Lima: when you set off a rocket, you leave behind a little ash

Ah Lima, a nice airport for a layover and a change of planes for most tourists on their way to Cuzco. The city has got a bit of a bad rap on the gringo tourism trail, but you won’t really understand Peru without at least a quick stay. During two years living here, I developed a functioning, love/hate relationship with this frenetic coastal capital. Just when you think it’s growing on you, you realize its sunless winters and soul-crushing traffic jams have turned you into a grey-skinned hermit. Just when you’re ready to pack up and leave, the sun comes out, the beachfront clubs open up, and Pisco Sours rain from the sky. Buried under the city’s grime and aggression are some hip hideouts, not to mention plenty of gems for collectors of the odd and bizarre. (Home to the world’s best frog smoothie, if your sex drive happens to need a boost). On the unequivocally good side are the facts that the surf is great year round, and that the city is one of the globe’s cheapest gastronomical gems. Travelers beware: the food is dangerously good, especially for all you seafood lovers. Stay long enough and cebiche withdrawal is unavoidable.

Elliot, Mike, and Drew landed in mid-January and we spent two weeks planning our trip and enjoying the best of Lima’s cebicherias and funky nightlife. We also rented a house for a weekend at one of the hopping beach communities south of Lima and, just for balance, dropped in on an Amazon Indian squatter’s slum. Not a bad start to the trip.


Colonial Lima. Ooh look, a government palace! All you need to do to live here is rob the state blind in your first presidency, flee to Colombia, hobnob in Paris, then come back and dance an Andean jig (see Alan Garcia).

Rimac’s colored shanties. This is where the other half lives, within sight of the government palace. Brick looks so much better with paint.

Lima’s got some cool haunts if you look hard enough, including the criollo Bar Quierolo in the old city. Order your drinks from the burning virgin behind the bar.

Lima’s Costa Verde. Good cebiche, good views from swank apartments, and good surf – just be ready to dodge garbage.

Poison, poison, tasty fish. No seriously though, delicious food is everywhere in Lima, and only a hint of Atahualpa’s revenge! This sampling is from La Mar Cebicheria, run by Peru’s celebrity chef Gaston Acurio. He opened a branch in San Francisco last year, if you decide you need a taste back in the states.

Shipibo Indian Charly Romas and Andy in Cantagallo, Amazon Indian shantytown in Lima.

The crew (where’s Drew?) and Lima friends at San Bartolo beach.