Surprise Vanlife in Lima (Barranco District)
Our original plan was to skip Lima altogether but Lima wasn’t having it.
We landed on taking the coastal route south through Peru, which meant there was no way around it. A fellow overlander friend of ours was in Lima so we figured we’d stay a night, hang out and then hit the road in the morning.
As soon as we approached the city limits, our multiple near-collision encounters with locals and buses immediately made us regret it. To add to the chaos, just as we were about to escape a bottleneck traffic jam, our coolant level sensor decided to completely pop out of the tank. PERFECT. We were going to be staying longer than expected. We pulled over, stuffed a sock in the tank, refilled with the water from our water bottles, blasted the heat and prayed that we’d make it to our camping spot without overheating. Every stop and go moment meant turning the van off and back on again when it was time to go. The service road and alternate route we found to get to the Barranco district made it much easier to go at our pace.
After two hours of yelling every curse word we knew in English and Spanish, we rolled into a beautiful spot by the ocean to be greeted by our super relaxed friend and some other kombis. We were frazzled, smelly and immediately set out in search of a cold, alcoholic beverage.
This was the most beautiful urban camping spot, so far. We parked on the street, next to the sidewalk and there was a fantastic view of the coast line and the beach down below. To make it even better, Barranco is the arts district of Lima with plenty of pretty, walkable streets and places to pass the time. As far as places to be stuck for a little while due to van troubles, it could have been much, much worse. The only minor issue with the actual camping spot was that there were no bathrooms and not much privacy or space to take care of business outside during the day. We generally walked to a nearby coffee shop in the morning to hop on WIFI and use the bathroom so most of the time, it wasn’t a problem. At nighttime, it was much easier to duck behind a bush unnoticed.
We ended up spending five days in this spot while relaxing, working, running errands and hunting down the parts we needed. Here were some of our favorite spots in the Barranco District:
Barbarian Brewing Co. - There’s a great deal for lunch and it’s different every day of the week. You get a choice of two entrees with a salad and their fantastic potatoes. Peter raved about the pulled pork sandwich. There are sweet potato waffle fries in the burger. You need that.
Burrito Bar - This place was so good and so filling that we went back twice. The barbacoa reminded us of the birria we had in Mexico and the margaritas are delish.
Cafe Bisetti- A cute place to sip on some delicious cold brew and grab WIFI. They also have a fantastic lemon ginger tea that you can get brewed hot or iced.
Plantique - You’ll instantly be in a great mood as soon as you walk into this adorable shop next to Cafe Bisetti.
MATE/Museo Mario Testino - General entry is only S/. 10.00 and it’s a great way to spend some time looking at some of Mario Testino’s most beautiful works. The museum is located inside of a restored mansion.
The Plaza - A great place for people watching. There is a free WIFI zone by the Starbucks on the corner and there’s always something going on here on the weekends whether it’s food stalls or live music.
Blu- This was some of the best pistachio gelato that we’ve ever had. Their flavors change daily so you’ll just have to go back multiple times like we did.
Taberna Isolina - We splurged on a dinner here and shared the Osso Bucco, which was honestly enough to feed four people. It’s pricey but the meals are meant to be shared. It was also nice to have a negroni before dinner.
Lucky for us, Lima was practically the only place in Peru that we could have found the replacement cap we needed. We were thankful that we just so happened to have issues there instead of the lonely dirt road in the middle of nowhere that we had been exploring previous to arriving. Our perceived bad luck actually ended up being the best luck that we could have had. Thanks for that change in perspective, Lima. We hope that our next visit to see the rest of this beautiful, historic city is under much better circumstances.