In July, we had an opportunity that actually happens only rarely. Through a change in jobs for me, it was relatively uncomplicated for us to go off and travel for an entire month. Our bucket list is pretty long, but we can often still find a lot of countries that are ideal for travel when winter has invaded Switzerland and it’s no longer midsummer. For us, Peru and Bolivia had the right qualifications. Even if it was winter there, it still didn’t rain every day.
For our flight from Zurich, we decided to take Swiss to Amsterdam and then take a direct flight to Lima with KLM. If you want your luggage shipped straight from Zurich to Lima, you can also arrange the whole trip through KLM.
About 12 hours later, our plane was already making a smooth landing in Lima. At the airport, aside from dealing with passport inspection, etc., we also had to declare our drone at customs. This is not exactly a simple process, and for all who really want to fly their drones in Peru, we’ll be submitting another post on that later on. But one thing we can say right up front: be sure to schedule an extra day in Lima for the paperwork stuff.
Lima – Hectic Capital of Peru
From the airport to our hotel in the Miraflores district, the ride took around 30 minutes. On the way there, we quickly noticed that Lima is a very hectic city. Wherever you go, cars are honking and overtaking each other, and the noise of police whistles trying to regulate the traffic can be heard at every street corner.
We booked the Lot Boutique Hotel for our first two nights. The hotel is relatively small, near the ocean, and pleasantly furnished. The hotel personnel were very friendly and tried to fulfill our wishes as much as possible. The room price always includes breakfast, which has a limited but good selection.
Miraflores is a modern district and is ideally suited for tourists. From our hotel to the ocean was about five minutes by foot. Instead of a sand beach, a beach made up of large, orange rocks awaited us. During the Peruvian winter, the water is really cold, which didn’t stop wetsuit-clad seasoned and beginning surfers from grabbing their boards and riding a few waves. There are a couple of local surf schools, which are housed in tents. If you want to, you can take a lesson there for around $20 USD.
Aside from surfing, paragliding is also very popular. A lot of tourists wouldn’t miss enjoying a flight along the cliffs.
Those wanting something quieter after their stroll can indulge in a Pisco Sour or some other drink at La Rosa Nautica Restaurant on the pier. Whether you’re looking for a restaurant, bar, or souvenir shop, you’ll find a little of everything on this pier. Just be aware that no one is allowed onto the pier before 12:30 p.m.
Barranco also comes highly recommended and is home to a lot of street artists. We were able to spend a few nights there before our trip home[DZ1] . Barranco lies right next to Miraflores, and together both districts offer a wide variety of great restaurants and cafes. We recommend the following:
- Canta Rana – Loved by locals, this is the restaurant with the best fish! Set up in a garage, the walls are adorned with flags and pictures of famous personalities. On the weekends, you have to stand in line, which is why it’s better to go during the week. The portions are huge! You’re best off ordering a couple of dishes and splitting them. • Sofa Café—They may not serve the best food in the city, but this café is still very comfortable and perfect for hanging out with your laptop for longer periods of time.
- La Linterna – There are as many pizzerias in Peru as there is sand in the sea, though the good ones are rare. At La Linterna, you can put together a delicious pizza. They also deliver.
- Cala – A sophisticated restaurant right by the sea. We had dinner there, but we liked the lunchtime risotto even better. They also have a great outside terrace, where you can literally taste the salty ocean air.
- Popular – No visitor is likely to miss the modern department store back in Miraflores. Here you have a good chance of outfitting yourself with some North Face jackets, in case you’ve scheduled a trip to Bolivia’s Altiplano. And afterwards, you can nourish yourself in Popular, the restaurant, while enjoying an incredible ocean view. We recommend the osso buco potato casserole appetizer.
- Maido – This sushi fusion cuisine is the best known and highest rated in Lima. The portions seem very small but fill you up surprisingly fast and taste heavenly. Be absolutely sure to reserve ahead of time. In a three-day period, we only managed to get a table for lunch.
Islas Ballestas – Penguins, Sea Lions, and Dolphins
After already rising at 5 a.m. once before for our flight to Peru, we figured we could top that and had ourselves picked up as early as 4 a.m. for our day trip to the Islas Ballestas, or Ballestas Islands. That way, aside from the empty streets, we had the whole day ahead of us, since the car ride to Paracas would take about 3½ hours. Incidentally, we booked the private day tour through Nazca Flights and totally recommend them. Once in Paracas, we were loaded into a boat that took us to the Islas Ballestas in 30 minutes. On the way there, we were accompanied by a family of dolphins that were hunting for breakfast in the bay during the morning hours.
The Ballestas Islands are environmentally protected and patrolled by park rangers, since it’s strongly tempting to set foot on the islands to better observe the Humboldt penguins, pelicans, and sea lions. There are 4000 birds living on the islands, and of those, roughly 100 are Humboldt penguins. Since that many birds create a ton of poop, you taste it very fast. Every four years, the animal feces are scraped off and sold as fertilizer.
If you like birds, sea lions, and short boat excursions, be sure not to miss this spectacle. For everyone else, it’s onward to the red beach! ; )
Paracas National Reserve – Where We Ate the Best Fish
After our tour of the Islas Ballestas, our next guide was already waiting to take us on a tour through the Paracas National Reserve. The reserve itself is nothing spectacular, but here and there it features some great nooks and crannies. Since this area of Peru was once ocean floor, you can still find decent specimens of petrified shells and fossils in some places. In others, there’s just salt lying around on the ground, and according to our guide, it’s owned by an American company that mines it. Somewhat higher up, your have a superb view of the coast and the red beach, which is reachable in 5 minutes by car. Further along the coast, there’s apparently the best fish in Peru, which we of course had to try right away at one of the four local restaurants. At your table, you’re first presented with the catch of the day, and then you can choose your fish for your lunch. We enjoyed the peace and quiet over a good beer while watching the pelicans trying to steal the morning’s catch from the fisherman.
Huacachina – Snowboarding on the Sand
But two excursions in one day just wasn’t enough—no. After lunch, we were off with our driver to Ica, or the Huacachina Oasis. This oasis is surrounded by large sand dunes that are used for sandblast rallies and sandboarding as a way of providing fun for tourists. Of course, we couldn’t deprive ourselves of also driving through the dunes for two hours and strapping a snowboard to our feet. This brand of fun costs $20 per person but may also be included in the cost of your hotel, as it was with our Banana’s Adventure hotel, where we spent one night. This activity is definitely a highlight that no one should miss.
The next day, we actually wanted to take it easier and first slept in a bit. After breakfast, we went to the local bus company Cruz del Sur and arranged a bus ride to Nazca, which took about two hours. Nazca is where both alien enthusiasts and scientists meet, because that’s where you can see the famous Nazca lines, whose origin and means of creation no one knows.
For about $100 per person, you can fly over all of them in a small plane, and though we swore we’d never get into a Cessna aircraft again after our experience with these planes in Tanzania, seven months later we were sitting in this machine with six other people as we soared in dizzying circles above the lines. From the air, the lines admittedly look pretty small, and they’re hard to make out without the pilot’s help. Another option is to make an excursion to the viewing tower, where you have a very good view of two of the figures.