So I’ve taken you guys from Foz do Iguacu to Rio de Janerio and now we’ve finally reached the final leg of my trip through South America *drumroll* Lima, Peru! Lima started a little flat. Literally. On the way to our hostel, our taxi driver got a flat tire, and I can’t say I was surprised. He was FLYING down the road in what had to be a 1993 (or older) Honda Accord. After a quick stop at a gas station, we were back on the road, this time, a little slower, headed to Pariwana Hostel, the place we called home for the next two days. I loved the location of Pariwana as it was situated right in the heart of a bustling part of the Miraflores neighborhood. I remember waking up in the morning and looking out the window, seeing men congregating at the newsstand and women and children making their way to work and school. Pariwana offered a cool, relaxed vibe like most hostels but they offered more amenities than I expect from a hostel. They offered laundry service, a full on-site bar, and a full kitchen that could prepare dishes from a pretty impressive menu. They also hosted activities to entertain guests such as beer pong, trivia, salsa lessons and a free guided tour.The free guided tour the hostel offered came in handy because my friend and I were clueless as to what we wanted to do in Lima. Unlike Foz do Iguacu and Rio de Janeiro, where your itinerary creates itself, we didn’t know where to start in Lima. After finishing off the complimentary breakfast, we decided to get in on the free walking tour and see what it was all about. I’m so glad we did! Our tour guide, Raul, was fantastic! Between his magnetic personality, sense of humor and knowledge of all things Peruvian, we were in good hands. Our tour took us through Downtown Lima, to the Church of San Francisco and through the Barranco District, which are all a must see, but navigating the streets alone are a feast for the eyes. Beautiful architecture, colorful buildings, and amazing balconies line Lima’s streets. All of this was evident at our first stop in the historic center of Lima also known as Plaza de Armas of Lima. Surrounding the plaza you will find impressive structures such as the Cathedral of Lima and the Government Palace.After taking some time to ourselves to walk around the square, we headed a short distance away to the next stop, the Monastery of San Francisco. The church offers a paid (approx. $2) guided tour that I highly recommend. Even though the tour is given in Spanish, most of the stops along the tour have English placards describing the space you’re in, but, in all honesty, seeing it is enough. My favorite stop during the tour was the library which houses approximately 25,000 historical texts including the first Spanish dictionary. The ornate wooden choir stalls with their intricate carvings were also a favorite of mine. Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed, but my friend and I managed to snag a picture or two. The library was TOO AMAZING not to (shhh don’t tell anyone)! The most interesting part of the church, though, are the catacombs built underneath. I had never seen anything like this in my life and found it fascinating. Estimates of the number of bodies buried under the church range from 25,000-75,000. In some spaces, you found skulls and bones scattered about but in other areas you’d find them stacked in circular patterns. Between being underground, the low brick ceilings and, of course, the skulls and bones, this may not be for the squeamish or easily frightened but worth seeing!
The monastery was the end of the official tour, but we were having such a good time, no one was ready to head back to the hostel. Our tour guide, Raul, asked if we wanted to see his favorite part of Lima and, of course, we did so we hopped back on the train and headed to Lima’s Barranco District. Barranco is known for being home to many of Peru’s leading artist and musicians. The colorful buildings and streets canvased in art created the perfect vibe, and it seemed only fitting that this community thrived on creativity. We decided to grab lunch at El Chinito Sanguchería where we dined on some delicious sandwiches! I had a freshly carved turkey sandwich that hit the spot and filled the Thanksgiving void as I spent it in South America this year.
Once we were finished eating, we took to the streets to continue exploring the Barranco district. We headed to an overlook giving us a view of the ocean and we lingered here for a while. This moment of reflection was the perfect ending to our tour. As we headed back to the hostel, I felt a little as if Lima gave me a glimpse into its vibrant art scene, faith, and history and affirmed that exploring a city by foot is the way to go.