As intriguing as Lima can be – with its top restaurants and leading cultural museums – there will be a point when you have reached your fill of the fast-paced metropolitan lifestyle found in Peru’s capital city. And for visitors and locals alike, one full day spent away from the crowds and connected with nature and the nation’s historical wonders is enough to recharge. From roaring rapids to timeless archaeological sites, these are the best day trips from Lima.
Explore the ecosystem of Lomas de Lucumo
Though just 34km from the capital city, the vast natural area of Lomas de Lucumo (Hills of Lucumo) is a far cry from the manicured parks of Lima. As ocean mist remains trapped within the soft hills, a unique ecosystem paints the landscape with verdant vegetation during the typically grey winter months (June-October).
Depending on your pace and the route you choose, the undulating trek through the sea of green can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. At the base of the Lomas, you have the option to hire a guide who can help point out the caves and wildlife that dot the area. Otherwise, simply pass the grazing cows and begin the ascent. For a bit more thrill, look for the massive smooth rocks to practice rappelling.
How to get to Lomas de Lucumo: By private car, it's about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Drive down Panamericana Sur, taking the exit to Lurin and continuing on towards the Pachacamac village. Keep an eye out for the Quebrada Verde bridge where signs will lead you to the site. If taking a taxi, ask the driver to wait for you as it will be difficult to find a ride back.
Witness the archaeological wonders of Caral
Caral pre-dates the Inca civilization by 4000 years and was built at the time of the Egyptian pyramids. A massive settlement of the coastal Norte Chico civilization, Caral was essentially lost beneath desert dunes until archaeologist Paul Kosok came across it in 1948. Excavation and research continue at the so-called Cradle of Civilization, where musical instruments abound and signs of warfare are absent.
Despite its significance – though likely due to its remote location – Caral is curiously barren of crowds. Enjoy a guided exploration of what was once a thriving metropolis, complete with plazas, temples, residential areas and even an amphitheater. This archaeological site, considered a Unesco World Heritage Site, is well worth hitting the road at sunrise for.
How to get to Caral: It can take about 3 hours to get there. Catch an early ride with a bus agency that offers direct transportation, such as Movil Bus. By taxi or private car simply follow the Panamericana Norte for 184km until you reach to the town of Supe, from which Caral is a mere 3km away.
Experience a change in altitude in Marcahuasi
A high Andean plateau just 80km east of Lima, Marcahuasi is most notable for its mystic stone forest made up of dozens of ancient rock sculptures depicting anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures. Much remains to be excavated in the area that was discovered as recently as the mid-20th century.
Intrigued? Prepare for the extreme changes in altitude with some coca leaves and for the temperature changes with a warm jacket. The challenging 4km trail can take up to 3 hours to complete but you’ll be rewarded with singular views of mountain peaks and the ‘colchón de nubes’ (mattress of clouds) that hovers at eye level. And if you have an extra day, the plateau’s Amphitheater campsite is ideal for stargazing.
How to get to Marcahuasi: If going just for one day, take a taxi or rent a car as it can take 3 to 4 hours due to the wide and ascending roads. Head east to Chosica, then onto dirt roads to San Pedro de Casta where the trailhead is located.
Retreat in the countryside of Cieneguilla
A beautiful countryside area barricaded by desert hills, Cieneguilla is a peaceful resort for picnicking and lazing under the sun. Quick to arrive at, it is not surprising that this serene setting is a favorite destination for Limeño families and groups of friends.
Country-style restaurants serving up barbecued or roasted meats and sticky-sweet picarones (a traditional pastry) are characteristic of the area, as are the inclusive green areas (soccer fields, playgrounds), outdoor seating and pools. With extra time before or after your meal? Check out the Huaycan de Cieneguilla, an ancient administrative center that connected to the Qhapaq Ñan trail.
How to get to Cieneguilla: From Avenida Javier Prado (a principal avenue in Lima) there are plenty of buses that go to Cieneguilla for less than S/10. By car or taxi, head down Av. Javier Prado towards the district of Ate, turning onto Golf los Incas at the Ovalo Monitor. Continue onto Avenida La Molina until you can turn right onto Nuevo Toledo. It will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes by car.
Get an adrenaline rush in Huacachina
Near the city of Ica, where many of Peru’s best piscos are distilled, large sand dunes act as a barrier to a mystical desert lagoon and serve as a jumping board to adventure sports like sandboarding and dune buggying. One of the most unique destinations in all of Peru, it is not uncommon to see more tourists than locals in the tiny village of Huacachina, as restaurants and hostels stand in the shadows of palm trees lining the oasis’ green waters.
Take the earliest bus ride you can find and head southwest of Peru’s capital city for a full day of pure adrenaline and desert sun. If you want to make the most out of your trip, indulge in a tasting at a local vineyard in Ica or make a visit to the Ballestas Islands in Paracas (1 hour by car).
How to get to Huacachina: One of the easiest and most direct services is to use PeruHop, which can take you from Lima to the entrance of Huacachina. It's about 4 hours by bus or car.
Uncover secrets of the past at Pachacamac
A pilgrimage site for many ancient cultures that developed in Peru, Pachacamac is a large pre-Columbian ruin that dates back to 200 AD. Spread across the coastal desert of the Lurin Valley, this archaeological site takes its name from the creator god, Pacha Kamaq.
Long before its rediscovery at the end of the 19th century, the site has suffered from destruction and looting, yet archaeologists have continued to find secrets of the past hidden amongst the temples, plazas and pyramids. A guided tour will allow you to understand the evolution and transformation of this historical site.
How to get to Pachacamac: Just over an hour by car, head down the Panamericana Sur, taking the exit at Lurin. Continuing onto the Antigua Panamericana Sur, look for signs pointing towards the archaeological site.
Sail away to Callao & La Punta
It was once a common joke that the only reason to go to Callao was to get to Peru’s Jorge Chavez International Airport. Thanks to a community-based cultural project however, Lima’s seaside neighbor is slowly gaining the attention it deserves.
After perusing the art galleries and murals at Monumental Callao, cross the street to the city’s port. From here you can visit Peru’s Naval Museum, the most comprehensive military museum in the country, or feel like a sailor yourself and catch a boat ride out to Las Palominas Islands. It’s a great option if you weren’t able to make it to the Ballestas Islands in Paracas, and you can even swim with sea lions. For one of the freshest ceviches you’ll have in Peru, head slightly southwest to the charming La Punta peninsula.
How to get to Callao and La Punta: Just 10 km from the city of Lima, Callao is most comfortably reached by taxi. It's about 45 minutes by car, and walking is not recommended. If public transportation is your only option, take a bus from Av. Javier Prado that heads northwest to Callao. Ask if the bus goes to 'todo La Marina' and gets off at the Real Plaza San Miguel. Catch another bus heading to Callao/La Punta and ask to get off at Fortaleza Real Felipe, just a few blocks from Callao's docks. The bus will take about 40 to 60 minutes.
Explore family-friendly Chancay
Resting at the heart of where the pre-Hispanic civilization Chancay (roughly 1000AD-1500AD) once thrived, the charming coastal town of the same name continues to host a certain kingdom – or something like it.
Castillo de Chancay was constructed on a cliffside in the 1920s by the daughter of a national viceroy. Renovations over the past few decades have left the medieval-style castle a tad kitschy. However, the on-site museum houses fascinating Chancay relics and the large public pool overlooking the ocean is a fun addition for families.
Before or after your visit, skip over to Lomas de Lachay (20 minutes north of Chancay) where walking trails can lead you away from traffic and amongst the local wildlife.
How to get to Chancay: By private car take the Panamericana Norte to Chancay (just under 80 km north of Lima) – it'll take about 1 hour and 30 minutes. From the Plaza Norte bus terminal in Lima, catch a bus heading to Huacho, as it will pass through Chancay.
Get sporty in Santa Eulalia
Located in the district of Huarochirí, Santa Eulalia is a picturesque valley ideal for families or travelers looking to connect with nature. But don’t let the tranquil landscapes of rolling hills and creeks fool you—Santa Eulalia packs a punch when it comes to adventure sports.
The surrounding mountains and cliff sides are ideal for thrillseekers interested in mountain biking, rock climbing and even bungee jumping. Meanwhile, extensive trails for all levels can take you to lookout points over the Santa Eulalia River (keep an eye out for soaring Andean condors), towards archaeological sites and to the foot of the Autisha waterfall.
How to get to Santa Eulalia: This trip takes bout two hours by car. Head towards Chosica by way of the Carretera Central (Central Highway). At 38km, a left turn will bring you to the town’s main plaza in a matter of minutes. For public transportation, take a taxi to Ovalo Santa Anita to find a bus heading towards Chosica. Get off at Parque Echenique and take another taxi or mototaxi to Santa Eulalia.
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