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Lima is a massive and sprawling city and after two visits and over a week total within its limits I hadn’t set foot in the historic downtown area. I had stuck to Miraflores, the city’s modern tourist core, and Barranco, a bohemian seaside district bursting with charm. But I knew I couldn’t leave the capital without setting eyes on the country’s most regal Plaza del Armas, and so I set off on Lima Discovery Walking Tour.

Plaza San Martin, Lima

Plaza San Martin, Lima

As I turned into the Plaza San Martin, I smiled to see Giovanni, my guide from my Pisco Sour Making Tour of Lima, standing at our designated meeting spot. I introduced him to Anders and caught him up on where my Peruvian travels had taken me since we’d met on my first trip though Lima. Meanwhile, we admired the colorful plaza and the well-camouflaged fast food restaurants hiding around its perimeter.

Already, the differences between Lima’s colonial core and its more modern coastal districts — thirty minutes apart in snarling traffic — were apparent.

Plaza San Martin, Lima

Plaza San Martin, Lima

Downtown Lima is well preserved — for the moment. Giovanni let us in on a little secret: geologists are waiting anxiously for a major earthquake they feel the city is due for, and they don’t know if the colonial architecture will survive.

Jiron de la Union, Lima

Downtown Lima

Our first official stop was Iglesia de la Merced, the site of the first Latin Mass in Lima. Built in 1541, this ornate baroque church is still an active site of worship. I felt a little awkward listening to tour anecdotes while the pious prayed beside us, but I did manage to take a few discreet photos without feeling too blasphemous.

Iglesia de la Merced, Lima

Iglesia de la Merced, Lima

Next up was another church, the Iglesia de San Pedro. Giovanni informed us that this was the church that all girls in Lima grew up dreaming to get married in thanks to its ornate, gold gilded interior. Personally I’m more of an outdoor weddings kind of girl, but I could admire the craftsmanship of the ornate mosaics within.

Iglesia de San Pedro, Lima

Iglesia de San Pedro, LimaHaving had our fill of religious monuments for the moment, we headed for the Central Market. It had all the hallmarks of a good olfactory-stimulating foreign market experience: flies swarming around raw meat swinging from metal hooks, fish in various states of gutting, colorful vegetables both familiar and exotic piled against every wall, and mysterious potions for sale in the dark corners.

Thankfully, Giovanni warned us against eating anything in the market, saving me from having to make any awkward “But I’m really not hungry…” excuses.

Central Market, Lima

Central Market, Lima

Central Market, Lima

Central Market, Lima

Central Market, Lima

Neighboring Central Market was El Barrio China – Lima’s own little Chinatown. Though it basically consisted of one lantern-strewn street, we admired the Asian influence in the potted bamboo plants, Peking duck and Eastern medicines for sale.

Central Market, Lima

After, we took a compulsory guided tour through Monasterio San Francisco, which I disliked immediately due to the no-camera rule, though warmed to when we walked through the catacombs lined with more than 70,000 bones (but seriously with the no photos?!)

Finally, we had reached our final destination: Lima’s central Plaza del Armas. Having visited the Plaza del Armas in each and every Peruvian city I had stepped foot in thus far, I felt qualified to concur that this was quite a grand one.

Central Market, Lima

Central Market, Lima

We toasted to our tour in Hotel Maury, which claims to have invented the infamous Pisco Sour. The next morning, we were hopping a flight into the jungle. I was glad we said goodbye to Lima in style.

Pisco Sours at Hotel Maury, Lima

Essential Info: We give the Small Group Lima Discovery Walking Tour a 4/5 for entertainment, quality, and value. The tour costs $30, lasts 4-5 hours, and begins at Plaza San Martin downtown. If you are staying in Miraflores or Barranco, leave at least 40 minutes to arrive by cab.

Note: I am a freelancer for Viator and participated in these tours in order to write a review for their site. I was compensated for my time and they did not request favorable reviews on either their site or my own.

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Super Sale Alert! The always rockin’ Travel Blog Success course is having a sale this week! This is the online course that helped me make Alex in Wanderland what it is today, and the first thing I recommend to those who write to me for advice. It changed the way I looked at travel blogging and helped me move it from a hobby to a business. The member’s group gives me daily inspiration, feedback, and assistance (and a heavy dose of humor!) This is truly the warmest community in travel blogging, and all memberships are on sale now. Click here and use the code “TBS2014″ to 25% off memberships! Sale starts ends at 11:59 PM on Friday, January 10 and is valid only for the single payment option. See you in the forums!

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29 Comments...
  • Hogga
    January 6 2014

    sigh i wish i could be there
    Hogga recently posted..Why Everyone Should Go Eat a Pecker

    • Alex
      January 6 2014

      It’s a prettier city than I would have imagined!

  • Annie of TravelShus
    January 6 2014

    oooooh the central market looks amazing. i must go.
    Annie of TravelShus recently posted..Road Tripping Banff: Lake Moraine

    • Alex
      January 6 2014

      While I’ll never get used to those meat sections, this was a pretty great market!

  • becky hutner
    January 6 2014

    Thanks for taking us there! Iglesia de la Merced is insanely ornate indeed x
    becky hutner recently posted..Fashion ‘Round the World: What people wore in 2013

    • Alex
      January 6 2014

      You are so welcome Becky! I just did a similar walking tour of Quito today… I love these colonial cities!

  • Jamie
    January 6 2014

    It would be such a shame for an earthquake to hit and ruin such pretty structures. Silly question but why were you advised against eating anything in market?
    Jamie recently posted..Solstice Canyon Hike- Malibu

    • Alex
      January 6 2014

      Not a silly question at all, I should have explained that one! I think our guide was concerned that our stomachs wouldn’t be used to those particular bacterias. I have a pretty strong stomach (I drink filtered tap water here in South America!) but I wasn’t going to argue!

  • Armando
    January 6 2014

    Your narrative made me feel like I was part of the walking tour! I can’t wait to visit Peru!

    • Alex
      January 7 2014

      Glad you enjoyed it Armando 🙂

  • Laura
    January 6 2014

    One of my travel resolutions is to do more walking tours. They’re a great way to get an overview of a new city. Glad someone is finally being honest about how gross some of these markets can be, haha!
    Laura recently posted..Two Nights in Budapest

    • Alex
      January 7 2014

      I like to do walking or biking tours in a new city to get a good overview… or, if I’m feeling particularly lazy, a hop-on-hop-off 🙂

  • Breanna
    January 6 2014

    This part of Lima is amazing. I’m a sucker for that type of architecture though. One question…. What is the plaza del armas, or better why does every city have one?

    • Alex
      January 7 2014

      It’s just the town square! I’m actually not sure why every city has one…. but they sure do, from major metropolises to tiny towns!

  • Dad
    January 7 2014

    Nice recap for Lima and good pictures of the architecture.

    • Alex
      January 7 2014

      When I travel with a history buff like you, there’s no need for walking tour guides 🙂

  • Sam
    January 7 2014

    That’s interesting…we found the old part of the city to be rather worn and dirty and the least interesting part of Lima. I bet under some sunshine it felt much nicer!
    Sam recently posted..Safety in South America: Top Tips from Travel Bloggers

    • Alex
      January 7 2014

      It is AMAZING what a bit of sun can do for someone’s opinion of a place! I certainly enjoyed Barranco more than Downtown, but I’m really glad I didn’t leave Lima without seeing it!

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    January 7 2014

    Wow i’m shocked it’s 30 bucks, so many cities have free tours I don’t know if I’d ever be able to fork over the money!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..Europe’s “largest” beer festival in Belgrade, Serbia

    • Alex
      January 7 2014

      True, though the free tours don’t include admissions…. or Pisco Sours 🙂 I love a good free walking tour (just went on one yesterday!) but I’m always a little disappointed they don’t go more in depth.

  • Ruann - Solo Travel Uncut
    January 7 2014

    More of an outdoor wedding kind of girl? [laughs]. Think I’d prefer that as well.

    Maybe underwater, tropical water, got it – I want to get married scuba diving (standing) in the underwater sculpture gardens of Grenada. Ah I sound like a little girl.

    Great blog by the way.

    I’ve got a question. I saw you’re promoting the travel blog success course at the end of your post. Now I’ve only read good things about it, and I know you support them, but for someone like me that launched my travel blog about a week ago (and I’m pretty damn serious about it), is it REALLY worth spending so much money on it? or would it be wiser putting that money into my site in other ways?

    I’m a new fan by the way, got somewhat of a little cyber crush (my blog that is, not me):)

    Fighting!
    Ruann – Solo Travel Uncut recently posted..How I Almost Killed Two Tourists (My Confession)

    • Alex
      January 7 2014

      Hey Ruann! I bought my own Travel Blog Success membership about 2.5 years ago, when granted the price was a bit lower. But I have MORE than gotten my money’s worth out of it. While the lessons and modules and lectures are great, the true value is in the secret member’s group. I’ve made great friends and business contacts out of it, and it’s a big part of my daily routine! Of course, if you weren’t already self hosted I’d say put your money there but it seems you already are so I think it is the logical next step. Good luck deciding, I hope that helps!

  • Corinne
    January 10 2014

    I will have to get back to Lima, as we definitely didn’t really spend enough time there the first time around. We mainly used it for a hopping off point. I love your photos!
    Corinne recently posted..Travel Portrait Photography and Why it’s Worth All the Trouble

    • Alex
      January 10 2014

      Thanks Corinne! I think a lot of travelers skip Lima, which is fair enough if you have limited time!

  • Paula
    February 16 2014

    With all of your stops across the world, how do you access the internet to update?

    • Alex
      February 16 2014

      Hey Paula, there is wifi in almost every corner of the world now! Sometimes it is better than others (I really struggled during my time in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia) but even in the deep rainforests of Peru I had a small signal to check email!

  • Sandra
    April 30 2015

    I’m very glad that you liked my city!

    • Alex
      May 1 2015

      It took a while to grow on me, but in the end I really did, Sandra. The downtown is beautiful!

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