Although staying in Lima, going to classes, getting to know the city, and spending time with your friends who live here can be super fun and important, you’ll probably also want to use your time here to explore other parts of Peru. Unfortunately, trips outside of Lima can often be expensive, time consuming, or logistically challenging, given that it’s often necessary to fly if you’re going somewhere not on the coast. However, there are some excellent, fun, and cheap ways to spend your weekends exploring places out of the city. Check out these recommendations for the best affordable weekend trips from Lima.
Huacachina, Ica, and Paracas
Just a 4-hour bus ride south of Lima, the town of Ica is a good base to stay in to see the surrounding area. A bus ride to Ica with the bus company Cruz del Sur (a popular and safe company) is around 30-60 soles, so around $10- $20. When I went, I stayed in the Ica Adventures hostel, which cost around $10 per night for a bunk in a room with 16 people.
Once there, you can take a quick 5 soles taxi to Huacachina, a town built around a lagoon in the middle of the desert. You can spend the day wandering around, looking in the market stalls, dipping your feet in the lagoon, and climbing up the side of the sand dunes to watch the sunset. If you’re a fan of adventurous travel, you can also take one of the iconic dune buggy and sandboarding rides which take you up the sides of the epically tall sand dunes. To spend the day relaxing in Huacachina will cost you only 10 soles (around $3) for taxi ride to and from Ica, but to do the sand buggy tour it will cost you around 40 soles (or about $15).
The Paracas National Reserve, about an hour by car from Ica, is also a wonderful place to spend the day. You can take a boat tour in the morning to view the famous Islas Ballestas filled with caves, places for birds to nest, and a beach with sea lions. You’ll also be able to catch a glimpse of one of the famous Nasca line drawings, the candelabra, as you take the boat to the islands. This is the only way to view the lines without taking a costly flight over the desert. Later, you can spend the remaining part of the day relaxing at one of the gorgeous beaches, catch a view of the famous red sand beach, and eat some delicious ceviche or arroz con mariscos at a seaside restaurant. An all-inclusive day tour of Paracas is around 150 soles or around $50.
Because there’s so much to see in this area and the bus ride is so long, I’d recommend taking this trip during a long weekend when you have Fridays off, or a regular week if you choose not to take classes at the university on Fridays.
For fellow archaeology lovers or anyone who’s interested in spending some time in ancient ruins, Pachacamac is an excellent day trip for a free weekend in Lima. This was an important spiritual and religious center for the Lima culture, a pre-Inca civilization that lived in the city of Lima. While there, you’ll have the chance to walk all through the ruins, look at the different pyramids, spiritual, and religious buildings, and climb the main temple. With your admission ticket, you can also enter the museum where you can learn more about the Lima culture and look at all the fascinating artifacts archaeologists unearthed during excavation.
Combis from Miraflores to Pachacamac are around 2.50 soles, or you can get there faster in a 30 sol, or $10 taxi. Once there, the archaeological site costs only 5 soles (a little less than $2) to enter with your student ID from PUCP.
For those who would like to enjoy a jungle adventure during one of your long weekends, Oxapampa is the place for you. A 10-hour bus ride from Lima will take you to this old colonial town in the middle of the mountainous amazon rainforest. Once there, you can do any of the numerous hikes in the natural reserve, Parque Nacional Yanachanga-Chemillen, and get your fill of jungle life. Each tour is around 5 soles (less than $2). You can also explore the town, get your fill of the beautiful old colonial buildings, drink plenty of coffee in the cafes in the town center, or enjoy some cave exploring and stalagmite viewing while taking a trip through the Tunqui Cueva.
Airbnbs in the town are relatively cheap, going for $10 per night for a two-person Airbnb. To get to Oxapampa, take a bus with Movil Tours or Cruz del Sur, both good and safe bus companies, for around 60 soles each way (or $20 per ticket).
The beaches in the city of Lima are great for when you don’t feel like going too far but can get a bit crowded especially when the temperature warms up. Punta Hermosa, about an hour drive outside of the city, is a wonderful place to go for a relaxing day at a relatively quiet and beautiful white sand beach. Beaches are the biggest attraction here, so be sure to bring your swimsuit and a towel to spend your time enjoying relaxing on the beautifully clean white sand or going for a swim in the water. Surfing is also very popular at Punta Hermosa. Make sure to leave enough time to have lunch at one of the seaside restaurants, which specialize in seafood like ceviche and arroz con mariscos. The best way to go is in taxi, which costs about 40 soles each way (between $10-$15).
Coming to Peru, I knew I wanted to be able to explore more than just Lima, but when I arrived found that travel outside the city could be more complex and expensive than I was expecting. I´m very glad to have found ways to travel within my budget, and I hope you will too!
Kate Iida was a history major at Barnard College and studied abroad with IFSA at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Lima in Spring 2018. She served as an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-to-Study program.