Arrival in Peru: A First Night in Lima

Our South America Program Director, Gretchen, will be traveling in Peru, Chile and Brazil for the next 6 weeks. Follow her story here!

March 22nd: Arrival in Lima– Excitement, Humidity and Taxi Drivers

Descending on what looked like numerous crisscrossed strings of golden globe-shaped lights, I was quickly transported back to 2014 when I had arrived in Lima for the first time- a rush of excitement and yearning for the local food, culture and phenomenal landscapes took me by force; this arrival was no different.

Lima at night

The exotic coastal city has a strange way of greeting its guests. Almost all international flights have late night arrivals, leaving one feeling slightly disoriented when finally leaving immigration and exiting into a barren hall with hundreds of stout taxi drivers all wearing black pants and white button down shirts frantically yelling to get the attention (and hopefully the business) of one of the befuddled newly-arrived incomers.

Exiting the (surprisingly) small international Jorge Chavez Airport, through the glass sliding doors, the air is heavy and smells of earth, fruity perfumes and colognes and citrusy coffee. In the distance one senses the great Pacific as the salt water notes mingle with the heavy humidity.


Late March on Peru’s coast and it is El Niño this year. The South American summer flooding to the north of Lima has been devastating during the past months. Several eerie videos have been making their rounds through international media outlets and I found myself pondering them on my three flights leading down to Peru from Seattle (I smartly opted for a $149 one-way ticket from Seattle to Lima with three stops instead of a more sensible direct- and more expensive- option).

I quickly found out on the ground, that the flooding, while it has been extremely tragic in the areas affected (mostly in the north of Peru), has left the main touristic areas of Peru (Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Amazon, Arequipa, Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca) unscathed.

Lima Malecon

Once outside the terminal, I made my way, in the middle of the night on the hot, damp street to the Costa del Sol Hotel, directly across from the international arrival doors.

I happily greeted the feather bed in the modern, quiet room face first; I fell asleep on the sheltered side of double-paned glass to the faint and distant sounds of the swarms of taxi drivers, playfully beeping their horns and still struggling, like pigeons over a few last crumbs, to pick up and transfer the final passengers arriving from Buenos Aires, Bogota, Madrid and Panama into the city. Tomorrow I would head to Cusco.

Welcome to Peru.

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Your friendly South America expert,


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