One of my favorite “best of” categories, the Biggest Surprise award goes to the destination that surpassed expectations or defied preconceived notions. And in 2011, Lima, Peru certainly fit the bill.
As I noted in one of my posts from the trip, everything I read in mainstream guidebooks about Lima made it sound like a place you should leave as soon as possible. Dirty, unsafe, chaotic, polluted. Definitely not a city to linger.
Yet I found that my 18 hour layover there left me wanting much more. We toured the Cercado de Lima, taking note of the wooden Moorish-influenced balconies that make the city center an UNESCO World Heritage site. Both the Lima Cathedral, which houses the tomb of Spanish conquistador Francisco and the Monestary of San Francisco, with bones piled high in its catacombs, were historic sites as worthy as any you’d find in more well-known tourist spots.
Later, we ate ceviche in Miraflores, at a restaurant owned by Peru’s celebrity chef, Gastón Acurio, drinking pisco sours while the city’s chic set drifted by in their beachy best.
Our all too short stay ended with an eyeful of erotic pre-Columbian pottery collection at Museo Larco.
All too soon, I got on my plane – and plotted when I could come back. I’m not saying that Lima is perfect – you do need to take safety precautions, as I mentioned – but the city certainly made me realize that Peru contains many stops beyond the tried-and-true tourist trail that are worth exploring.