I love to wander. Finding new places to explore is an easy way to get to know a new place, practice language skills, find beautiful views or interesting curiosities, or just to escape from daily life for a while. Luckily, Lima feels like it was designed for such exploration. It’s an enormous city (in population and in area), and one that many people who come to Peru don’t give nearly enough time or attention.
Magdalena del Mar
Magdalena, as this barrio is known for short, is where I call home. I love the Malecon, a path along the ocean cliffs, and El Mercado, a crowded, smelly, colorful market located near the central park. The area, while still very urban and crowded and busy, feels more residential and less westernized than other parts of the city.
PUCP, or La catolica como se llama, is located in Pueblo Libre, a more inland-district. About the only thing I’ve explored in Pueblo Libre has been the restaurants near the university, but I find the commercialization of the malls and casinos on my bus ride very interesting.
Miraflores is in many ways what Magdalena is not: a downtown hub, westernized (McDonalds, Starbucks, Pinkberry, you name it) and touristy. However, it also is home to a fantastic tourist market and some incredibly beautiful parks (such as the Parque del Amor, pictured here). While I do get annoyed when I am spoken to in English or approached in the park by people overeager to speak with a gringa, I can’t go too long without visiting.
Peruvians tell me that Barranco is the ‘bohemian’ neighborhood of Lima, and I can understand why. The tranquil walk down to the beach under el Puente de Suspiros passes countless little cafes and restaurants. It’s not as crazy as other parts of Lima, except at night—people come from all over the city to salir in Barranco. One of my favorite spots is a small bar that has live music shows every night.
I’ve hardly actually set foot in Chorillos—when looking out from the cliffs of Miraflores, it’s the area to the south with the white cross, illuminated at night. One afternoon we took a boat ride from the dock in Chorrillos, and what little I could see from the ocean did seem a bit less commercialized, echoing what I’d heard that “Chorrillos is dangerous” (which coming from Peruvians, usually means ‘poor’).
I hopped on a bus to the seaside district of La Punta one day on impulse—a friend had mentioned the neighborhood was worth a visit, and I was curious to see the northern district of Callao. The district, meaning The Point, stretches into the bay to create a rather isolated feeling neighborhood where houses are colorful and the air is a little clearer.
I don’t think it’s truly its own neighborhood, but the central area of Lima has a certain energy that reminds me of the oldest parts of San Jose, Costa Rica and Guatemala City. The buildings are taller, streets are more narrow, and sense of history stronger around the Plaza de Armas and Catedral.
Huaycan is more of its own town/city than simply a district of Lima, and the fact that it is still considered part of Lima surprises me. I work with an NGO in Huaycan on Mondays and Fridays, and in the hour and a half it takes me to get there on a bus, I enter a different world. Suddenly it’s apparent that the coast of Peru is a giant desert. Suddenly the complexities of the social reality of Peru appear. Huaycan, called in Spanish a nueva ciudad, a new city, arose in the outskirts of Lima as waves of migrants from more rural areas lacked places to live. I’m thrilled to have found the opportunity, because I know I’ll learn montones about Lima and Peru by occupying both worlds.
There are officially 43 districts in Lima, and whether I’m able to visit them with friends, pass through on the bus, or even accidentally discover new treasures while getting lost, I’m hoping to continue to get to know as many as possible.
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