Since we’ve covered the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, it’s time for the ‘ugly’. I’m sorry to say (or maybe not) that the city of Lima was a big disappointment and perhaps the dirtiest, nastiest and ugliest city we’ve ever been in. It is however the gateway to all things Peru and we had a day on the front-end of our trip that found us in a rather delightful setting and lovely tour, but things went downhill on our return visit.
The search for a decent place to stay in Lima was perhaps more grueling than the trek to Machu Picchu. After much reading and research it was apparent that the only place to stay was in the tourist district of Miraflores and I soon settled on a small boutique hotel called Casa Inca. It turned out to be charming and we were happy to spend our first night in what turned out to be a historic home. We were not only staying in the former home of the father of Peruvian archeology, Julio C. Tello, but we were sleeping in his room. Cool!
We opted to take a day-long walking tour of the historic district to fill our first full day in Lima. Our guide, Alberto and his driver picked us up in the morning and we began the arduous journey into the city center. While it was only 7 miles away, it took us about 40 minutes to reach our destination. I will defer to Frommer’s for their accurate description of getting around in Lima:
Navigating Lima is a complicated and time-consuming task, made difficult by the city’s sprawling character (many of the best hotels and restaurants are far from downtown, spread among three or more residential neighborhoods), heavy traffic and pollution, and a chaotic network of confusing and crowded colectivos and unregulated taxis.
Our guide was a native of Lima and certainly knew his stuff. Our tour included the Universidad Mayor de San Marcos, Plaza San Martin, Casa O´Higgins, Teatro Municipal, Teatro Segura, Plaza Mayor, Casa Osambela, Convento de Santo Domingo, old mail office of Lima, Casa de Aliaga, Convento de San Francisco and then on to Parque de la Muralla, Museo de la Inquisición, Convento de San Camilo and Chinatown.
Our walkabout the city was overshadowed by the fact that we were in one of the months where the average hours of daily sunshine was at it’s lowest. Heavy cloud-cover and pollution prevented us from seeing the sun while visiting and the damp, cooler temperatures added to the over all dull and dreary appearance of this dirty and seemingly blah city. Due to the lack of rainfall at this time of year there was an apparently thick layer of dirt and grime on every surface available and this in turn led us to not hold the city in high standards as a must-do destination. Likewise, the appearance of heavy security led us to begin rethinking our stay.
We left Lima a day and a half after we arrived for a week in the mountains and our Machu Picchu trek but had no idea what we would do on our return trip. Upon our second arrival, we checked into our hostel and started to scour the internet for other Lima-based opportunities. While the city did hold cultural and historical treasures and a rather unique coastline we felt like we had seen and done all there was to do of great significance in this city of 10 million and started to weigh our options of leaving the city again for greener, more tourist friendly destinations. After careful review we decided against spending the extra money and energy to try and escape the disaster that Lima had become for us and ended up changing our flight to leave the next day.
We left Lima 4 days earlier than expected with a mixed review of our trip to Peru. While the big city sent us literally running for home our experience in the mountains and Machu Picchu were a fantastic adventure and treasured ‘my bucket is half-full’ list item. As usual, we’ve come away with an education and will forever be changed by our endeavors because that’s why we travel. After all, the world is filled with the ‘good’, the ‘bad’ and even the ‘ugly’ and we intend to see it all.