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Alternative Lima city tours, an example of responsible tourism in Peru

Responsible Tourism


Lima has recently undergone a rebirth and is now vying for travellers’ attention alongside some of Peru’s top tourist attractions. It hasn’t yet shaken off its grimy urban feel, or developed a functional transport system, but it lures travellers with promises of world-class gastronomy, a buzzing contemporary art scene and vibrant nightlife.

Due to significant internal migration, Lima is also a microcosm of Peru itself, making it the ideal place to get acquainted with the country’s rich cultural and gastronomic diversity. For some of the migrant communities that have made Lima their home, tourism is now providing them with the opportunity to showcase their traditional cultures and at the same time earn money. In this post, our local expert in Peru shares with us a brief history of Lima and suggests alternative Lima city tours are a fun and rewarding way to explore the traditionally neglected areas of this huge and sprawling city:

Lima the octopus

Lima, the capital city of Peru, is hemmed in to the east and west by the Andes Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean respectively. Its desert setting and lack of boundaries to the north and south however, have led to a sprawling city and continually shifting slum areas at its extremities. It is Lima’s sprawling nature that has earned it the nickname ‘El Pulpo’, meaning octopus. In total, Lima is home to about 10 million people, making it one of the most populous cities in Latin America.

A brief history of migration

In the pre-Columbian era, what is now Lima was part of the Inca Empire. After Spanish conquistadores defeated the Inca ruler, they founded Lima in 1535 as the capital of the conquered lands. As an important trading port, Lima became a popular place to settle for people from all over the world, and by the mid 19th century, around half of the city’s population had their origins outside of Peru.

However, it wasn’t until much more recently that the city really saw its population explode, and this time as the result of internal migration. Since the 1960s, millions of people from within Peru have flocked to the capital in search of new opportunities and a better life. In the 1980s and 1990s, this movement of people became even more dramatic. Migrants from the central and southern Andean regions fled their homes due to the violence and terror spread by the Shining Path guerrillas, a communist revolutionary group widely condemned for its brutality.

A microcosm of Peru

Many of the migrants who left the provinces in favour of big city life maintain close ties with their communities of origin, and indeed their traditional cultures. Much of Peru’s rich folklore and famed gastronomy can be enjoyed without leaving Lima, making the Peruvian capital a microcosm of the country itself.

Lima’s recent cultural renaissance has seen an explosion of trendy eateries, artisan breweries and art galleries. But, as is often the case, a big portion of city has not benefited from these developments and remains neglected. This is where responsible tourism intervenes. Many of the capital’s migrant communities live in areas not often frequented by tourists, making an alternative Lima city tour the perfect way to gain new insights into life in this sprawling metropolis. The tours are also a vital source of income for these often neglected communities.

Responsible tourism in Lima

How about visiting artisans originally from the city of Ayacucho? Many families from this part of southern Peru have settled in Lima’s ungainly suburbs, bringing with them fantastically colourful handicrafts as their only means of survival in the capital. There’s also the opportunity to visit a native Amazonian community that, like many others, moved to the city in a brave attempt to find a better life.

These alternative Lima city tours provide plenty of opportunity to explore off the beaten track corners of the city. For example, you can check out the old neighbourhood of El Callao, known for its colourful street art and bohemian lifestyle. Or you can visit the largest informal cemetery of the country, providing an interesting insight into how neighbourhoods develop, transform and deal with their every day needs.

These tours definitely provide a reality check, but one that’s imbued with hope, innovation and entrepreneurship. They offer a rewarding, insightful and fun way to explore Lima’s less known neighbourhoods and to meet their diverse and inspiring inhabitants. These communities are using tourism to supplement their income and preserve their culture and traditions. When you take these tours, you are contributing to improving their living standards, under a fair trade model and without affecting negatively their lifestyle.

All these full or half day tours can be mixed and matched with the most popular attractions of the city, including the colonial downtown district, the Pacific coastline and all its adventure sport options. And of course, with the world-famous gastronomy and tasting tours.

This post was a contribution by Daniel, a local expert from our trusted tour operator in Peru. To know more about these city tours of Lima and other travel experiences in Peru, you can visit our Peru Holidays page and send a travel request.

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