Many people will tell you Lima is not worth visiting, and suggest you should spend at most two nights there to recover from your long flight before moving on to more interesting places in Peru. I disagree with them – in fact, I find Lima to be one of the most interesting, fascinating cities in South America, and definitely worth more than a quick visit. Not to mention, you can go on many day trips from Lima: the Peruvian capital is an excellent base to explore both popular tourist destinations, and lesser known places too.
Curious to discover what places you can visit on day trips from Lima? Continue reading – I have selected some truly famous ones, and some you may have never heard of!
16 Fantastic Day Trips From Lima
Situated around 187 kilometers (116 miles) to the south of Lima you’ll find Lunahuana. This small town is set picturesquely amidst a mountain valley, alongside the Cañete River. Lunahuana is something of a destination for adventure sports enthusiasts thanks to the rapids to be found in the river here.
However, it’s not all about the adrenaline rush. The surrounding region is well known for its wine and pisco production, so you could opt to visit Lunahuana on a tour of local wineries and vineyards. Alternatively, you could simply hit up a local bar to see what’s on offer.
To the west of town, the Incahuasi ruins can be found. This former Inca palace is an important monument in the region, and was once the military headquarters of the 10th Inca king, Tupac Yupanqui. It dates from around 1438.
Cerro San Cristobal
Close to Lima you’ll find Cerro San Cristobal – the perfect excursion if you don’t have a lot of time. Located northeast of the Peruvian capital, this 409-meter-high (that’s 1341 feet) hill is a well-known mirador (viewpoint) that boasts wide, panoramic views of the city and further afield.
The large hill can be hiked up, and this is the best way to reach it. Once you’re at the top you’ll be rewarded with some truly amazing views. On a clear day, you can see the Pacific Ocean. Another point of interest here is an enormous cross that was built here in 1928.
You can see this from the city at night, as it’s illuminated; it’s also a place of pilgrimage during Semana Santa. There’s a museum atop the hill that’s free to enter, too.
For a tour that goes to Cerro San Cristobal, click here.
Lomas de Lucumo
If you’re looking for a little bit of nature, then Lomas de Lucumo (translating to “Hills of Lucumo”) is one of the best day trips from Lima. Traveling just 34 kilometers (little over 21 miles) from the capital will get you into this area of natural beauty.
Once you’re there, you can opt to hire a guide who can show you some of the highlights and wildlife in the area (alternatively you could book a tour for this from Lima). You could also just go it alone on one of the marked trails through the green hills themselves. These run anywhere between short 30-minute trails to longer hikes that take three hours.
To get there from the city, it takes just over an hour by car.
Pucusana is a peaceful fishing village that makes for the perfect antidote to the busy, bustling city of Lima. The village itself is located around 50 kilometers (31 miles) to the south of the capital and is set around a natural harbor where boats bob in the water, and restaurants line up around the shore.
In short, Pucusana is pretty. This picture-perfect location is great for seafood, particularly ceviche – a dish native to Peru that consists of raw fish cured with citrus. Not only that, but there are some good beaches in the area where you can join the locals in sunning themselves and soaking up the natural landscape.
In fact, here you’ll find one of the closest beaches to Lima. If lying on the beach isn’t your thing, you could also opt to take a boat tour or do a spot of jet-skiing. However, as this is a working fishing village, one of the most fascinating things here is simply sitting and watching the fisherman bring in their daily catch.
The center for sandboarding in Peru, Huacachina is known the world over for its dunes. As well as this, the central oasis and sweeping desert scenery make it something of an Instagram-lovers’ playground.
Situated just to the west of the city of Ica, the small village of Huacachina is surrounded by undulating sand dunes with a green lagoon at its center.
Dune buggies are a popular way to tumble around the dunes, as well as sandboarding and sand-skiing. There are many shops and schools located in the area where you can get equipment, as well as many bars and cafes, too.
If this is on your Peru bucket list, then you’ll have to plan your day – it takes around four hours to get here from Lima, so you’ll have to leave early in the morning to really make the most of it. Alternatively, you could opt to spend the night at one of the many accommodation options here.
Check out my post A Guide To Huacachina Sandboarding, Peru.
Paracas National Reserve and the Islas Ballestas
Paracas is a National Reserve with both a desert and a marine ecosystem, and together with the Islas Ballestas (known as the Galapagos of Peru) it is one of the best day trips from Lima. Paracas Peninsula is around 240 kilometers (about 150 miles) from Lima and Paracas National Reserve is a UNESCO site thanks to its diversity.
The Ballestas Islands are home to a wide variety of animal species which include seals, sea lions, penguins, cormorants and dolphins. Depending on the season, whales are also spotted there.
You can visit Paracas and the Islas Ballestas on their own, and even add Huacachina to the experience for a bonus.
This is one of the most popular day trips from Lima. If you can’t make it all the way to Islas Ballestas, the Islas Palominos is the perfect fill-in. This small group of islands is situated close to Lima, near the port town of Callao, and is primarily known for its population of seabirds and sea-lions.
Much like the Islas Ballestas, the Islas Palominos make up part of Peru’s historic guano industry, whereby the bird droppings on the island were harvested for use in various products – gunpowder being one of them.
Today, with guano not so much in use anymore, the islands are more about being admired from afar. You can take a boat tour to get up close to the island group, watching the various bird species here and perhaps getting a glimpse of some sealions lazing around on the rocks. You’ll also be able to catch sight of an old lighthouse – the highest point of the Islas Palominos.
You will need a tour to visit. You can book your tour to the Palomino Islands here.
Chancay is a coastal town with a twist. Not only is this small city endowed with seafood restaurants and stretches of dramatic coastline – but it’s also here, between 1000 and 1470 (roughly) that the Chancay culture once thrived.
The city is located 78 kilometers (48.5 miles) north of Lima and takes around an hour and half to reach by car. Alternatively, you could opt to catch a bus that passes through Chancay on its way to Huacho.
Once you’re in Chancay, you’ll have a number of tourist sites at your disposal. The main one is Castillo de Chancay – a mock-castle built in the 1920s by the wealthy daughter of a national viceroy. It looks rather impressive on its hillside location, with a medieval aesthetic that looks both kitsch and oddly fitting all at once.
There’s also a museum at the “castle” that hosts displays of Chancay culture artefacts and art, as well as mummies.
For a little more wildlife, head over to Lomas de Lache (around 20 minutes to the north) – these hills are home to a host of hikes for natural wildlife watching and getting a breath of fresh air.
Caral is the place to go for some truly ancient wonder in Peru. This archaeological site pre-dates the Inca Empire by thousands of years. In fact, Caral is estimated to have been founded in 2600 BC, putting it roughly contemporary with the building of the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
This makes Caral’s own stepped pyramids among the oldest buildings in the whole Americas.
Its location, around 180 kilometers (about 112 miles) north of Lima, may not make it a quick day trip from the capital, but it’s well worth the effort. The settlement is oddly devoid of crowds, probably because it’s quite remote, and excavation is still ongoing.
This was once a lively metropolis, made up of homes, plazas, temples and even an amphitheater. Musical instruments have been uncovered among the artifacts here, with a lack of weapons suggesting a relatively peaceful society. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For guided day trips from lima to Caral, click here.
Callao & La Punta
The suburb of Callao may not have been up there on most people’s Lima itineraries in the past: most people are only here for the international airport. However, in recent years the area has seen a variety of community-based projects that has given the neighborhood a much-needed boost.
Among the places to see in Callao are Peru’s Naval Museum, where you can learn about the country’s military history – the murals and art galleries along Monumental Callao; and the portside area, where you can take boat trips (such as to Palomino Islands, as I mentioned earlier).
It only takes around 45 minutes by car to reach Callao from central Lima. Due to its proximity, it’s also easy to reach by bus, too – this method takes around 40 minutes. If you’d rather join a guided tour, click here.
Cieneguilla is a slice of peaceful desert countryside around an hour and a half’s drive from Lima. This relaxing spot is a popular destination for local families and friends to spend days off and weekends together – there’s picnicking to be done in outdoor seating areas, and restaurants for long meals.
For something a little bit more historic, make sure to visit the 15th-century administrative center of Huaycán de Cieneguilla – complete with wall friezes and architectural similarities with Machu Picchu.
Pachacamac is a pre-Colombian site that dates back to 200 AD. It is thought to have been a pilgrimage site for many cultures in Peru, and takes its name from the creator god, Pacha Kamaq.
The ruin of Pachacamac is situated in the coastal desert of the Lurin Valley. However, because of its remote location, it was left to the elements and also suffered from looting and vandalism over the years.
Many incredible temples, plazas and pyramids have been unearthed at Pachacamac, with hints to what ancient life may have been like thanks to the many artifacts that have been found here. It is best explored with a guide, who will be able to offer up an enriching insight into this ancient site. All of this historic wonder is just an hour by car from Lima.
You can book your day trip to Pachacamac here.
Nazca is worth more than a mere day trip from Lima, but if a day is all you have and you don’t know how else to fit it in your itinerary, you will be glad to know that there are day trips from Lima to Nazca that include flights over the Nazca Lines.
It’s a full day of traveling – you will be out of town for 17 hours or more! Most tours will also stop at Islas Ballestas and Paracas Nature Reserve; whereas some go to Huacachina before stopping at the Nazca Lines.
If you decide to devote Nazca more time, you can visit nearby sites such as the Cantalloc Aqueducts, Cahuachi Pyramids and Chauchilla Cemetery.
As far as a day trip from Lima goes, Santa Eulalia offers up a little bit of everything. You will find this picturesque destination around a two-hour drive from the capital, specifically in the district of Huarochiri.
Santa Eulalia is an ideal spot for chilling out in nature and exploring the great outdoors. There are hills to wander among, and creeks lace the area. It’s also a spot for adventure spots, with bungee jumping, rock climbing and mountain biking all being a possibility here.
There is also a long network of trails that take you to various viewpoints along the Santa Eulalia River. From these you may be able to catch a glimpse of Andean condors soaring above.
Around an hour and a half from Lima, the town of Chosica is usually a place of transit for travelers in Peru. But there is more to this place than simply being a spot to change buses. For one thing, this mountain town is picturesque, with a backdrop of dusky peaks.
Its central plaza is also a hub of activity, with an array of food stalls and other vendors that help the place keep up a constant festive atmosphere. Not only that, but the surrounding mountains offer up a chance to get out into nature – that’s best done the nearby stone forest of Marcahuasi (more about that in a bit).
To get to Chosica, you just have to take a colectivo headed there. Depending on where you are and on traffic, it can take up to one hour.
This stunning stone forest is set high up on the Andean Plateau, around 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Lima. The proximity to Lima makes it a good place to hit up on a day trip from the Peruvian capital – provided you can arrange transportation.
Marcahuasi itself is stunning. The strangely shaped twisting rocks that dot the landscape here have been known for their uncanny formations – there are some shaped like animals, or people’s faces, and religious symbols, too. Theories as to their origins abound – some theorize they were carved by past civilizations, for example.
The truth is probably that they are the result of thousands of years of weather and erosion, turning this rocky plateau into an otherworldly landscape.
Nearby, however, there are some ruins – these are situated on the north side of the plateau, and consist of a number of doorways, burial tombs, and other structures.
If you want to visit Marcahuasi, you need to be prepared for the change in both altitude and temperature: it’s located around 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level!
Unless you have your own private means of transport (ie a car or a guided tour), it’s virtually impossible to visit Marcahuasi on a day trip (trust me, I have tried), because public transport is sporadic and with the road in bad conditions and having to change in Chosica it can take up to 5 hours to get to San Pedro de Casta, where the trail to Marcahuasi starts.You can book your day trip to Marcahuasi from Lima here.
Check out my post A Complete Guide To Hiking Marcahuasi.