wandering through the chaotic markets at Gamarra. I didn’t see another Caucasian but even in the slightly creepy witches' market (where they made frog milkshakes and hung dried baby llama foetuses) I wasn’t worried about my safety.
I took a mini bus through the hillside slums of Lima, full of colourful makeshift houses, to the top of Cerro San Cristobel, which provides a great lookout over the vast city. Thick pollution coated the sky but the outline of the nearby Palomino Island could just be seen.
I fell in love with the street art and bohemian vibe of Barranco, spending more time looking through the lens of my camera than through my own eyes, as I tried to capture the beauty of the old Victorian-style neighbourhood.
The intricately painted murals stole my heart, the strange sculptures amazed me and the beautiful sunset took my breath away.
I danced until dawn in one of Lima’s biggest nightclubs and relaxed next to sprawled out felines in the famous cat park.
I devoured ceviche and the Pisco sour became my new favourite drink.
I made more new friends in two weeks than I had in the past year and added more destinations to my never-ending South American bucket list. Not once did I feel scared or worried for my life, despite the cautionary stories that I’d been hearing for months.
Each day I found more love about Lima. It wasn’t just the city, but the experience in itself, Lima is a true cultural melting pot.
When I left the city, heading south to its more popular neighbour Cusco, I was sad to say goodbye. I’d had an amazing two weeks exploring the capital, learning about this misunderstood city. As I flew over the mountain ranges towards Cusco I was thankful my plans changed and led me to discover the beauty of Lima. I knew I would be returning sooner than later, to once again, live the Lima lifestyle.
Jess Buchan is an Aussie travel blogger who is currently travelling through South America. She has crossed 29 countries off her bucket list and has no plans to slow down. Jess loves to share her travel stories on her blog A Blonde And Her Passport Instagram: @ablondeandherpassport Twitter @ablondeandher
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.