Barranco: The Hippest Part of Lima

BarrancoThanks to the awesome power of Couchsurfing, on our first day in Lima we met a friend, Jorge.  He helped us a lot with some venue-searching we were doing for a youth orchestra from Zach’s hometown, which is coming to Peru this summer.  Jorge lived in Barranco, and just from our first meeting in a coffee shop there, we could tell it was an awesome area.  We were able to find a free B&B in the neighborhood and moved in for our last few days in Lima.

Barranco is historically the poorer, bohemian neighborhood of Lima, although just like it’s NYC counterpart (Greenwich Village) it seems to me like it’s becoming more expensive and upscale then it probably used to be.  Still, it definitely has a multicultural vibe and relaxed, “enjoy life” atmosphere.  There’s an abundance of classic old cars parked on the streets, and the buildings are all colorfully painted or covered in cool graffiti-style murals.

The main plaza of Barranco is also just a few blocks away from Lima’s best surfing beaches.  Being the Bohemian barrio, Barranco also has the best nightlife in Lima, all week long.  We went to a salsa club with a live band on a Tuesday night, and the place was crowded with awesome dancers.  Our salsa is terrible but it was super fun just to watch the band and the dancers who make it look so easy.

After several days in Barranco, neither of us was ready to leave.  We decided to add it to the list of places we could potentially live someday.  But we have to see the rest of the world before we decide!

Random Cats

We randomly encountered this tiny park full of cats while strolling through Miraflores.  There were literally cats EVERYWHERE!

Cats on the ground.
Cats on the steps.
Cats under the bench.

And then we saw the sign…

"Prohibited to abandon cats in a public place"

So was this a former dumping ground for unwanted pets and the sign was just recently posted?  Or is everyone just blatantly ignoring it?  What is UP with this place?  Quite random and funny.

Miraflores – The Fancy Lima Barrio

This post is about the Lima barrio of Miraflores, which literally means “Look!  Flowers” in Spanish.  Miraflores does have many parks full of beautiful blooms, and is the most upscale, cosmopolitan neighborhood in Lima.  It’s where all the classiest hotels and restaurants are located.  Wandering through Miraflores almost gave us reverse culture shock because of how similar to the U.S.A. it seemed.  While not cheap, it is a beautiful area with great shopping and great food.  It’s definitely one of the places that people who stereotype Peru as entirely rural, old-fashioned, and impoverished need to see.

Miraflores - The Fancy Lima Barrio

Miraflores - The Fancy Lima Barrio

Miraflores - The Fancy Lima Barrio

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Café Cultural Restaurant Expreso Virgen de Guadalupe in Barranco, Lima, Perú

We very happily stumbled upon this excellent vegetarian buffet inside an old train car while wandering Barranco looking for a lunch spot.  For only 16 Soles, it is a steal!  The selection is also excellent, the food delicious, and the location could not be more unique!

The train car is from 1909, and the furniture and decor is all from that time period and beautifully maintained.  The buffet includes chicha to drink, a myriad of fresh veggies and salads, a soup, several delicious entrees and sides, and a couple desserts to choose from.

As salads and food this healthy is hard to come by in Perú (on our budget), we absolutely LOVED indulging in plate after plate of vitamin-rich veggie goodness!

This place was so good that we had to go back for a second lunch two days later.  Who knows, it’s quite likely we’ll end up back again for our third time today!

Location: Av. Prolongación San Martín 15, Barranco, Lima.  (Just off the main plaza.)

Centro Lima: A Lot More Fun Than Expected

Plaza de Armas

Coming into Lima we were not sure what to expect.  There have been a few big cities in South America that we have really liked, but a lot of the time they are just BIG CITIES and full of trash and smog and grumpy people.  I tried to come into Lima with an open mind but deep down I expected the city of 7.5 million to drive me nuts.  However, after our bus dropped us off and we took a friendly taxi to our hostel and we sat trying to grasp the history, culture, architecture….  I soon realized that my idea of what we would find in Lima was very, very wrong.


The downtown was clean, with tons of shops, restaurants, bars, and people everywhere.  All of the buildings were colorful and old but not built crazy tall like in New York City.  And best of all, the people were friendly and helpful and seemed generally happy.

Lima is full of color

We spent three days in central Lima wandering, watching, learning.  It was nice to be in such a walkable city, with something new and entertaining on every corner.  We made friends, enjoyed the fast internet, ate good food and lots of cheap soft serve ice cream.  Life was good.

Plaza San Martín
The Spanish conquistadors hired a local artist and asked for a "llama" crown to be placed on the woman's head. They meant a crown of flames but didn't think about the Spanish word's double meaning. Hence, the llama crown.

Every Sunday there are big shows with traditional music and dancing.  It was nice to be entertained without Soles falling out of our pockets.  These guys wore very colorful clothes and danced a fast and chaotic jig.

Traditional dancer

After three nights in central Lima, we found a barrio near the beach where the more bohemian folks hang out.  However, we did have enough time for one last ice cream cone.


The magic of the “chifa”

Barrio Chino

Lima, the capital of Perú, is a huuuuuuuge city!  It even has it’s very own Chinatown!  Barrio Chino was one of the first places we explored when wandering Lima.  Perú experienced a large influx of Asian immigrants around the same time the west coast of the United States did, in the early 1900s.  Thus there is huge Chinese and Japanese influence in Perú (a former president was even Japanese-Peruvian), and this is demonstrated in the cuisine!

The busy kitchen

A “chifa” is a Chinese restaurant and chifas are prolific throughout all of Perú.  Chinese food is the only type of international food that is really affordable and is eaten by the masses.  Most things we’ve tried at chifas have been really different from the Chinese food we’ve had in the states.  There’s definitely a Peruvian twist!  You can usually get an enormous helping of lomo saltado (stir-fried rice, beef, peppers, onions, and FRENCH FRIES…pure genius!) for only 4 Soles (a little over $1).  In Lima’s Chinatown prices were a little higher, but still reasonable.  All chifas have basically the same menu and look the same, so we just picked one and went for it.

Tasty wonton soup to start
Stir-fried noodles, chicken, veggies, and a crispy fried wonton!

We got all of this for only 8.50 Soles and it was delicious!  The only mistake I made was adding soy sauce.  I should have know, because the one time we bought soy sauce in Ecuador it was disgusting!  The soy sauce does not taste the same as we are used to, and frankly, it’s horrible.  Thankfully I ate more than half my meal before I made this mistake, so at least I didn’t ruin the whole thing! Chifas are a must-try anywhere in Perú as they can always be relied upon to be filling, cheap, fast, and delicious!  In addition to it’s abundance of chifas, Barrio Chino also has all the other fun parts of Chinatowns…a lot of knockoff shops, fortune tellers, and streets lined with vendors selling everything imaginable!

Pisco and the Islas Ballestas – Peru Wildlife

Pisco is a town 4 hours south of Lima. It was 80% destroyed in a 2007 earthquake and is still barely rebuilt. We thought it might be interesting to see, but there really is not much there!  Lots of piles of rubble.  This church with a cracked belltower is the oldest building still standing. We were most excited to take a tour to the Islas Ballestas – The Galapagos of Peru.


The Islas Ballestas have been called “The Poor Man’s Galapagos.”  I’m not sure they were that cool but we were glad we went.  We arranged a tour from Pisco for only 40 Soles ($13) apiece!  Here we are, sporting our fat-people life jackets and bandanas in case of bird poop!  Thankfully we didn’t suffer any direct hits.

Islas Ballestas
Really, would that save me if I was drowning?

The first stop was this strange ancient carving in a sand dune.  No one really knows what it’s supposed to be, but some guess it might be a San Pedro cactus, which was used for spiritual/medicinal rituals by ancient tribes.

Islas Ballestas

We circled the Islas Ballestas for about an hour and saw tons of sea lions, penguins, and other birds!  They harvest certain birds’ poop (called “guano”) to be used for fertilizer.  For awhile it was Peru’s biggest export!

Islas Ballestas
See the penguins in the foreground?
Islas Ballestas
They’re posing!

Sometimes people spot dolphins on the boat ride out to the islands, although unfortunately we didn’t see any.  All the penguins and sea lions were fun though!  Animals make people so happy; everyone on our boat was smiling the whole time!

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