The 13 Best Day Trips from Lima, Peru

Lachay's Hills - Stock Photography / Lachay National Reserve
alicia elizabeth Cajahuanca Garcia / Getty Images

Referred to as the City of Kings, Lima spoils visitors and locals alike with gastronomic and cultural riches, but there comes a point when a change of pace and scenery is necessary. Go back in time with archaeological sites, catch your breath in the calm countryside, or shake up your routine with an adventure in nature—any of these activities can be enjoyed just beyond Lima’s city limits.

01 of 13

Palomino Islands: Little Galapagos of Lima

Amazing Peru. Sea Lions in Palomino Islands
ExtraDryRain / Getty Images
Palomino Islands, Peru

While southern Peru’s coastal town of Paracas receives plenty of hype for its diverse aquatic life, there’s an option much closer to Lima. Located off the coast of Callao, Lima’s neighboring seaside city, the four islets that comprise the Palomino Islands (Islas Palomino) are a rugged eco-haven for seabirds and marine mammals. Nature lovers will be in awe at the sight of some 8,000 sea lions lazing upon these rock formations. Upon returning to shore, fill up on ceviche at any of the local seafood restaurants while looking through photos of the day's adventure out to sea.

Getting there: Take a 45-minute taxi ride from Lima’s historic center or Miraflores to the port of Callao. When you arrive, look for docked boats belonging to either of the two companies that run regular tours: EcoCruceros and Mar Adentro Excursiones. From here, it's a 6-mile boat ride out to the islets.

Travel tip: Though the waters will start out smooth, the boat ride will eventually hit some choppy areas; that said, it's best not to eat a large meal right before. And bring a wetsuit—the Humboldt current turns the sea frigid, but the chance to swim (respectfully) with sea lions should not be missed.

02 of 13

Lomas de Lucumo: Green Hills for Sore Eyes

Q4RC+CJP, Melitón Carbajal, Pachacamac 15823, Peru

Green doesn’t come easy in Lima, a city whose skies are notoriously grey for the better part of the year. Amateur hikers looking to stretch their legs can easily escape to the sprawling Lomas de Lucumo trails. During the winter months (June to October), this 150-hectare oasis of rolling hills turns lush with vegetation thanks to the condensation from trapped ocean mist; it’s a unique ecosystem only found along the coastal deserts of Peru and Chile. Though guided treks are available, you can easily follow the two main trails (measuring just over 1.2 miles and 3.1 miles) on your own.

Getting there: Drive south along the Panamericana Sur highway. Take the exit for the Sanctuary of Pachacamac, and continue on until you reach the intersection of Av. Paul Poblet and Panamericana Sur Antigua. Turn onto Av. Paul Poblet, heading towards Pachacamac. When you arrive at the Quebrada Verde bridge, follow the signs to the parking area. The drive is about one hour.

Travel tip: While cattle graze at the base of the trek, foxes and other small fauna can be spotted darting past the rocky crags and archaeological sites. For prime birdwatching, bring a pair of binoculars to catch robins and other feathered friends take flight.

03 of 13

Caral: One for the History Buffs

Scenic View Of Mountains Against Sky In Caral
Martín Jaggi / EyeEm / Getty Images
Barranca, Supe Puerto 15161, Peru
Phone +51 1 2052517

What was likely the blueprint for urban design of later Andean civilizations, the 26th-century BC metropolis known as Caral continues to impress. Located in the Norte Chico region, home to the oldest known civilization in the Americas, these ruins reveal an incredibly organized society. Though this area has been heavily studied since its discovery in 1948, no evidence of weapons or warfare have ever been found. 

Time travel via a guided tour of this UNESCO World Heritage site and witness what were once amphitheaters, temples, stone pyramids, sunken plazas, and residential areas. The secluded ruins are never crowded, so enjoy the quiet serenity and climb the staircases up the pyramids for a breathtaking view.

Getting there: It's a three-hour drive from Lima to Caral; you'll want to get an early start if you plan to make it back in one day.

Travel tip: Weekends attract food and craft vendors, so plan your trip then if you want to shop before or after your tour.

04 of 13

Pachacamac Ruins: From the Sun to the Moon

alicia elizabeth Cajahuanca Garcia / Getty Images
Unnamed Road, P3PX+Q58, Lurín 15841, Peru

The closest archaeological complex to Peru’s metropolitan capital, Pachacamc spreads across 600 hectares of desert sand and spans a history just as impressive. What was once a hub for trade and shelter for migrants became the most important religious and administrative center along Peru’s coast during pre-Hispanic times. Preceded by various empires and rulers that built a great deal of the stone and adobe structures (such as the Wari and Lima cultures), it wasn't until the arrival of the Incas in 1450 AD that Pachacamac truly flourished.

Perhaps one of the most well-known sites on the grounds, the Temple of the Sun is the area’s tallest pyramid and rewards steady climbers with an unforgettable ocean view. Considering the immense size and long history of Pachacamac, it’s best to hire a tour guide to lead the way.

Getting there: The ruins are a 40-minute taxi ride from the Miraflores district; make sure your driver knows to take you to the ruins, as there's a village with the same name about a mile beyond the archaeological site.

Travel tip: There's no shade to hide from the harsh summer sun, so don't forget to bring a hat.

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05 of 13

Azpitia: Peace in the Valley

Located in the Cañete province, the serene countryside and nearby vineyards make Azpitia a popular weekend trip among Lima locals. Pleasant climate is year-round for this valley town, resulting in fertile land that gives way to vegetables and fruit such as lucuma and pacae (native to the Andean region). Gaze down upon the Mala River from the Balcón del Cielo (Sky’s Balcony), an elevated viewpoint that has given Azpitia its nickname. For those looking to get their heart pumping, hiking and mountain biking trails abound. Look for bike rentals near the main plaza.

Getting there: Head to the busy Javier Prado avenue in the district of La Victoria, and board a bus heading towards Mala. When you arrive, you can take a mototaxi to Azpitia. The commute will take about two hours.

Travel tip: Corn fields abound in this area, so seize the opportunity to gobble down a fresh tamale followed by a shot of pisco.

06 of 13

Lunahuana: A Splash of Adventure

The river running near Lunahuana Canete, Peru
Ecaterina Leonte / Getty Images

Lima is situated in one of the world’s largest deserts, so discovering a nearby area that is lush with vegetation and clear skies is like a drink of cool water on a hot summer’s day. With arid hills as a backdrop, the cool Cañete river bordered by thriving flora makes Lunahuana stand out like a green thumb. Ideal for adventure sports such as mountain biking and whitewater rafting, this valley town will satisfy thrill seekers just as well as nature lovers.

Getting there: Arriving by car simply requires following the Panamericana Sur highway, then taking km 184 (a three-hour drive).  

Travel tip: For Class IV rapids, visit between December and March. At any other time of year, the water’s turbulence is suitable for beginners. It’s not difficult to find someone offering an adventure sport package or rentals, but do make sure that they are authorized.

07 of 13

La Punta: Rock this Way

Aerial view of La Punta, Callao - Peru. Panoramic view.
Rommel Gonzalez / Getty Images
La Punta, Peru

Hugged by the Pacific Ocean, the pebbled beach of this quaint town offers a respite from city life without traveling far. Fishermen had been frequenting Callao’s La Punta district for years before it became a trendy summer getaway for Lima’s elite during the early 20th century; many of the elegant and rustic homes stand to this day, and fishing boats continue to add color to the surrounding waters.

On the district’s north shore is Playa Cantolao, a popular beach despite the absence of sand. Follow the bend of the peninsula—passing numerous seafood restaurants along the way—to reach the south shore, where a grassy and tranquil boardwalk awaits.

Getting there: Public transportation can be taken to Callao from Lima’s most touristy districts; however, the drop-off points will usually get you just outside the limits of La Punta. To get into the heart of the district, take a taxi, especially if arriving to or departing from La Punta in the evening. 

Travel tips: Consider hiring a local fisherman to row you out to sea from Playa Cantolao for another perspective of the peninsula.

08 of 13

Antioquia: Village of Colors

Located in a fertile valley 43 miles away from Lima, the colorful town of Antioquia is known for its flashy homes painted with eye-catching angels, flowers, and local animals. Stroll through the streets to admire the architecture, sure to cheer up any visitor. The town also has a long tradition of growing apples and quince; while you're here, stop by the vendors in the main plaza to pick up some sweet souvenirs to take back to the city.

Getting there: You'll need a rental car to reach Antioquia; the drive takes about two hours and 35 minutes one way.

Travel tip: Many travelers choose to combine visits to both Cieneguilla and Antioquia in a single day trip.

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09 of 13

Pantanos de Villa: A Birdwatcher’s Paradise

Birds in the Pantanos de Villa (Swamp of Villa), Chorrillos, Lima Peru.
Juan Jose Napuri / Getty Images
Chorrillos 15067, Peru

For a quiet escape in nature, head to the Chorrillos district and immerse yourself in the protected wildlife area of Pantanos de Villa. Here, you'll find more than 150 resident bird species, including yellow-hooded blackbirds and Andean Coots, as well as a combination of marshes, lagoons, and meadows.

Getting there: As it's located 12 miles south of downtown Lima, Pantanos de Villa can be reached by taking the Metropolitano, which stops in front of the reserve. However, the fastest and most practical way to reach the wetlands is to take a secure cab, which can drop you at the main entrance of the traditional circuit.

Travel tip: While the Pantanos are safe by day, it is recommended to visit before 5 p.m. and avoid taking valuable items.

10 of 13

Cerro Azul: Go With the Flow (and the Waves)

High Angle View Of People At Beach Against Sky
Tomás Vargas Buendia / EyeEm / Getty Images

The extensive stretch of Peru's coast boasts some of the best surfing spots in the world, making the country a favorite destination among surfers. And two hours and 30 minutes from Lima is the beach town of Cerro Azul, where surfers will find one of the best left point breaks in the country. New to the sport? Consider taking a surf or bodyboard lesson from one of the local schools. When you get hungry, freshen up with a cold Pilsen Callao and serving of ceviche before hitting the waves again. You'll soon understand why locals and beach lovers all around the world end up staying for more than a weekend in this laid-back town.

Getting there: From Lima, you can take a Turismo Cañete or Soyuz bus heading south to Pisco or Ica. If you're driving, take the Panamericana Sur highway until you reach km 131; then, follow the signs pointing towards Cerro Azul.

Travel tip: If you're here in the summer, it’s best to go early to beat the crowds.

11 of 13

Lachay National Reserve: An Immense Ecosystem

Lachay National Reserve
Víctor Augusto Mendívil / Getty Images
Ctra. Panamericana Nte., 15135, Peru
Phone +51 968 218 450

Two hours and 30 minutes north of Lima is a national park filled with unique flora and more than 50 different bird species. Besides the natural spectacle of the famous Cerro de Alta Capilla and Cerro de la Virgen—two popular hills that resemble special silhouettes and shapes—visitors have a chance of encountering desert owls and Andean foxes wandering through this unique ecosystem.

Getting there: From Lima, you can take a bus from the Terminal Terrestre Lima Norte towards Huacho and stop at km 105. From here, it is about an hour walk to the entrance of the reserve.

Travel tips: Plan your visit during the winter season (August to October) when you'll be greeted with a beautiful mist embracing the hills.

12 of 13

Bosque de Zarate: Hike the Cloud Forest

3G9G+VGG, Lucumani 15550, Peru

Located in San Bartolomé district in the province of Huarochiri, Bosque de Zarate might seem a little off the beaten path, but it's worth the trip. Among the 500 hectares to explore, there's a hiking trail that leads through 10 miles of cloud forest. Along the way, you'll see giant cacti and birds such as Andean condor and cachetiblanco. Take a lightweight backpack and plenty of water: the hike, which can take up to nine hours, begins at an altitude of 1,850 meters above sea level and will reach a height of over 3,600 meters.

Getting there: From Lima, take the Carretera Central (Central Highway) all the way to San Bartolome district at km 56. This is the initial point to begin the exploration.

Travel tips: To make the most of your trip, you'll want to leave before 7 a.m.

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13 of 13

Callahuanca: Sweet Harvest

Holding Annona Cherimoya exotic fruit
RossHelen / Getty Images

If you don’t mind a three-and-a-half-hour bus ride or drive, Callahuanca is an interesting day trip destination from Lima. Located in the highlands, fertile land gives way to the native chirimoya (custard apple) fruit. Visitors can learn about the growing process of this sweet and tasty fruit from local farmers, and later partake in the intense harvest. Friendly locals offer this fruit as well as tasty avocados for prices far lower than those found in the capital.

Getting there: From Lima, take the Carretera Central (Central Highway) all the way to Chosica (km 34). Small buses leave from Echenique Park and head towards Callahuanca every hour.

Travel tips: The best time to visit Callahuanca is during April when the Chirimoya Festival takes place.

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The 13 Best Day Trips from Lima, Peru