As Peru’s capital and the country’s largest city, Lima offers a wide variety of adventures to fit the needs of any traveler. But while you could spend days exploring Lima, its surrounding countryside has just as much – if not more – to offer. The city is located both within a desert and on the coast, so there are plenty of day trips from Lima for you to get out and explore more of the diverse area.

To help you decide your next travel destination, we have gathered information on the best day trips from Lima and arranged them in the following categories:

Beaches
Ruins
Adventure
Small Towns

Whether finding a sandy beach to relax on or strolling the streets of one of Peru’s fishing towns sounds like the perfect trip for you, we have the details to get you started.

Day Trips from Lima: Islands and Beaches near Lima

Located just along the coast, Lima is the perfect home base to explore some of Peru’s gorgeous coastline. If you’re feeling adventurous, a tour to one of the local islands is a unique experience.

Punta Negra
Located just an hour south of Lima is the town of Punta Negra, home to some of the most stunning beaches. Although Punta Negra is technically a district of Lima Province, its distance from the heart of the city sets it aside as a day trip.

The best beaches in the area include El Puerto, Penascal Beach, La Pocita, Santa Rosa, and La Bikini. In addition, the area has grown in recent years to include wonderful cuisine and entertainment.

If you are looking to get your adrenaline pumping during your trip, take a surf lesson from one of the locals on the beach. The clear waters are perfect for learning a new sport!

Paracas
Located four hours south of Lima is the Paracas National Reserve, a stunning desert peninsula that acts as a protected area for wildlife, especially birds. Some of the birds you can see on the coast include the Humboldt penguin and the Peruvian diving petrel. From the reserve, visitors can also spy whales, sea turtles, and friendly sea lions.

Both foreign travelers and Peruvian natives visit Paracas year-round. Because the climate changes minimally throughout the year, you can visit Paracas even during the winter for its sunny, warm weather.

Between November and April, temperatures range from lows of 60°F (16°C) to highs of 81°F (27°C). May to October is a bit cooler, with lows of 56°F (13°C) and highs of 70°F (21°C).

Beyond the wildlife, Paracas has gorgeous beaches to bask on. In addition, local tour guides can accommodate any traveler looking to go driving in ATVs, paragliding, cycling, kitesurfing, or even catamaran sailing!

Ballestas Islands
From Paracas, you can also take a tour to see the nearby Ballestas Islands. Known as the “poor-man’s Galapagos,” this small chain of islands is home to sea lions, many sea birds, sea otters, and Humboldt penguins. The islands enjoy protected status in order to preserve the fragile ecosystem of their resident mammals.

Reaching the island involves a boat ride from Paracas, as the islands are located 6 miles (10 kilometers) from shore. Lucky visitors may be treated to the sight of El Candelabro, a giant 595-foot-tall (181 m) prehistoric geoglyph, on the journey. The three-branched design was carved into the hillside and is so large that it can be seen from 12 miles (20 kilometers) from shore.

If you have more than one day to spend exploring, we recommend this overnight tour that includes a tour of the Ballestas Islands in addition to the chance to experience the pre-Inca Nazca Lines, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Palomino Islands
Off the coast of Lima’s district of Callao, the Palomino Islands are a must-see for adventure-seeking travelers. They are also the perfect destination if you want to see the wildlife similar to those in Paracas without the four-hour trip. The trip to the Palomino Islands only takes about an hour and a half from the port of Callao.

The islands were once home to fearsome pirates and soldiers, so the boat ride to the islands passes over waters teeming with shipwrecks. A highlight for most travelers is the thousands of sea lions that live on and around the islands. These creatures are friendly and curious and are known to approach nearby swimmers!

Peruvian Ruins near Lima

Peru has a fascinating history that you can experience through Inca and pre-Inca ruins. Take day trips from Lima or even a weekend trip from Lima to explore some of the most famous archaeological sites.

Nazca Lines
Traveling to Peru without experiencing the Nazca Lines would be a shame, as they are a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most intriguing physical aspects of Peruvian history. These mysterious lines are over 1,000 years old and have captured the imagination of the world for decades.

The lines are etched into the desert floor and form geoglyphs in the shape of a monkey, birds, dogs, and supernatural beings. Because these figures are best seen from the air, travelers can take a small airplane tour from the airport in Nazca. The flight usually takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes.

Since Nazca is far to the south of Lima, it may be most comfortable to take more than one day to make this trip. However, it is possible to do in one day if you include overnight bus trips.

Pachacamac Ruins
Inside the city limits of Lima – but about a 45-minute drive from the city center – lies the archaeological site of Pachacamac, which was once an important religious compound for the Lima culture before the Incas. When the Incas arrived in the 1450s, they added numerous structures to the area themselves. The ruins today in Pachacamac reflect both influences.

Included in the ruins are massive Temples of the Sun and the Moon that were constructed with sun-dried clay bricks. You can enjoy exploring the site for a few hours as the site covers several square miles.

We recommend booking a guided tour in order to understand the history and meanings of the ruins. This tour also includes a visit to workshops where locals make textiles, ceramics, and other beautiful handicrafts. The artists will explain how they make everything, and later you can even try out a few of the techniques yourself!

Caral
Named the “oldest town in the New World,” Caral is thought to date from 2600 BC. Just as the ancient Egyptians were building the Pyramids of Giza, the ancient people of Caral were building their own pyramids, along with temples, adobe complexes, and several sunken circular plazas.

Located just above the Supe Valley, the trip is around 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of Lima and has been opened to the public since 2006. In addition to Caral, we recommend stopping by the other seventeen settlements that have been discovered in the nearby area.

Tambo Colorado
Travelers cannot forget to include a visit to Tambo Colorado, one of the Inca’s best preserved sites. Built in 1450, the dry conditions in the area have allowed some of the red paint to still remain on its walls.

Visiting Tambo Colorado is a unique day trip, as it is still relatively unrecognized by most travelers. You will get the opportunity to view two different types of Inca architecture: the raised walls of Andean Incas and the decoration that is typical of coastal Incas. We recommend booking a tour to get an in-depth history of the ruins.

Adventure Day Trips from Lima

Looking for a day filled with exciting adventure? Look no further! We have collected a list of activities that are sure to get your adrenaline rushing.

Huacachina
When thinking of Peru, you may picture beautiful mountains or the lush Amazon rainforest. However, located outside of Lima is a new landscape: huge sand dunes. The desert encompasses a small lagoon surrounded by palm trees, an oasis called Huacachina.

The massive dunes surrounding the oasis are popular with any adrenaline junky looking to dune-buggy or sandboard down their mountainous sides. Located around four hours south of Lima, we recommend waking up early to access everything this day trip has to offer!

Lunahuana
Located around three hours from Lima is Lunahuana, a small village in the Canete Province. While the village boasts charming streets filled with craft stalls and small bars where you can sip on a Pisco sour, the local drink, the area is most known by travelers for the Canete River.

The gushing river is a top destination for exhilarating white-water rafting. Getting on the river is just the easy part, as the rapids range from Class II to Class IV. However, tours accommodate travelers with or without experience, as you can choose sections of the river based upon their level of difficulty.

San Mateo
While it takes a 4.5-hour bus ride to get there, the views in San Mateo are well worth the ride. We recommend starting this trip early in the morning in order to see all San Mateo has to offer; after all, you can always nap on the bus!

San Mateo borders up to the towering mountain of Huamanripa and is an incredible sight to see. The area offers hiking in the scenic mountains and has a variety of peaks to tackle based on your fitness level.

In addition, the town itself is reminiscent of colonial times with the colorful church of Iglesia Matriz and the white statue of Christ. San Mateo also is home to local markets that sell household essentials, food ingredients, and many crafts.

Small Towns

While exploring the bustling city of Lima is one way to experience Peruvian culture, you’ll enjoy a completely different vibe and local culture immersing yourself in small towns. The towns listed below will take you off the beaten path and away from the tourist traps.

Pucusana
This small fishing town is popular with locals but has escaped discovery by most travelers. Located 45 miles (70 kilometers) south of Lima, this town is a wonderful escape for travelers interested in visiting a traditional Peruvian fishing village.

The town sits on a bay known for its tranquil waters that children and adults alike love to swim in. The picturesque harbor is a sight to see and the perfect spot for a dinner of fresh seafood caught daily.

In addition, Pucusana is home to two natural rock formations, the Devil’s Mouth and Christ’s Face. The Devil’s Mouth is a rock formation that creates an echoing boom when a wave crashes into it. Christ’s Face is exactly what you’re thinking: a giant rock that resembles Christ in profile.

Catapalla and Ica
While both towns of Ica and Catapalla are unique on their own, they are both known for their production of some of the best wine in Peru. While we recommend seeing both if you have time, especially if you would like to learn about and taste exquisite Peruvian wine.

Ica sits just inland from Peru’s coast and hosts many wineries and vineyards where you can sample locally produced wine and Pisco. Touring these sites on day trips from Lima will allow you to learn more about the local wine-making industry. The city is also home to the regional Museum of Ica, the Cathedral of Ica, and a scenic boardwalk to stroll down after a glass of wine.

The town of Catapalla is located a few miles from Lunahuana. You can visit after a day of rafting on the Canete River. If you’re not too keen on rafting, you can still see the rushing waters from a suspension bridge. In the main square of Catapalla is the oldest artisanal winery in the valley, where we recommend trying the wine and staying for a tour if time permits.

The charming city is also home to several quaint restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat after a long day of adventure.

Whether you are an adventure seeker, animal lover, or even a wine connoisseur, the area surrounding Lima has attractions you will love. While the city of Lima is incredible, take a break from the city in order to explore what lies beyond!