15 Best Day Trips from Lima

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Both the Peruvian capital and the nation’s biggest city, Lima offers a wealth of awesome new experiences.

A former Spanish colonial city, Lima has a long and vibrant history that is reflected in the many churches, monasteries, convents, and cloisters.

Modern shopping areas and slum districts provide striking contrasts, and you’ll find lush green parks, elegant squares, fascinating museums, stunning palaces, and more to explore.

Want to relax on sandy shores? The beach is within easy reach too.

When it comes to food, Lima is the ultimate destination in Peru for foodies, with menus offering bounties from the sea and ingredients sourced from the soaring mountains and the Amazon region.

A lively night scene keeps the fun going long after the sun has set.

There are many fascinating and diverse destinations close to hand too, letting you enjoy more of Peru with minimal effort.

Get out and experience more of the country with a range of fabulous day trips.

1. Caral

Caral, PeruSource: marktucan / shutterstock

Located 120 miles from Lima, the UNESCO-listed ancient settlement at Caral stretches across a terrace that overlooks the baked landscapes of the Supe Valley.

One of the oldest archeological sites in the Americas, early inhabitants date back to around 2,600 BC. The impressive ruins remained forgotten and hidden for many years, found again in the late 1940’s.

It is only over fairly recent years that the true extent of the site has been discovered, with huge stepped pyramids, many temples, and sunken courtyards.

Visitors can also marvel at a range of ancient artifacts, including musical instruments fashioned from animal bones, geoglyphs, and jewelry.

Recommended tour: Caral: Full-Day Private Excursion from Lima

2. Nazca Desert

Nazca LinesSource: Robert CHG / shutterstock
Nazca Lines

Board a small Cessna aircraft to soar above the spectacular Nazca Lines in the Nazca Desert of southern Peru.

Protected by UNESCO, the arid terrain is crossed by many gigantic lines and geometric designs, created almost 2,000 years ago by painstakingly moving the top layer of pebbly earth to reveal a lighter colored surface below.

The designs of creatures and objects are often of even greater interest to many travelers, with figures that resemble a huge whale, tree, hands, monkey, astronaut, spider, and various types of bird.

Mysteries still surround the desert, with scholars, historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, researchers, and scientists still unsure as to why the ancient people dramatically altered the dry landscapes in this way.

Fly over the Nazca lines: Full-Day All-Inclusive Nazca Lines Tour from Lima

3. Palomino Islands

Palomino Islands, PeruSource: Lisa Strachan / shutterstock
Palomino Islands

Lying off the coast of Lima’s district of Callao, the Palomino group of islands is a top place for adventure-loving travelers.

The area was once home to fearsome pirates, convicts, seafaring folk, and soldiers, and the boat ride to reach the islands passes through waters that are today littered with shipwrecks.

You’ll also be able to spot the remains of an old offshore prison as small fishing boats bob on the waves.

Various bird species inhabit the rocky islands and waters, and you might even catch a glimpse of the cute Humboldt penguin; keen ornithologists will certainly be delighted.

A highlight for many visitors, however, is the opportunity to frolic in the sea with graceful and inquisitive sea lions.

4. Huacachina

Huacachina, PeruSource: Diego Grandi / shutterstock

Huacachina is a small village close to the city of Ica.

Although the village has around just 100 permanent inhabitants, thousands and thousands of people visit the area every year.

Join a day trip from Lima to marvel at the sparkling oasis and feast your eyes on the huge rolling sand dunes.

The water in the natural lagoon is believed to have healing properties.

As well as being photogenic and unusual, the area offers chances for adventure too, with thrilling sand boarding and bumpy rides in dune buggies.

The rural surroundings offer fascinating insights into local life too.

Available tour: Full-Day Ica and Huacachina Sand Dunes Tour from Lima

5. Ballestas Islands

Ballestas IslandsSource: francesco de marco / shutterstock
Ballestas Islands

A fantastic trip for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, the Ballestas Islands are sometimes referred to as the Galapagos of Peru.

Situated close to Paracas on Peru’s southern coast, the craggy islands are home to a wide assortment of bird life, including Humboldt penguins, blue-footed boobies, tendrils, pelicans, terns, and cormorants.

Seals and sea lions are among the islands’ larger mammals.

You’ll also spot an unusual candelabra-like geoglyph etched into the large rock face, thought to be a signal for sailors from times gone by.

Suggested tour: From Lima: Paracas Reserve & Ballestas Islands Full-Day Tour

6. Lunahuana

LunahuanaSource: Ammit Jack / shutterstock

Reaching Lunahuana takes around three hours from Lima, but the thrilling activities and cool sights make the journey to Cañete Province more than worthwhile.

The gushing Cañete River is a top place for exhilarating rafting, and you can take to the skies with a canopy walk across the river.

The village of Lunahuana has charming streets that are brimming with craft stalls and small bars where you can indulge in a glass of Pisco and delicious seafood.

Major local attractions include the colonial-era church and bustling town square.

Available tour: From Lima: Full-Day Lunahuana Adventure Tour

7. Paracas

Paracas, PeruSource: Elzbieta Sekowska / shutterstock

Whether you’re seeking sunny beaches, nature, or adventure, Paracas is a top excursion to take from Lima.

Nestled among arid hills, the town provides easy access to the wildlife-rich Paracas National Reserve.

Home to more than 200 species of birds – including condors, flamingos, and pelicans – almost 200 types of fish, and diverse plant life, larger creatures that call the park area home include marine cats, dolphins, sea lions, and Humboldt penguins.

There are archaeological sites throughout the beautiful reserve and plenty of opportunities to relax on sublime beaches before sinking your teeth into delectable seafood in a beachfront restaurant.

Suggested tour: From Lima: Paracas Reserve & Ballestas Islands Full-Day Tour

8. Ica

Ica City, PeruSource: Bogdan Skaskiv / shutterstock
Ica City, Peru

A bustling city along Peru’s coast, Ica is especially known for its wine production.

Pop into one of the many wineries and vineyards to learn more about the local wine-making industry and sample locally produced drinks, including the country’s national beverage of Pisco.

The mysterious Museo de Piedras Grabadas, with its numerous engraved stone tablets, is one of the city’s more curious attractions.

Other places of interest include the Regional Museum of Ica, the town square, the scenic boardwalk, and the Cathedral of Ica.

9. Catapalla

Catapalla, PeruSource: pc.able / Flickr

The small settlement of Catapalla is just a few miles from Lunahuana; it’s easy to combine the two destinations for a varied and action-packed day trip from the capital.

Wine-lovers should head to the main square to visit the oldest artisanal winery in the valley.

A suspension bridge hangs over the raging rapids and there are several cute restaurants where you can enjoy a bite to eat.

10. Pachacamac

PachacamacSource: Wollertz / shutterstock

Around an hour’s drive from Lima, Pachacamac is home to a large and fairly well-preserved ruined settlement.

There’s evidence that people lived here as far back as the second century and their legacy lives on in the diverse temples, graveyards, and pyramids.

Sadly, the site was ransacked by Spanish invaders in the 1530’s, though local priests made sure to hide all the gold and treasures before the Spanish arrived; the whereabouts of the valuables remains a secret even to today.

Hiring a guide is highly recommended to fully help you to understand the significance of the site.

Guided tour: Half-Day Pachacamac and Barranco Tour from Lima

11. Pucusana

PucusanaSource: Marisa Estivill / shutterstock

The charming fishing village of Pucusana makes a pleasant change to the hustle and bustle of Lima.

Although many locals love the seaside village’s charms, it sees few foreign visitors.

You can enjoy a slower pace of life and the feeling that you’ve stumbled across a peaceful hidden gem.

The harbor is scenic; there are beaches where you can swim and sunbathe, and there are interesting rock formations to admire.

Local restaurants serve fresh and tasty seafood and you can immerse yourself in the lifestyle in a traditional Peruvian fishing community.

12. Huancayo

Huancayo, PeruSource: ethylalkohol / shutterstock

Situated in Peru’s central highlands, Huancayo is the capital of the Junin Region.

Named after the first group to live in the area, the Huancas, the area has been settled since around 500 BC. It was later taken over by the Incas and then the Spanish.

Today, the area is known as the country’s social and commercial center.

Modern buildings sit alongside colonial-era structures and it’s a good base to explore the highlands from.

Local attractions include the statue of the Virgin de la Mercedes, Identity Park, the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, the sandstone needles of Torre Torre, and Constitution Square, and there are plenty of attractive parks, churches, craft shops, and markets to enjoy.

Hop a flight to maximize your day in the city.

13. Chosica

ChosicaSource: inyucho / Flickr

Chosica is a charming mountain town within one and a half hours from Lima.

There are hiking trails close to hand, letting you get out and about in the great outdoors, and the stone forest of Marcahuasi fires up the imagination and arouses curiosity.

The main square is a hive of activity come evening, with games, rides, street food, and fun galore.

14. Punta Negra

Punta Negra, PeruSource: Christian Vinces / shutterstock
Punta Negra Beach

Although Punta Negra is a district of Lima Province, it still lies around an hour away from the heart of the capital city.

A fantastic destination for beach lovers, you can bask on gorgeous sands, swim in the refreshing waters of the sea, and try to harness the waves with a spot of surfing.

The area’s best beaches include El Puerto, Peñascal Beach, La Pocita, Santa Rosa, and La Bikini.

A number of top social clubs have branches here, providing top-notch entertainment, leisure, and relaxation options.

15. San Mateo

San Mateo, PeruSource: sergejf / Wikimedia
San Mateo, Peru

The thought of a four-and-a-half-hour bus ride may not seem like much fun, but with an early start, (and naps on the bus) San Mateo is a great day-trip destination from Lima.

Gaze in awe at the towering mountain of Huamanripa before hiking in scenic surroundings and tackling various peaks.

The colorful church of Iglesia Matriz and the gleaming white statue of Christ the Redeemer are remnants from colonial times, and the local markets sell a mixture of household essentials, ingredients for the kitchen, and crafts.

Watch a sporting match, musical event, or cultural show at Estadio Municipal De San Mateo and make new friends in local eateries.

15 Best Day Trips from Lima:

  • Caral
  • Nazca Desert
  • Palomino Islands
  • Huacachina
  • Ballestas Islands
  • Lunahuana
  • Paracas
  • Ica
  • Catapalla
  • Pachacamac
  • Pucusana
  • Huancayo
  • Chosica
  • Punta Negra
  • San Mateo