South America

Lima and Cusco Guide: Peru itinerary

February 9, 2020
girl in front of cliffs and boardwalk in Lima Peru

Although the major tourist destination in Peru is Machu Picchu, keep reading my Lima and Cusco guide to find out why they are definitely worthy of a visit as well. Lima, the capital, is easy to fly into, but be cautious at the airport (arrange transport or Uber) as it is not located in a safe area. Cusco, a regional plane ride away, is the gateway city for travelers coming to Machu Picchu or the Sacred Valley.


I had heard that Lima is not that impressive and one should only spend a little time there, but I really enjoyed the city and found it very scenic.

a boutique near Huaca Pucllana

I stayed at the Hotel Santa Cruz in Miraflores (touristy, nice area of Lima) for the first part of my trip. The location was perfect: it was a straight shot to walk just a few streets over to the start of the boardwalk. When I flew back to Lima from Machu Picchu I stayed in the IBIS Miraflores for a night, which I highly recommend as I found it quieter, more comfortable and having consistent hot water.

view from the boardwalk

mosaic from Parque de Amor

Parque de Amor is said to be inspired by and often compared to Parc Güell in Barcelona by Gaudí

Boardwalk and Parque de Amor and Lighthouse
It’s really easy to spend hours just walking up and down the boardwalk in Miraflores. The landscaping is beautiful and you pass people running, working out in the public parks and just relaxing. The views are unparalleled and every corner seems ideal for a photo! The main attractions are right after each other: the famous lighthouse, the beautiful tiled mosaic and sculpture Parque de Amor and also the photo spot for the palm trees overlooking the boardwalk (just past the Parque de Amor at the bus stop).

vegan ceviche made with mango, mushroom and onion

flatbread vegan pizza

Vegan Restaurats – Jardin de Jazmin
This was a great little restaurant in Miraflores. There are so many vegan options: one day I had a flatbread pizza (delicious!), the next pasta, the next a burger. I even took my non-vegan friends here. Is it the best vegan food I’ve ever had? No, but it’s very tasty and filling and I really enjoyed the vibe here as well. It seemed like a locals’ spot, popular during week-day lunch and I had several conversations with other friendly solo diners here. There is a little outdoor garden patio and they also offer veganized versions of Peru classics like anticuchos (cow’s heart) and ceviche.

Barranco – Puente de los Suspiros
This neighborhood is fun to just spend a few hours walking around. It is full of colorful house and classic architecture and the main square is very lively and “vintage Lima.” We started by grabbing a coffee and then wandering around for a while. The government buildings in this area are very beautiful.

Huaca Pucllana

Huaca Pucllana
These ruins are a must do! It’s a major pyramid and archaeological site nestled around high-rise buildings in the middle of the city – pretty wild. Unfortunately, the historical area used to be much bigger but was still being destroyed to make room for a modern city until the 1950s or 60s I believe. To visit the temple is relatively inexpensive. To walk around inside you have to go with a guide, but the groups leave every few minutes. I would plan to spend a few hours here and the guides are very willing to stop often for you to take photos.

JFK Square and Barbarian Brewery
This is a really busy area of Lima and has a lot of chain outposts: Pinkberry, Popeye’s, KFC, etc, – a little Times Square NYCish. There are also a lot of street vendors in the Parque Kennedy. Nearby is the Barbarian Brewery taphouse, which is tons of fun! When we were there it was PACKED and there was a pub quiz type game going on. They carry all of their specialty beers so while I had already tried the standards like the pale ale in another restaurant, I got to sample their pumpkin beer as well as the black & tan.

hand-drawn divider


I did not spend enough time here and I regret it! We had some time to walk around the main square (Plaza de Armas) and take photos and I had one of the best meals of my life at Green Point. The restaurant also offers vegan culinary classes at their cooking school and I so wish I had been able to take one!

I had vegan tacu tacu and it was heavenly. The menu describes it as “Another traditional Peruvian dish: refried beans and rice patties seasoned with Peruvian spices, accompanied with fried banana and mushrooms in a beer sauce, presented with an Andean herb vapour.” My friend had a delicious ravioli pasta I would have been really happy with as well. But the real event is their special grill!

Green Point restaurant

Tacu Tacu

Pumpkin soup

Ravioli from Green Point

In future I would try the Vegan Grill Platter for Two (Vegan chorizo, banana, skewers and vegetables marinated with Peruvian chillies and spices, all grilled and accompanied with rice, beans, fresh salad, sauerkraut, kimchi, smoky barbecue sauce and fresh tzatziki.) – we saw this come out on a sizzling plate and were in definite food envy! Important note: this restaurant is cash only, which was rare for me to experience in Peru, plan accordingly. Additionally, when we were leaving the manager came by to make sure we enjoyed our meal – I highly recommend this place!

Cristo Blanco, Peru’s version of Christ the Redeemer, located in the hills above Cusco

  • Reply
    February 10, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    You’ve given me some serious Peru vibes after reading your post. The country in general is somewhere I really want to visit, and Cusco just looks like the place to be in summer. Huaca Pucllana is somewhere I’d love to explore too. I’m not a vegan, but it’s impressive that vegan food is easily available there!

  • Reply
    February 10, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    I haven’t been to either of these locations. You had me convinced to visit Lima at ‘mango ceviche’. The deal was sealed by those gorgeous cliffs, the mosaic bench of Parque de Amor and architecture of Barranco. Would also like to see the Cristina Blanco in Cusco

  • Reply
    amar singh
    February 12, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    I must admit I do have this beautiful country on my bucket list but as I have young kids a bit hesitant to travel at this time. It seems beautiful and you have captured the visuals very well adding life to this post. Would start with Lima for sure and then follow on. A vegan grilled platter sounds interesting and great to know the option is available here. I would be using my photographic skills and capturing the beauty of the main square (Plaza de Armas) for sure. Thanks for sharing a unique destination.

  • Reply
    Yukti Agrawal
    February 12, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    I have always heard of Peru but never knew about Lima. Your photos of Lima really makes me interested for this place and it is good that you tipped us to book a ride previously from airport as it not much safe. The photo of boutique near Huaca Pucllana won me over as it looks very quirky place. I am totally sold out for that flatbread vegan pizza and good to know this place has vegetarian restaurants too. Being vegetarian, I am saving the name of Jardin de Jazmin. Thanks for sharing amazing place with so many detailed guide and tips on it.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    Peru is so high on our list. Would love to visit someday. Never thought Lima would be so beautiful and love that there are vegan restaurants. Govt buildings are also so beautiful and the view from the cliff is amazing too.

  • Reply
    Archana Singh
    February 14, 2020 at 7:32 am

    I have never been to Latin America but its super high on my travel list. Your post convinced me further to visit Lima. I mean how can you not fall in love with those gorgeous cliffs, the mosaic bench of Parque de Amor and architecture of Barranco. Have heard such great things about Cristina Blanco in Cusco. I would love to see that too.

  • Reply
    Medha Verma
    February 14, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    When I make it to Peru, which will be with the objective to visit Macchu Picchu, I will obviously also visit Lima and Cusco. Thanks for the heads up about Lima airport not being in a safe area, and the need to arrange for an Uber! Parque de Amor does remind me of Park Guell in Barcelona, which I loved visiting by the way. If only South America wasn’t so far from where I live, I’d have made it by now.

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