Running north from Antarctica along the coast of Peru, the Humbolt Current serves as a highway for a variety of marine wildlife. As a result, the Palomino Islands have become a permanent rest stop for colonies of birds, sea lions and Humbolt penguins. For an up-close look, book a boat tour from the port of Callao, but pack the motion sickness meds.
Thought to be a ceremonial and administrative center for a pre-Incan civilization, the ruins of Huaca Pucllana lay in the middle of the modern and thriving suburb of Miraflores. A small museum and guided tours offer an informative glimpse into early Peruvian history and the rituals of daily life. After dark, the lighted ruins provide a unique backdrop for dinner at the Huaca Pucllana Restaurant.
With its collection of impressive monuments and architecture, Lima's historic city center preserves its original urban design laid out in 1535, when Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro established the "City of Kings" atop an already centuries-old pre-Columbian settlement. The UNESCO designation recognizes Lima's historical value in the context of the great wealth achieved in the New World during the colonial era.
Want to see some serious sex pots? Check out the gallery of erotic pottery at the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera in Pueblo Libre. The 1,300-year-old artifacts produced by the ancient Moche civilization are so blush-worthy, arriving Spanish colonists smashed ones they found. The collection represents only a small portion of all the pre-Columbian relics in the museum holdings, which also includes gold and silver adornments and tools used in human sacrifices.
Best Day Trip
Surrounded by towering sand dunes, the tiny oasis town of Huacachina is big on adventure. On a day trip from Lima, you can sail down the slopes on a sand board or defy gravity while popping over the peaks in a dune buggy. Even if you're not interested in the adrenaline rush, South America's only desert oasis is worth seeing in person just to know a place like this exists.
Off the Beaten Path
Some of Lima's oldest operating seafood stalls can be found at El Mercado Pesquero Artesanal at Fisherman's Pier in the seaside district of Chorillos. Not only will you find reasonable prices on the catch of the day, you can even hire a local fisherman to take you on a fishing excursion from the terminal.
Most Iconic Experience
For those short on time, The Lima Gourmet Company helps visitors uncover the culinary delights of Peru while getting to know the capital city. Tours, which include hands-on experiences in making ceviche and pisco sours, last about five hours or until the last drop of tiger's milk or a mixed drink are sipped.
One block from Lima's Plaza Mayor, the Convento de San Francisco is noted for its architecture and collection of antique texts, some of which pre-date the Spanish conquest of the Peru. However, the macabre collection of skulls and bones arranged into geometric patterns in the underground catacombs draws the most attention.
Neighborhood to Explore
The oceanfront neighborhood of Barranco has gone from dodgy to design forward in the past two decades. The boho-chic district is filled with galleries, boutique hotels and organic eateries and coffee shops occupying colorful, 19th-century colonial mansions. Hit the streets to uncover colorful murals by local street artists or duck into MATE, the Mario Testino Museum that features photography by the celebrity photographer and Peruvian native.
Around sunset, Miraflores' oceanfront boardwalk springs to life with joggers, rollerbladers, cyclists and gawking tourists, who revel in the view of the towering cliffs along the twists and turns of the Costa Verde. Stop to watch paragliders floating above the steep cliffs or lovers locked in an embrace that mimick the iconic larger-than-life statue called "The Kiss" in the Parque del Amor.