LIMA (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 and boasts the best cuisine in Latin America.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a weekend visit in the Peruvian capital:
5 p.m. - Gear up for your stay with a cup of Peruvian coffee, brewed extra-strong, at Cafe Haiti (160 Avenida Diagonal, Miraflores). It overlooks Kennedy Park smack in the center of Miraflores madness. People watch as you sip your drink and ponder the cafe’s slogan, printed on purple coasters: “Business and Love”.
7 p.m. - Get shopping. In Lima, traditional Andean art mixes readily with a thriving contemporary art and design scene. Skip the ubiquitous tourist kitsch and head to INDIGO Gallery (El Bosque 260 San Isidro www.galeriaindigo.com.pe). This spacious store spans both sides of the street and features home accents and textiles, including alpaca. It’s also a good place to buy jewelry in a top global gold and silver producer.
9 p.m. - Dine at Malabar (Av. Camino Real 101), widely regarded as one of Lima’s best restaurants. Inconspicuous on the outside, its food is the attraction and stands out for featuring ingredients from the Amazon. For a splurge, tease your taste buds with the four-course seasonal prix fixe menu. Presentation is key in Peru, and colorful combinations of fish and fruit will not fail to delight.
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. If you’re not up for exercising stroll over to the Bio-Feria, an organic farmer’s market in front of the Parque Reducto in Miraflores.
9 a.m. - For breakfast, pop into Las Delicias juice bar and order a drink made from one of the exotic, tropical fruits typical of the region (on the seventh block of Av. La Mar, across the street from the La Mar Cebicherica, in Miraflores). Granadilla and lucuma, which locals say only grows in Peru, are classics.
10: a.m. - Though you might not have time to visit Machu Picchu, you can explore more than 5,000 years of archeological wonders at Museo Larco (Av. Bolívar 1515, Pueblo Libre; www.museolarco.org), built over a 7th-century pyramid. For Archeologist Rafael Larco’s personal academic passion, see the gallery of pre-Colombian erotic art.
Noon - 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 who perform daily at noon and 5 p.m. 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 and is now buried.
1 p.m. - Walk to the San Francisco Monastery, known for its catacombs. Take a tour to go underground to Lima’s first cemetery and see the dry bones and skulls of some 70,000 people, arranged in artistic circles and check out painter Diego de la Puente’s Peruvian take on the last supper. You’ll find guinea pig and rocoto chiles on the table.
3 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 a national celebrity, famous for turning foodies on to 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 in bohemian Barranco. For a taste of live Peruvian rock music and ample pitchers of the local brew, Cusqueña, head to the ever-popular La Noche (Bolognesi 307, Barranco www.lanoche.com.pe/).
9 a.m. - Go for a leisurely walk along the ocean-front in Miraflores, passing through “Love Park” where couples of all ages gather to cuddle and coo like teenagers. For a truly bird‘s-eye view, glide off the neighborhood’s dramatic cliffs in a 15-minute tandem paragliding flight.
11 a.m. - Enjoy your morning coffee at the newly relocated Virrey book store café in Plaza Bolognesi Bolognesi 510, Miraflores). Peruse one of Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa’s nostalgic novels or try a book by up-and-coming Peruvian author Daniel Alarcon.
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 flavor and “cooks” it. Wash it down with a chicha morada, a purple corn drink unique to Peru. Try the unassuming but tasty Punto Azul (Benavides 2711, Miraflores).
3 p.m. - Political buffs should check out the National Museum’s display on the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas and the rise of autocratic President Alberto Fujimori, who is now jailed for human rights abuses. The moving photos presented by Peru’s truth and reconciliation commission pay tribute to a conflict that killed 70,000 people in the 1980s and 1990s.
5 p.m. - Finally, join the locals and flock to octogenarian Aunt Grimanesa’s shop for a carnivorous lollipop, known as an anticucho. Grimanesa’s cows hearts on a stick have been showcased at Peru’s thriving food festival Mistura and she has recently moved to trendy Miraflores (Ignacio Merino 466).
Reporting By Caroline Stauffer and Terry Wade; editing by Patricia Reaney