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Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Lima, Peru
January 16, 2012 / 3:21 PM / in 6 years

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Lima, Peru

<p>People swim at the Agua Dulce beach in Lima March 11, 2011. REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil</p>

(Reuters) - Got 48 hours to explore Lima? Long considered just a stopover on the way to the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, Lima has emerged as a destination spot of its own in recent years.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a weekend visit in the Peruvian capital:

FRIDAY

4 p.m. - No time to lose. Get in touch with Lima’s humble roots by going to the market in Chorrillos, where you can buy fish fresh off the boat. Meander around the wharf, which looks delightfully out of place in the middle of a major city.

6 p.m. - Grab a coffee at Cafe Haiti (160 Avenida Diagonal, Miraflores), a cool cafe that overlooks Kennedy Park, smack in the centre of Miraflores madness. People watch as you sip your drink and ponder the cafe’s slogan, printed on purple coasters: “Business and Love.” Wander the side streets to look for little houses pulled straight from the nostalgic novels of Mario Vargas Llosa.

8 p.m. - Take advantage of Lima’s gastronomic renaissance by dining at one of the city’s finest restaurants -- Cala, a sophisticated seaside joint with great views of the water (Circuito de playas Costa Verde, Playa Barranquito, Barranco). It’s sleek, trendy, but not in-your-face about its coolness. The menu is contemporary, specializing in seafood and fish.

SATURDAY

9 a.m. - Rise and shine. For breakfast, pop into Las Delicias juice bar and order a drink made from one of the exotic, tropical fruits typical of the region (across the street from La Mar 770, Miraflores). Granadilla and lucuma, which locals say only grows in Peru, are classics.

11 a.m. - Grab a taxi and head downtown. Get out at Plaza Mayor and watch the changing of the guard, a bizarrely formal affair with marching toy-like soldiers. Push past the requisite horde of tennis-shoed tourists and pop your head in at the Cathedral of Lima, where Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro is said to have laid the first stone.

1 p.m. - Walk to the San Francisco Church, known for its catacombs. Take a tour to go underground and see the dry bones and skulls of some 70,000 people, arranged in artistic circles.

3 p.m. - Head to the Museum of the Inquisition to learn about torture techniques. Waterboarding, which has come under attack in the United States, was a common practice at the time, especially for women, as it was considered a “kinder” way to extract information. The wax-like, human-size models leave little to the imagination.

5 p.m. - Time to relax. Head to Hotel Bolivar, the elegant, blue-velvet hotel that reigns over Plaza San Martin (Jiron de la Union 958; <www.granhotelbolivarperu.com/>). Try Peru's national drink -- the pisco sour, a frothy, egg, brandy concoction that packs a serious punch, but goes down smooth.

8 p.m. - For dinner, head to Astrid y Gaston, the flagship restaurant of Chef Gaston Acurio (Calle Cantuarias 175, Miraflores; <www.astridygaston.com>). The food is excellent and Gaston is something of a celebrity, famous for turning foodies onto the gamut of Peruvian cuisine.

11 p.m. - Don't turn in. Go dancing! Head to El Dragon (Nicolas de Pierola 168, Barranco), a hip fusion club that attracts a young crowd. Or, slide on your fancy shoes and mix with the beautiful people at Gotica, an upscale club in LarcoMar, the seaside mall in Miraflores (Malecon de la Reserva 610, Miraflores; <www.gotica.com.pe/>).

SUNDAY

6 a.m. - Surf’s up! If you are an energetic early bird, stroll down the cobblestone walkway of the Bajada Balta to the beach. Rent a surfboard and wetsuit to insulate yourself from the chilly Pacific Ocean. Brave the consistently good waves that offer some of the best surfing of any big city. Ignore the people who say the water is polluted.

10 a.m. - Late risers can greet the morning by going for a leisurely walk along the ocean-front parks in Miraflores, perched atop steep cliffs. Alternatively, if you want a truly bird‘s-eye view, hop on a paragliding tandem flight. Pass through “Love Park” where couples of all ages gather to cuddle and coo like teenagers.

Noon - Political buffs should hop over to the National Museum to check out the display on the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas who destabilized the country in the 1980s and 1990s before the rise of the autocratic President Alberto Fujimori, who now stands trial on charges of human rights abuses.

1 p.m. - A trip to Peru is not complete without trying ceviche, a classic seafood dish, originally eaten by the Incans, served with a spicy citrus sauce that both gives the fish flavour and “cooks” it. Try the unassuming but tasty Punto Azul (Benavides 2711, Miraflores).

2 p.m. - Time to shop. Head to the arts and crafts market in Miraflores to burn whatever might be left of your soles, Peru’s currency. Spend time poking around the maze of small stalls to find the handicrafts you want to take home.

4 p.m. - Though you might not have time to visit the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu in southwest Peru or any of the other archaeological wonders that line the coast, the ruins at Huaca Pucllana are just a stone's throw from downtown Lima. Explore ongoing excavations and the zoo. Finally, relax and take in the sunset with your cocktail at the striking on-site restaurant (Arequipa 4698, Miraflores; <www.resthuacapucllana.com>)

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