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How to Spend 3 Days in Lima, Peru – An Ideal Itinerary

How to Spend 3 Days in Lima, Peru – An Ideal Itinerary

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So you’re planning to visit Lima for a couple of days, are you? You’ve come to the right place!

With so much to see and do in this massive city, it can be really hard to narrow down how to spend your time. We get it, we actually lived in Lima for a while and still didn’t come close to exploring everything Peru’s capital city has to offer!

To ensure you’re making the most out of your short amount of time here, we’ve created a detailed 3-day itinerary below. It is full of the best activities, restaurants, and tours to ensure you have the best time possible in Lima!

Day 1

Breakfast – Manolo in Miraflores and Kennedy Park

Having a coffee and churros at Manolo
Coffee and churros!

Did someone say Churros for breakfast?! I mean, we really can’t think of a better way to start off your time in Lima!

Your first day here is going to be a busy one, so make sure you fuel up properly before all of the sightseeing on this itinerary. There’s no better way to do this than by visiting our favorite breakfast spot: Manolo.

Manolo is a cute local cafe located in Miraflores, where most tourists stay when visiting. We ate here often when we lived in Lima and can confirm that their claim to the “best churros in Lima” is definitely true! I personally recommend the dulce de leche or vanilla-flavored churros.

There are many other things on offer here such as omelets, tasty sandwiches, and baked goods. They also have great coffee to start your day off on the right foot!

Manolo opens at 7 am on weekdays and 8 am on weekdays. We recommend getting an early start to your day as there is lots on this itinerary!

A cat relaxes in Kennedy Park in the center of Lima, Peru
I could not believe this park was real at first!

After having some breakfast, grab a coffee and head down the road on a 5-minute walk to Kennedy Park. If you love furry felines, this is the perfect place to enjoy a stroll!

The park is full of friendly stray cats! The park used to have a rodent problem, so they introduced the cats to take care of the issue. The cats certainly did their job, and now the cats have become a staple and call this park home. They are well-fed and cared for, and visiting them at Kennedy Park even made our master list of the best things to do in Lima.

If you start the day bright and early, you may have a bit of time to also check out some of the cute shops surrounding the park before your sightseeing adventure!

Morning – Explore the historical center

Exploring downtown Lima on a free walking tour
The historical center!

Once you’re feeling fresh after your coffee and walk, it’s time to take in some of the city’s history!

You can hop into a cab to Lima’s historical center, and walk around yourself, but honestly, we prefer doing a city tour of Lima instead. Tours are a great way to make the most out of your time as they point out the significant sights and share interesting history and facts that you wouldn’t get to know on your own.

Our favorite is this Lima city sightseeing tour. We did this back when we first arrived in the city and can’t recommend it enough. For 3.5 hours, you get a great overview of the city and learn lots about Peruvian culture and history from your local guide while seeing highlights such as the Lima Cathedral and Santo Domingo Convent.

The tour is extremely affordable at $59 USD per adult for a group tour, or you can do a private tour which starts at $69 USD per person depending on the number of people in your party. The morning tour departs at 9 am and conveniently includes round-trip transfers from Miraflores (where Kennedy Park is) and other districts. Additionally, you can switch your day around and do the tour at 2:30 pm instead. However, you’ll miss the epic evening food tour we have in store for you!

Hot tip: Enter a hotel near the park as your pick-up destination if yours isn’t close. There are several, including Hotel Las Palmas.

Lunch – Fiesta Restaurant

Cooking a local dish on a food tour in Lima Peru
Yum!

I don’t know about you, but wandering around and sightseeing always builds up my appetite – so now is the perfect time for some delicious lunch!

If you take the city tour mentioned above, you can get dropped off back in the Miraflores area, which is where one of our favorite lunch restaurants is located. Fiesta Restaurant is one of Lima’s hidden gems.

I always love trying local food when I get to a new place and Fiesta Restaurant cooks up some great Peruvian cuisine such as ceviche, clams, duck on rice, and grilled fish. No matter what you order, I’m sure it’ll be delicious!

It is open every day from 12-6 pm except for Mondays. So it should be open by the time you’re done your sightseeing tour for an afternoon bite!

Afternoon – Explore Miraflores and Barranco

The Larcomar shopping center in Miraflores
The Larcomar shopping center in Miraflores

Between lunch and our dinner recommendation, you’ll have around 3 hours spare. So I suggest spending your afternoon exploring Miraflores, Barranco, or both. Here are my favorite things to do in each neighborhood so you can decide.

Miraflores

Miraflores is Lima’s safest neighborhood and where you’ll find most hotels and hostels. I had so much fun here that I created an entire guide featuring things to do in Miraflores. To make things easy, here are my top 3 recommendations:

1. Visit the coolest shopping center

The Larcomar is literally built into a cliff! It hangs over the ocean’s edge for some of the best views in Lima. It’s home to hundreds of shops, bars, and restaurants, so you can take your pick. For shoppers, there’s everything from handicraft stores to high-end clothing boutiques.

Otherwise, enjoy a drink with a view from either Mangos or Popular within the shopping center. Even if you don’t feel like shopping, the Larcomar is worth a visit to see the architectural feat alone. Plus, it’s open from 6 am – 10 pm, so it’s easy to fit into your itinerary.

2. Cruise along the Malecon

Miraflores coastline with views of the bike path on a bike tour in Lima, Peru
The entire coastline has bike paths to enjoy!

The Malecon de Miraflores is a 6-mile (9.7-kilometer) coastal path stretching along a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There are three connected sections, and you can explore the whole thing on foot or by electric scooter or bike.

Along the way, you’ll see several parks (including Love Park) and sculptures. Other attractions include ​​Faro de la Marina, Lima’s most famous lighthouse, and the Villena Rey Bridge. I love snapping photos from this bridge because it showcases where nature meets the city. Plus, you gotta love those ocean views!

3. Visit a local market

Mercado Municipal Number 1 is a fresh produce market just a 10-minute walk from Kennedy Park. I bet you’ll find several fruits you’ve never heard of before because I sure did!

We loved trying different ones every week when we lived in Miraflores. Some we loved, others we didn’t! But exploring a country’s food is all part of the adventure. The market is open daily from 7 am – 7 pm but closes at 5:30 pm on Sundays.

Barranco

Street art on a Barranco Graffiti Free Walking Tour
Street art on a Barranco Graffiti Free Walking Tour
A cute street on a Barranco Graffiti Free Walking Tour

Meanwhile, Barranco is Lima’s bohemian art district (some even call it Lima’s SoHo). Located next door to Miraflores, you can walk or drive. It’s such a cool place to walk around and take in all the colors. If you want to know where to begin, here are my suggestions for the best things to do in Barranco:

1. Visit the main square

Surrounded by colonial buildings, there’s always something happening at Municipal de Barranco Park. This includes live music and weekend artisan fairs. Weekends are definitely more hopping, but it’s worth a visit any day of the week. You can sit on the bench to rest your feet and people watch or check out the rotating sculptures they often have.

2. Walk across the Bridge of Sighs

Puente de Los Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs) was built in 1876 and has become one of Lima’s must-see places. There may not be water underneath these days, but the courtyard is a popular spot for locals to hang out and for artists to find inspiration. I personally love this spot for all the photo ops! You have a nice view of the city below, and there’s loads of street art dotting the surrounding area.

While there, don’t miss taking a photo of Iglesia La Ermita, the bright yellow church, and walking through Federico Villarreal Park.

3. Go to an art gallery

Lima is also known for its art. So, if you’re an artist yourself or simply appreciate beautiful things, you’ll want to see what this city offers – and Barranco is the perfect place to start!

Being the city’s art district, you have lots of choices. The Lima Museum of Contemporary Art is the city’s only museum specializing in modern and contemporary art. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am – 7 pm, and tickets cost roughly $4 USD.

Meanwhile, Jade Rivera Gallery features modern prints and sculptures. I love how this artist captures the human expression and gives you a little window into everyday Peruvian life. The gallery is free to enter and is open daily from 10 am – 7:30 pm. If you can’t get enough of this artist, you can also visit the Jade Rivera Museum up the road, which costs roughly $3 USD to enter, and is open from 10 am – 8 pm.

Dinner – Gourmet food tour

Plantains on a food tour in Lima, Peru
Cooking!
A selection of Peruvian food on a food tour in Lima, Peru
I think this was my favorite tour!

You can’t visit one of the world’s food capitals without indulging in the culinary scene a bit! Whether you are a foodie or not, we know you won’t regret trying some of the delicious foods this city has to offer.

But with only 3 days here, you can’t possibly try it all, which is why a food tour is a great option. This gourmet food tour will have you trying multiple different culinary delights around the city and is a great introduction to Peruvian cuisine and culture.

The tour starts with hotel pick-up around 4 pm where you will head to a gorgeous seaside restaurant to enjoy the views while sipping on the famous Peruvian cocktail, the Pisco Sour! We enjoyed some delicious seafood appetizers here before heading off to the next restaurant.

You may have seen the incredible Huaca Pucllana ruins earlier in the day on your city tour, but this food tour takes you to a restaurant within the archaeological complex. Here you will enjoy your main course with views of the pre-Incan ruins. It definitely makes for a one-of-a-kind experience!

After dinner, you will go on a walking tour through the trendy neighborhood of Barranco. Here, you will see some highlights such as the Bridge of Sighs before stopping to enjoy dessert made by a local chef. Even if you explored this area a bit earlier in the day, seeing it at night is a completely different experience!

This tour runs daily except for Sundays and lasts about 5 hours. It costs $145 USD per person which we think is a great deal since it includes all food, beverages, transfers, and a professional guide – if you don’t believe us just check out the hundreds of 5-star reviews here!

Night – Party on Calle Berlin 

Bailey and Daniel have a drink on Calle Berlin in Lima, Peru
Bailey enjoys a drink on Calle Berlin in Lima, Peru

If you aren’t in a food coma after the food tour (and feel like keeping the party going), we recommend heading over to Calle Berlin (Berlin Street) in Miraflores.

This lively street is full of pubs, bars, nightclubs, and restaurants and is perfect if you want a night on the town. Whether you’re craving a nightcap or a place to go dancing, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for here!

One of my favorite clubs is Lumma. It plays salsa and bachata music and is the perfect place to go if you want to dance the night away.

I also love visiting Molly’s Irish Bar and Restaurant. It has such great vibes and is the perfect place for socializing with a pint. There is also daily live music and DJs if you feel like dancing. It stays open till 1 am most nights and 3 am on Fridays/Saturdays.

Related Read: If you have more time and want to squeeze in some more activities, check out our favorite Lima tours here!

Day 2

Huacachina and Ballestas Islands day trip

Bailey and I hang out of our dune buggy in Huaccahina
The dune buggy tour Bailey and I did in Huacachina was so much fun!

You’ve probably come across the town of Huacachina on your Instagram feed. This small town, or “Oasis,” as it’s called, is centered around a lake and palm trees in the middle of mountainous sand dunes. It’s one of my favorite places in South America and definitely shouldn’t be missed on your trip to Peru!

Another great day trip option is to the Ballestas Islands, often referred to as “Peru’s Galapagos” for the abundance of marine life here. Expect to see a large variety of birds, seals, and penguins perched on stunning rock formations emerging from the ocean.

You can try and do a day trip to these areas on your own, but a bus ride from Lima takes about 4.5 hours, making it a super long day. Another option is to do an organized day tour such as the one that we did, which visits both places and includes a bunch of fun activities such as a boat tour, dune buggy, and sandboarding!

Dune buggies are specially designed to take you flying around the sand dunes. It’s a fast-paced and exciting activity, and the views are great too! You’ll also stop at various points where you’ll get to try sandboarding (a unique sport similar to snowboarding, but you’re on sand instead of snow).

If you have time, we also recommend enjoying a drink at one of the lakefront bars in Huacachina or simply taking a stroll around the Oasis (aka the lake). The tour is highly rated (there are 3,000+ positive reviews you can read here!), reasonably priced, and easily one of the most exciting full-day tours from Lima (in our opinion!).

However, if going all the way to Huacachina on a day trip seems too tiring, then just jump on the bus and stay in Huacachina for a couple of nights. There are a few good hotels in Huacachina to choose from, and I would recommend spending at least two nights. Then you can book individual sandboarding or dune buggy tours right from Huacachina!

Hot Tip: If you want a party, stay at the Wild Rover in Huacachina, it is a hostel that promises (and delivers!) a party every single night. They also have a pool, which is necessary with the hot temperatures.

Related Read: Check out our guide to visiting Huacachina including all of the best things to do!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

Day 3

Breakfast – Café et Chocolat

After your big day of exploring yesterday, you may want to sleep in a little bit before starting our exciting day 3 itinerary. And there is no better way to begin than by enjoying a delicious breakfast at one of our favorite spots.

Cafe et Chocolat is an adorable cafe conveniently located in Miraflores near many hotels. Known for its cute aesthetic, it also serves up some of the best food, coffee, and baked goods in Lima. Believe me, you won’t want to leave this place!

The waffles are to die for, and all of their baked goods are homemade, so you know you’re getting fresh and delicious treats. Oh, and if you love chocolate like I do, make sure to try their hot chocolate (you’ll thank me later!).

It is open from 7 am to 9:30 pm on Monday-Saturday, and 8 am to 8 pm on Sundays. This will give you plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the cafe’s ambiance before heading off on your next adventure.

Morning – Swim with sea lions

A few people swimming with sea lions in Lima, Peru
We loved this experience and never expected it in Lima!

Most people don’t think of Lima as a place where you can have a close wildlife encounter. But boy are they wrong!

Just 15 minutes from downtown Lima, you can have a unique experience swimming with sea lions! Just off the coast of Lima, the Guarnera Islands are home to over 10,000 sea lions, penguins, and sea birds, making it the perfect place to jump in the water and hang out with these amazing creatures.

The only way to do this is on a tour with a reputable company. This is the tour we did and we highly recommend it!

Once you anchor near the main island, you will be treated to literally hundreds of sea lions sunbathing on the island and swimming in the water. This is where you will jump off the boat and into the ocean to swim with them! 

Sea lions are notoriously playful and curious creatures, and these are no different – they will come very close to you! When I did this tour, sea lions were swimming around my feet and bumping into them under the water. It made me a little nervous, but it was also one of my favorite experiences in Peru

This 2.5-hour tour runs daily at 10 am and is competitively priced at only $72 USD. We love that they use a speed boat to get you to the islands, so less time is spent traveling and more time is spent in the water. Plus you’ll get a wetsuit, lifejacket, snacks, and bottled water included in the price.

Lunch – Eat fantastic ceviche

A plate of ceviche in Lima
I love ceviche so much!

The sea lion tour gets back around 1 pm, just in time for lunch! And I don’t think there is any better lunch option while in Peru than ceviche!

If you’ve never had ceviche before, it’s something you must try. It’s a healthy dish typically made from fresh raw fish or shrimp that is cured in lemon or lime juice. It usually has some topping on it as well such as chiles, onions, and herbs.

Ceviche actually originated in Peru and you are sure to see it served in many places throughout Lima. But some of my favorite places for ceviche are:

La Canta Rana in the Barranco neighborhood, is tucked away down a small side street but you won’t be able to miss it as there are typically long queues outside, expect to wait up to an hour for a table. The service is good, the interior is cozy and casual, and it’s definitely one of the top places to try ceviche in Lima.

La Mar on Avenida La Mar in the Miraflores district is a high-end restaurant that dishes up several different ceviche options, all with a unique twist. You just have to try their Asian/Peruvian fusion ceviche!

Chez Wong is a hidden gem in the center of La Victoria. There are no menus in this modest restaurant and you will simply be served whatever ceviche the talented chef has prepared that day. 

Afternoon – Go paragliding or take a surf lesson

A person paragliding on the cliffs in Lima, Peru
This is the best way to enjoy the rugged coastline of Lima.

Are you ready for another adventure? Get ready to go paragliding over the city!

Lima is actually known for its paragliding, and you will certainly see many paragliders up in the sky during your time here. If this is something you have never tried before (or even if you have) we think this should be an experience near the top of your Lima to-do list!

The views over the city and the coastline are incredible and with many companies offering paragliding tours right along the Malecon in Miraflores, it is very easy to do. Although, it’s important to make sure you are going with a safe and reputable company. When we went we did this specific paragliding tour and had a great experience (so have many others, just look at all of the 5-star reviews here!).

The flight only costs $75 USD and lasts around 10-12 minutes. You will also get included video footage of your flight, which we think is a great bonus. That way you can just focus on enjoying the experience and not have to worry about taking pictures and filming anything yourself!

They conveniently operate from 10:30 am – 5:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday and from 11 am – 5:30 pm on weekdays, making it easy to fit into your itinerary. Just be sure to book in advance to guarantee your spot!

A man surfs on the beach in Lima, Peru
Be aware, the water is freezing!

Fun fact: I actually learned to surf while living in Lima!

That’s right, located right on the Pacific Ocean, Lima has some great waves for beginner surfers. But be warned, the water is quite cold at about 15°C (59°F), so a wetsuit is a must. If you don’t have your own, don’t worry, there are lots of places you can rent from along the beach.

Many companies in Barranco or Miraflores offer surfing equipment rentals and surf lessons. If you haven’t surfed much before I definitely recommend taking a lesson. I took this specific lesson and I can’t recommend it enough!

My instructor was so patient and got me up riding the waves in no time! The lesson lasts 90 minutes and only costs $32 USD, which includes all of your equipment.

Lessons run daily at multiple times, but the last lesson starts at 1 pm. So if you are swimming with the sea lions in the morning, you may not make it back in time to do this surfing lesson in the afternoon. But it definitely makes a great alternative activity if you aren’t keen on the sea lions!

Dinner – Eat at one of the best restaurants in the world!

A boa bun at Astrid Y Gaston in Lima, Peru
Photo credit: Astrid Y Gaston
A seafood dish at Astrid Y Gaston Lima, Peru
Photo credit: Astrid Y Gaston

A couple of the world’s 50 best restaurants are located right here in Lima!

Astrid y Gaston is one of my personal favorites and it has won countless awards. Set within the 300-year-old Casa Moreyra (a former plantation house) the restaurant serves up a unique tasting menu including Peking-style guinea pig bao, grilled octopus with a pseudo-cereal salad, and lucuma gnocchi. It’s definitely an up-market establishment and the prices reflect that. 

The restaurant first opened in 1994 and many excellent chefs have taken the helm here including Gaston Acurio, who opened the restaurant. He is known as the patron saint of modern Peruvian cuisine!

Advance booking is essential as this is an incredibly popular restaurant.  

Another world-class restaurant in Lima is Central. This restaurant won “Best Restaurant in South America” in 2021 and is overall #4 in the world! Of course, with awards like that, this restaurant is very difficult to visit. We spent over a month in Lima and were never able to snag a booking, so we can’t personally comment on how good the food is. With that said, the waitlist should be enough of a testament!

So, plan in advance and book an incredible culinary experience at one of these top-rated restaurants in Lima!

Night – See the Magic Water Circuit

The Magic Water Circuit in a range of colors in downtown Lima, Peru
How cool is this?!

Did you know that Lima is home to the largest outdoor water fountain complex in the world?

Right in the heart of Lima, you’ll find the Magic Water Circuit, a beautiful choreographed light display across 13 fountains, complete with music. It is similar to the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, but I think it is even more impressive!

It is located next to the National Stadium in Parque de la Reserva and the shows happen every half an hour daily from 3-10 pm. We recommend waiting to go until it gets dark because the colorful lights and lasers make the show even more impressive!

Tickets can be purchased at the gate when you arrive and only cost 5 sols per person (approx $1.30 USD). Or you can choose to visit the fountains on a combo tour such as this one.

This tour is perfect if you can’t get a reservation at one of the restaurants above because it includes dinner at a local restaurant. It also includes a historical walking tour around the city including a visit to the eerie catacombs which we thought were really neat!

It starts at 2 pm, which means you may have to skip out on one of the other afternoon activities I mentioned above. We think this is a great option especially if you don’t book the city sightseeing tour we mentioned on Day 1 since it goes to many of the same places.

Related Read: If you’re looking for another step-by-step itinerary, check out our guide to spending two days in Cusco, Peru!

Where to Stay in Lima, Peru

view from above of the outside of the JW Marriott Hotel Lima
Photo Credit: JW Marriott Hotel Lima

If you’re spending a few nights in Lima, you’ll need a place to stay! Lima is a big city with many accommodation options. However, I definitely have my favorite spots and am happy to share those with you. Keep reading for my top hostels and hotels for each budget range.

Luxury – $$$

JW Marriott Hotel Lima is located in the Miraflores district right behind the Larcomar shopping center, with amazing views of the ocean. The location is perfect! The rooms are luxurious and have everything you’d expect from a Marriott Hotel, including a fitness center, pool, restaurant, and super helpful staff. Guests also rave about the hotel’s breakfast!

Rooms start at around $275 USD, but you can find the best rates on Booking.com.

Mid-range -$$

Larq’a Park Rooms is a beautiful hotel with amazing reviews. The hotel is in a heritage building right next to Parque Kennedy, and the rooms are modern, clean, and comfortable. They have a nice common area where you can enjoy the complimentary continental breakfast. Although we’ve included it as mid-range, it could easily be considered a budget option because rooms start as low as $45 USD. Click here to snag this awesome deal!

Tierra Viva Miraflores Centro is my top pick in Miraflores, Lima. The hotel has a 9.2 on Booking.com, and it’s no wonder since the staff are so attentive and sweet! It’s perfectly located in a quiet and safe area within walking distance of many restaurants, cafes, and shops. Rooms are super clean and come with either a king bed or two singles. Stays here include breakfast and cost only $70 USD per night. You can book your stay at Tierra Viva Miraflores Centro online here.

Budget – $

Selina Miraflores is part of the well-established Selina chain. They have hostels all over Latin America, and I’ve personally stayed in lots of them. The Selina in Miraflores is a beautiful hostel with a modern, colorful aesthetic and super clean rooms and bathrooms. The whole place has a nice, easygoing vibe that makes it easy to meet people. It’s also in a great location, with prices starting at $10 USD for a bunk and $45 USD for a private room. You can book Selina Miraflores on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Pariwana Hostel is the most popular and famous party hostel in Miraflores. It’s the perfect hostel to let loose and meet other travelers. Plus, prices are super reasonable, with dorms costing less than $20 USD and private rooms less than $70 USD. If you want to party and have fun in Lima, you can book the Pariwana Hostel on Hostelworld or Booking.com.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey in Lima, Peru
Thanks for reading!

We’ve spent lots of time in Lima and always have an absolute blast. So, if you only have a couple of days to spend here, we hope this itinerary comes in handy! We narrowed it down to our favorite activities and places. This way, you can get a feel for the city and have fun without feeling too rushed.

If you found this guide useful, check out our other blogs about Peru as well as other South American destinations. To get started, just click on one of the links below.

12 Things to KNOW Before Visiting the Colca Canyon, Peru

33 EXCITING Things to do in Cusco, Peru

Puerto Maldonado, Peru – A Gateway to Peru’s Forgotten Amazonian Destination