Last updated on February 24th, 2024 at 03:29 am
Comparison Lima vs Cusco – Peru is strategically blessed to have a part of the Andes Mountain Range, the longest mountain range in the world, which gives the country some of its most beautiful mountainscapes.
Peru is also the location of the Inca Empire, one of the oldest empires in the world, making Peru a popular tourist destination, not only for its beautiful mountains but also because of its archeological and historically rich cities.
And to add, Peruvian food is also one of the top cuisines in South America and the whole world – now that’s just the complete package.
Today, we look at 2 of Peru’s popular locations for travel, Lima (the capital city), and Cusco. We’ll talk about things to do, what to expect, and you can decide which experiences you want to have for your trip to Peru.
Getting a Sim Card in Peru
You can get the most popular eSim providers in Peru: Airalo, Holafly, Nomad, MTX and Ubigi depending on how much data you need in Peru. Read here Peru sim card for tourist
Why Travel to Lima – Lima vs Cusco
Lima, the capital of Peru, lies on the country’s arid Pacific coast. Though its colonial center is preserved, it’s a bustling metropolis and one of South America’s largest cities.
It’s home to the Museo Larco collection of pre-Columbian art and the Museo de la Nación, tracing the history of Peru’s ancient civilizations.
Lima is always a popular stop when visiting Peru since it’s the capital and from there, people either fly or take the bus. But if you’re thinking of staying in Lima longer, you might want to find out the things to do there.
Why Travel to Cusco – Lima vs Cusco
Cusco, almost 400 miles away from Lima, is another popular point of interest in Peru – very popular at that. If it’s the Inca ruins that you want to see, and you’re up to hiking mountains and being on higher elevation in the country, the visiting Cusco is for you.
How far is Lima from Cusco?
Cusco is 356 miles from Lima, so you can either go by plane from Lima, one of the popular ways to travel or take the bus – a 29 hour ride (we actually did this, and it was quite an experience.
Where to Stay in Peru
Accommodation prices can take you around $10 USD if you sleep in a dorm. For mid-budget accommodation starts at $30-50 USD and for more than $80 USD you will find luxury accommodation in Peru.
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Things to do in Lima
Let’s look at the top things to do in Lima and compare experiences when traveling in Cusco vs Lima.
Things to do in Lima – Lima vs Cusco
Lima Main Square / Plaza Mayor de Lima / Plaza de Armas de Lima
The center of Lima, and known as the core center of Lima, has some of the most historical palaces and buildings of Peru. Hard to miss this when you’re in Lima. This square has the Government Palace, Lima Metropolitan Cathedral, the Palacio de la Union, Archibishop’s Palace of Lima, and Lima Metropolitan Cathedral.
It is a beautiful central park, surrounded by mountain ranges in its background and definitely a site to see. It does get a lot of people and quite touristy for Lima, but it’s a sight to see if you have the time to explore.
Huaca Pucllana Site Museum – Cusco vs Lima
If you think that Pre-Inca period pyramids are only found in Cusco, you’ll be pleased to know that you can already find one in Lima, the Huaca Pucllana Site Museum. You will see this in the neighborhood of Miraflores.
Basílica y Convento de San Francisco de Lima
Peruvians are of course Catholics, and therefore you see some of the most beautiful church architechtures in the country. This is the monumental complex of the Basilica and Convent of San Francisco of Lima, also known as “San Francisco el Grande” or “San Francisco de Jesús”, is located in the Historic Center of Lima, Peru.
The Basilica Metropolitan Cathedral of Lima and Primate of Peru, otherwise Lima Metropolitan Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral located in the Plaza Mayor of downtown Lima, Peru. This third and current Cathedral of Lima was built between 1602 and 1797. It is dedicated to St John, Apostle and Evangelist.
Parque del Amor – Lima vs Cusco
Popular for the kissing statue, and its location by the beach, it’s a huge park at the edge of Lima that is beautiful.
It’s in the Miraflores part of Lima, definitely an upscale part of the city, and you can stay in the park, bike, walk and jog, visit the restaurants.
Around this area, you’ll also see of Lima’s fanciest hotels and malls.
Larco Museum – Lima vs Cusco
The Larco Museum is a privately owned museum of pre-Columbian art, located in the Pueblo Libre District of Lima, Peru. The museum is housed in an 18th-century vice-royal building.
It showcases chronological galleries that provide a thorough overview of 5,000 years of Peruvian pre-Columbian history
Larcomar – Lima vs Cusco
The Larcomar is a shopping center in the Miraflores district of Lima, Peru owned by Chilean company Parque Arauco S.A. It was opened on 27 November 1998. It is frequently visited by international tourists, as well as by locals from Miraflores and other parts of Lima.
Top Neighborhoods in Lima
One of the most upscale neighborhoods in Lima, Miraflores is a beautiful place that offers a lot of what an urban city offers. Lima is now considered one of the top digital nomad hubs in the world, with real estate values getting higher yearly.
In Miraflores, you’ll have the chance to do activities like surfing, paragliding and of course restaurant and bar hopping.
Most Popular Things to do Outside Lima
Because we are comparing Lima vs Cusco, let’s look at some of the top itineraries to do outside Lima, usually a few hours driving from the capital.
These are Ica Deserts like the Huacachina, the Paracas National Reserve and the Nazca lines, all popular tours from Lima, Peru.
Ica is located on the Southern Coast of Lima, at approximately 300 kilometres in the middle of the Peruvian desert, along the Panamerican highway. The city of Ica is the capital of the Ica Region and the most important wine producer of Peru.
Huacachina – Lima vs Cusco
Huacachina is a desert oasis and tiny village just west of the city of Ica in southwestern Peru. At its center are the green waters of the Huacachina Lagoon, ringed by palm trees and thought to have therapeutic properties. The lagoon’s shores are dotted with bars and clubs. Dune buggies run across the high, rolling sand dunes surrounding the village
Pisco Tour from Peru
Part of your visit in Huacachina is the Pisco Tour, which gives you Pisco tasting and history of how Peruvians make their national drink.
The Nazca Lines in southern Peru are a group of pre-Columbian geoglyphs etched into desert sands. Covering an area of nearly 1,000 sq. kilometers, there are about 300 different figures, including animals and plants. Composed of over 10,000 lines, some of which measure 30 meters wide and stretch more than 9 kilometers, the figures are most visible from the air or nearby hilltops.
You can see the Nazca Lines either by plane of by going to a tower – but if you want to see a good vantage point, the plane tour is definitely the one to go.
Paracas / Ballestas Island – Lima vs Cusco
Paracas is the National Reserve of Peru, which is part of the town of Ica, about an hour from Huacachina. Here you’ll be able to get access to beautiful beaches for swimming, and see animals like seals and flamingos, and also see the Paracas reserve.
The Paracas culture was an Andean society existing between approximately 800 BCE and 100 BCE, with an extensive knowledge of irrigation and water management and that made significant contributions in the textile arts. It was located in what today is the Ica Region of Peru
Things to do in Cusco – Lima vs Cusco
Cuzco Main Square – Lima vs Cusco
The Plaza de Armas is an unparalleled destination within the beautiful Imperial City and is an unmissable point of the city since it is where numerous tourist circuits take part. It is surrounded by colonial buildings that denote the passage of the Spanish and many other buildings of great importance. Even so, this square has an origin that dates back long before the conquest, and its part within the Inca Empire was of great importance.
The Plaza de Armas was the point chosen by the Incas to begin the creation of the capital of the Inca Empire. History, culture, beauty, and tradition complement each other in this place to create one of the best-known squares in Peru.
For this reason, together with Machu Travel Peru, we want to explain everything about the Cusco main square and a bit of its history.
Machu Picchu is the highlight of the Inca Tour, and if you’re going to Cusco, especially if it’s your first time, almost everyone goes to see Machu Picchu, one of the wonders of the world.
There are two ways to visit Machu Picchu, via train (from Aguas Calientes) the easier and most popular way, or via the Inca Trail, which takes about a 3-5 day hike, which is more challenging but definitely worth the experience.
Popular Tours in Cusco
There are several tours in Cusco that are very popular to do when you’re visiting the town. These places are usually visited in tours so you can easily access them with private transportation or by a group transportation with guides that help you understand the history and significance of the places you’re visiting.
The Sacred Valley is a region in Peru’s Andean highlands. Along with the nearby town of Cusco and the ancient city of Machu Picchu, it formed the heart of the Inca Empire. Stretching roughly 60 kilometers, it’s an area of fertile farmland and Spanish colonial villages like Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Pisac is known for its Sunday handicraft market and hilltop Incan citadel.
This turquoise alpine lake backdropped by dramatic mountains is reached via a steep hike.
Food in Peru – Lima vs Cusco
Peruvian food is considered the best cuisine in South America and in the world, so definitely make sure to taste some of the authentic dishes of the Peruvian cuisine. Below are some of the best and most popular for you to try.
Lomo saltado is a popular, traditional Peruvian dish, a stir fry that typically combines marinated strips of sirloin with onions, tomatoes, french fries, and other ingredients; and is typically served with rice.
Arroz chaufa also known as Arroz de chaufa is a fried rice dish from Peru. It consists of a mix of fried rice with vegetables, usually including scallions, eggs, and meat, quickly cooked at a high flame, often in a wok with soy sauce and oil.
Arroz con Mariscos
Compared to Chaufa, this is fried rice with seafood.
Papas a la Huacachina
Cold potato salad with Peruvian’s signature sauce – verdict, we love it!
Empanadas are a big deal in South America, and honestly you’ll have th ebest of them in this part of the world. Each country will have their own twist to their empanadas and Peruvians do them baked, compared to Colombians who fry their empanadas. Not to miss for sure!
Budget – Lima vs Cusco
South America in general is easy on the budget, however, Peru, being one of the most touristy in the continent can get pretty expensive, especially the Inca tours – Machu Picchu for example. Make sure that you’re prepared with the weather and the hikign and the prices before you plan to travel and of course, book these tours in advance.
Pros and Cons – Lima vs Cusco
Pros of traveling to Lima
Lima is one of the easiest travels to do so if you’re looking for an easy trip to introduce yourself to the culture of South America, get a taste of good Peruvian food, meet a lot of digital nomads and of course do a lot of urban and city tours, Lima is a good place for you to visit.
Cons of traveling to Lima
The biggest cons of Lima is of course people usually want to see Cusco, which has the infamous Machu Picchu, as a part of a Peruvian experience.
Pros of traveling to Cusco
Cusco is the heart of the Peruvian experience – Andes Mountains, hiking, trails, Inca historic areas – you name it. You almost can’t say you’ve seen Peru unless you’ve visited at least Machu Picchu, so if you really want the full Peruvian experience, you might want to visit Cusco.
Cons of traveling to Cusco
The biggest Cusco con is that it is a high-altitude place. Just the town of Cusco is 3000-4000 meters from sea level, with Machu Picchu being higher, and other treks even going to 5000-6000 meters. This might not be the best trip if you’re traveling with kids younger than 10 years old, or people older than 50s or 60s.
High altitude sickness is one of the most common sicknesses people experience once they go to Cusco. This is why when you’re traveling to Peru, and want to see Cusco, you need to factor in adding a few days of rest to get accustomed to Cusco’s level of altitude. This means staying in the town at least a day or two, before doing the high treks. Trust us, this is very important and should be discussed with your tour operators.
Coca is very popular in Cusco Region, and other high-altitude regions in Peru. Coca drink is believed to have good effects when helping you fight against high altitude sickness.
Boiling the leaves, and drinking it not only helpw with the altitude, it’s actually a refreshing hot drink to have during the cold weather in these mountainous and high regions of Peru.
Final Thoughts – Lima vs Cusco
We highly suggest that you listen to the biggest considerations we mentioned here when choosing between the two. For a more laidback intro with your family, traveling with young kids, and older people, you might want to choose Lima better.
Cusco is more for you if you’re looking for a more adventurous trip and want to see what Peru has to offer with its Inca roots and the Andes part of the country.
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About the Author: Ruben, co-founder of Gamintraveler.com since 2014, is a seasoned traveler from Spain who has explored over 100 countries since 2009. Known for his extensive travel adventures across South America, Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Africa, Ruben combines his passion for adventurous yet sustainable living with his love for cycling, highlighted by his remarkable 5-month bicycle journey from Spain to Norway. He currently resides in Spain, where he continues to share his travel experiences alongside his partner, Rachel, and their son, Han.