4 must-experience weekend trips from Lima
If you crave a hike in the mountains, learning about Peru’s history or hanging out with wildlife, you have lots of options when taking a weekend trip from Lima.
Lima’s cuisine, historic downtown, and oceanside cliffs will no doubt leave you in awe. But its traffic and cloudy weather (unless you’re lucky enough to visit during the summer) will likely make you want to explore outside its city limits. And that’s something to be thankful for—there are several weekend trip destinations near Lima.
I lived in Lima for two years and did my fair share of traveling. So, I’ll walk you through some of the best weekend trips from Lima. You just might find yourself staying a few extra weeks so you can visit them all!
First things first: Setting your travel expectations
If you’ve already spent some time in Lima, you know that traveling from one side of the city to the other can feel like a weekend trip in and of itself. Lima’s traffic is often at a standstill even during “off” hours, and let’s not even talk about if there’s an accident backing things up.
So, my advice when planning your weekend trip is to allow wiggle room for travel time. When you’re looking at the bus schedule or arranging a pickup time with your private driver, err on the side of an earlier departure. That way, you’ll get to spend more time at your destination.
1. Hang out with penguins in Paracas
If you’re looking for easy weekend trips from Lima, Paracas is arguably your best choice. The bus ride from Lima to Paracas takes around four hours, and going by private car can shave off as much as an hour, depending on where you’re traveling from in Lima.
Once you’re in Paracas, you’ll get to enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean with a desert landscape as a backdrop. The biggest attraction in Paracas is taking a boat ride to the Ballestas Islands, where you might spot sea lions, Peruvian boobies, penguins, and hundreds of other birds.
As a word of caution, your nostrils might suffer as you approach the Ballestas Islands. With so many birds around, guano is abundant. However, that’s good news for locals who continue to follow in the footsteps of their Inca ancestors by using the bird droppings as fertilizer.
2. Take a winery tour in Ica
With a neighbor like Chile, Peru has tough competition in the wine department. But if you head about five hours south of Lima, you’ll encounter such a beautiful wine country that’ll give the Chilean cabernet a run for its money.
Wine aside, Ica is home to the Huacachina oasis. That’s right—if walking along a desert oasis is on your bucket list, Ica will help you check it off. Adventure lovers will also be happy to know that you can take a thrilling dune buggy ride near the oasis and have a go at sandboarding.
If you choose to make Ica one of your weekend getaways from Lima, consider going by bus so you can relax and enjoy the scenery (sit on the passenger side for ocean views on your way there). Several bus companies serve the Lima to Ica route, and with the option for 180-degree reclining seats, it’s a comfy ride.
3. Fly over the Nazca Lines in Nazca
The Nazca Lines is a world-renowned site with twice as many theories about the purpose of these geoglyphs as there are lines in the soil. People who embark on the approximately 8-hour trip from Lima to Nazca are rewarded with few tourists and two options for viewing the lines.
Taking a flight over the Nazca Lines is the most popular way to see them. The flight (which also departs from the Pisco airport near Paracas) offers you the chance to admire several geoglyphs as it twists and turns to get you the best view.
If you feel queasy at the thought of a puddle jumper jostling you around, the Nazca Lines tower is an alternative option. By climbing 42 feet to the top, you’ll get views of the Hands and Tree geoglyphs. You can also see the Lizard, although the Panamericana Sur Highway cuts through its tail.
4. Gear up for a hike in Huaraz
If you’re seeking long weekend trip options close to Lima and love to hike, look no further than Huaraz. Like Nazca, traveling by bus from Lima to Huaraz takes around eight hours. Unlike Nazca, you’ll need to acclimate to Huaraz’s over 3,000-meter elevation before partaking in its iconic activity—a trek to Laguna 69.
The hike takes around three hours one-way with an increase of 800 meters in elevation. Even if the fitness buff in you doesn’t need to take many breaks, you’ll be hard-pressed not to stop and soak in the breathtaking views of the Cordillera Blanca.
Upon your arrival at Laguna 69, a beautiful lagoon with icy blue water will greet you. If you opt to hike independently, you’ll have the advantage of waiting for tour groups to pass through so you can have the lagoon more to yourself.
Keeping it local
Weekend trips to Miraflores from Lima aren’t really a thing. But if the thought of spending a half-day or more on the road to begin a weekend trip makes you weary, you’ll be glad to know that you can travel from downtown Lima to Miraflores in about an hour.
There, you can watch paragliders over the ocean from Parque del Amor or book a paragliding tour for yourself. Don’t miss the chance to sit with Parque Kennedy’s beloved stray cats. And if you fall in love with one or more, you can adopt through the NGO that cares for them.
Alternatively, if you’re staying in Miraflores, you can spend a weekend day exploring downtown Lima. This UNESCO World Heritage area teems with history. I recommend starting your visit with a trip to the Plaza Mayor (main square). Make sure to also visit the catacombs at the San Francisco church and Parque de la Reserva, which has the world’s largest water fountain complex.
No matter where you choose to spend your weekend, these destinations are bound to give you a deeper appreciation of Peru.