U nless you know what to expect, arriving in Lima by air is best done at night, or during the “winter” when a marine layer often seeps inland from the Pacific and blocks the view from incoming aircraft. Unfortunately, like many of the world’s hottest city destinations, the area around Lima’s international airport is not its most salubrious and can be off-putting to the first time visitor. If you do arrive in daylight be prepared for the sight of unfinished buildings, strewn across the dusty landscape.
Good things come to those who wait
But do not despair, Lady Lima certainly does not reveal her virtues easily and her superficial unattractiveness belies a city of many charms. Sit back and relax as your taxi battles with hundreds of, battered cars and overcrowded buses that bustle around the area Jorge Chavez International Airport. Be rest assured that in less than an hour you can be breezing into one of the city’s more aesthetically pleasing districts, ready to soak up the delights of Peru’s boisterous and surprising capital city.
Even if you are only staying for a couple of nights before heading off to tour the rest of the country choosing the right location for will set you up for the rest of your stay.
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
Miraflores is where most visitors rest their heads and for good reason. This lively oceanside barrio counts no less than three of Peru’s best restaurants amongst its major attractions Cevicheria La Mar, Japanese Peruvian fusion restaurant Maido and Latin America’s finest restaurant of all – El Central.
Miraflores is also conveniently close to Barranco, a more laid-back beachside neighbourhood peppered with old mansions and an alluring selection of restaurants serving some of the freshest seafood in the city.
There are pleasant parks and cliff-top gardens for walking and jogging, wonderful nightlife and a great selection of shops including the upmarket and somewhat troglodytic LarcoMar shopping centre – a paradise for shopaholics and foodies alike. And of course there are a couple of luxury hotels in the neighbourhood to get your trip to Peru off to a good start.
The sparklingly modern JW Marriot is perched on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific and is a fine example of global chain Marriott’s new luxury brand with two restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools and panoramic ocean views. It’s also just across the road from LarcoMar.
An even more indulgent option in Miraflores is the Belmond (formerly Orient Express) Miraflores Park Hotel which occupies a similar Oceanside location to the JW Marriott. Along with all the facilities you would expect from Belmond such as restaurants, gym and spa, there is a range of top notch rooms including sumptuous presidential suites with your own private sauna, ocean view terrace and plunge pool.
Miraflores is also conveniently close to Barranco, a more laid-back beachside neighbourhood peppered with old mansions and an alluring selection of restaurants serving some of the freshest seafood in the city. A great place for a lunchtime excursion where you can get a well-deserved fix of both sea air and ceviche.
If you are looking for somewhere less frenetic to stay then San Isidro is hard to beat with its independent boutiques, ancient olive grove, excellent selection of lunchtime eateries and a couple of Peru’s finest fine dining restaurants. Peruvian gastronomy at its best can be savoured at Malabar – currently Number twenty on the list of Latin America’s best restaurants – or Astrid and Gaston’s Casa Morayra which is this year’s Number three.
San Isidro is a much quieter area of town where the world’s ambassadors, consular staff and well-heeled Limenos reside in tree-lined avenues and bankers spend long hours making the most of Peru’s burgeoning economy.
The best choice hotel in San Isidro for those seeking a bit of pampering and an inimitable sense of colonial history is the comfortingly named Country Club Lima. It is grand, old-fashioned and charming in a nostalgic way but without ignoring the needs of discerning modern day travellers.
Built in Spanish style in 1927 the white washed walls and Spanish tiles may be more Moorish than Conquistador but along with wooden beams, stained glass windows and works of art from the Cusco School, this grand dame of Lima hotels has a relaxing and welcoming ambiance. There are gracious lawns and an outdoor pool as well as two restaurants, a gym and a spa and specially negotiated rates at the neighbouring Lima Golf Club. Could there be a more perfect way to start your Peruvian odyssey?
Ready, steady, go!
After just a couple of nights at any of these excellent hotels and perhaps a visit to one of Lima’s great restaurants, any less than positive first impressions will have melted away, you will be fully recovered from your flight and ready to explore the wonders of Peru that lie beyond the city limits.