Peru – Lima
Gastronomic Experiences and New Sensations
Lima, was founded in 1535 by the Conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Today it is the capital of the country and the gateway to the rest of Peru. Lima was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its splendid colonial architecture. Lima is a modern metropolis with a population of over 8 million, ideal for conventions and international meetings, with all the appropriate infrastructure and fully equipped five star hotels.
Housing the best Pre-Hispanic museums in South America, Lima concentrates an assortment of richness of the ancient Peruvians, bringing out the best of each pre-Inca culture into its museums; exposing the northern sculptures and the southern painting techniques.
Since the beginning, Lima was an oasis of culture and elegance in the American Indies. In less than 70 years, Lima was to concentrate all the power and wealth of all trade and cultural activity in the Vice-Royalty: it had, in effect, become the most important city in the Americas. Lima already rivals Mexico as the most important metropolis in the Spanish-America empire, Baroque and Renaissance churches, mansions, palaces, universities and archdioceses filled Lima. The cultural scene positively hummed as early as the beginning of the seventeenth century, when Lima had but a population of just 25,000. At the start of the twentieth century, during the Belle Epoque (1915-1930) the city enjoyed a privileged position once more as one of the most moderns cities on the continent.Today, Lima is home to a quarter of the country’s population and nearly two-thirds of Peru’s economic and industrial activity.
In the 1940’s, as growing waves of immigrants left the countryside bound for Lima, the capital became a miniature replica of the country itself,- a melting pot of people and cultures.
More than 460 years have passed since its founding as a Spanish city, and Lima today has become synonym of Peru’s mestizo or mixed–blood heritage, one that baffles those in the know and first-time visitors alike. In fact, this quandary is one of Lima’s greatest features. This alchemy of influence is most clearly seen in the city’s innovative cuisine, which gourmets rate as one of the world’s finest. . UNESCO meanwhile, ranks Lima’s architecture as a world heritage site, while the city’s inhabitants, fun-loving and skillful, have become experts at adapting to change.
Lima contains fine architecture that should not be missed. Among its principal attractions are the Plaza de Armas, Government Palace, the Cathedral, the Santo Domingo and San Francisco convents, and the garden suburbs of Miraflores and San Isidro.
Lima also boasts some of the best museums in the western hemisphere; the famed Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology , containing a priceless collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, one of South America’s finest. The Mujica Gallo Gold Museum and the Rafael Larco Herrera Archaeological Museum, housing a vast collection of pre-Inca erotic pottery.
Furthermore, Lima offers tourists superb museums, dozens of art galleries, theater productions and every kind of top-notch cultural exhibition, modern shopping malls and recreational areas, in addition to archaeological and nature attractions
Places to visitPlaza Mayor or Main Square
The site of the Spanish founding of Lima by Francisco Pizarro, the Plaza Mayor, has witnessed the most important historic events in Peru. The Plaza Mayor, was originally surrounded by small shops and businesses. It was also used as a bullring and scaffold to execute those condemned by the Holy Inquisition. More than a century later, a bronze fountain, built in the center in 1651, still stands today. It was in this plaza that Peruvians declared their independence in 1821. The President Palace sits on the northern side of the square, while the Cathedral and Archbishop’s Palace are on the east side and the City Hall is located to the west.
Built in 1625 in Baroque Renaissance style and rebuilt after the earthquake in 1940, the Cathedral is a veritable world of colonial art. While its façade is somewhat austere, the Cathedral houses magnificent Churriguera altars, beautiful-carved wooden choir stalls and gold-leaf altars, in addition to a unique collection of oil paintings and sculptures from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Rimac and Plaza de Acho
Known as the district “under the bridge”, this is one of the most traditional areas of downtown Lima and features streets that are notably Sevillean in style. Located on the banks of the Rimac river, on the other side from the original city center, Rimac was known in colonial times as the Bario de Indios San Lázaro (Indian’s quarter), and is linked to the city by century-old bridges. The cradle of Cleole culture, Rimac is home to some of Lima’s best known Creole clubs, or peñas, and traditional restaurants.
Callao and La Punta
Located 14 km west of Lima, Callao is the country’s largest port. Founded in 1537 to serve as a site for loading the treasures of ancient Peru on the galleons headed for Spain, Callao features the pentagon-shaped fort of Real Felipe, built in the eighteenth century to fend off attacks by pirates and corsairs. Later, the fort was to play a mayor role in the war of independence. Callao tapers off in the district of La Punta, a long peninsula that juts out in to the Pacific Ocean and is home to the Navy Base, a few pebble beaches, the old beachfront drive and residential areas in vogue in the 1940s and 1950s. A few kilometers off the coast lies Isla San Lorenzo an island featuring pre-Hispanic burial grounds, and the islet of Fronton, once the site of a maximum–security prison.
Barranco and Chorrillos
Together with the neighboring district of Chorrillos, Barranco, a few decades ago, was the fashionable seaside district for Lima’s aristocracy. Today it is Lima’s premier Bohemian quarter. Over the past 15 years, Barranco has made a comeback. Its parks and Republican mansions have been refurbished, with frequent concerts and cultural shows along its tree-lined streets. A must see is the Bridge of Sighs, a favorite hang-out for courting couples, and its seaside drive overlooking the Costa Verde. Further south lies Chorrillos, famous for beach resorts like La Herradura, featuring restaurants and eateries known as picanterias. The area had a rich Republican history, that can still be seen today in the sweeping mansions still found there.
Lima’s foremost tourist and hotel district is without a doubt Miraflores. This district features spacious modern shopping areas, well–manicured parks and gardens. Miraflores is known for its beaches, that are part of the “Costa Verde” area, which draw thousands of people and surfers in summertime. The district also puts on many cultural events at theaters, cinemas and art galleries, and boasts a pre-Inca mud–brick temple called huaca Pucllana, one of the many archaeological sites still found in Lima. The district teems with cozy cafés, pubs, restaurants and shops, while its freshly remodeled parks and gardens attract thousands of Lima inhabitants every Sunday who congregate to visit art exhibitions, take in open-air concerts and browse through flea markets.
This is Lima’s “garden district”, as it stands out for its green zones and exclusive residential areas. San Isidro also features many of the city’s finest restaurants, hotels and concert halls. Despite the building boom, San Isidro has kept something of the aristocratic atmosphere for which this suburb was known for at the beginning of the century. This can be still clearly seen in the area of El Olivar, the centuries-old olive grove that kept many of its original trees that stud this popular park. In recent years, the district has become a major financial quarter as many banks and businesses left downtown Lima to set up their headquarters in modern office blocks. The district features a pre-Hispanic temple, Huallamarca, where concerts and exhibitions are held occasionally.
Just 31 km down the South Pan-American Highway, the ancient Columbian temple of Pachacamac rears over the fertile valley of Lurín. Built largely from adobe mud bricks, the temple housed on oracle that was considered, along with Cusco, to be a main ceremonial center in pre-Hispanic Peru. Pilgrims flocked here from far away to render homage to the god Pachacamac, believed to be the creator of the world and its creatures. The Inca section (1440-1533) is the best-preserved part of the archaeological complex. The site includes palaces, plazas and temples that have been painstakingly restored, and even includes an on-site museum that houses an interesting collection of pre-Hispanic relics.
Pantanos de Villa
The Pantanos de Villa (Wetlands), a marshy area 18 km south of Lima, features sprawling zone of totora reed lined pools that are one of the main havens on the coast for more than 150 bird classes, including 30 migratory species that fly here from all over the continent. Lima’s last remaining natural reserve, the Villa Wetlands spread across 396 hectares which are an obligatory stopping-point for the world’s ornithologists and nature lovers. Many of the birds can be spotted during a three-hour stroll down signposted trails and strategically-located look-out towers.
The Southern Beaches
The summer hotspot for Lima inhabitants. Starting at around 35 km of the South–Pan American Highway, a string of beautiful beaches stretches down 100 km along the coastline to the city of Cañete (135 km south). Beaches are either sandy or pebbled, while some feature perfect waves for surfing (Señoritas, Peñascal, Pico Alto, Punta Rocas) others (El Silencio, Santa María) enjoy calmer seas. Many beaches have become seaside resorts (La Quebrada , Embajadores), while others provide services such as hotels, restaurants and discos (Punta Hermosa, San Bartolo). Other beaches have preserved their natural surroundings, something which appeals to campers.
Cañete and Lunahuana
The valley of Cañete is located 135 km south of Lima on the South Pan-American Highway. The area is blanketed in sweeping fertile and well-irrigated croplands, especially cotton fields, sweet potato, asparagus and marigold. The valley is blessed with a pleasant climate that has made it a popular spot with Lima inhabitants. During the summer time, the local beaches (La Ensenada, Cerro Azul and Cerro Colorado) fill up with swimmers and surfers. Just 40 km east lies Lunahuaná, a pleasant farming town that in recent years has become a Mecca for adventure-sports lovers, offering rafting, mountain–biking, parasailing and hiking. But not everything is adrenaline in this usually sleepy area, which also features archaeological sites, vineyards and outdoor restaurants.
Chancay y Huacho
Chancay, 87 km north of Lima, features and odd castle sprawling across 10,000m2 that houses an interesting exhibition of mummies, textiles and huacos (pottery) dating to the Chancay culture. Further north, the province of Huaura features a string of beaches, its main natural attraction. Moreover, 5 km south of Huacho (149 km north of Lima) lie El Paraíso lagoons,a haven for egrets coots, flamingos, pelicans, ducks and other migratory species such as the Artic tern, while flies over from France. Further north, at 175 km of Pan American Highway lies the albúfera de Medio Mundo, wetlands nearly 7 km long which are very popular with canoeists and fishermen. A few kilometers north one can visit the pre-Inca fortress of Paramonga (Chimú culture), located in the province of Barranca.
Lomas de Lachay
Nestled in the Andean foothills off kilometer 105 of the North Pan American Highway, this national reserve is a unique eco-system known as coastal foothhills (lomas costeras). Stretching across an area of 5,70 hectares, these desert hills turn bright green in winter thanks to the concentration that forms from the rolling mist. The area, a haven for a varied range of animals and plant life, features signposted trails, some picnic areas and a visitor’s center. All in, it is and ideal spot for nature lovers, and should be visited from August through October, when the hillsides are completely carpeted with bright green undergrowth and brightly-colored flowers.
Some 210 km northeast of Lima, up the North Pan American Highway and then branching off a detour heading east, lies Churín, a picturesque inter-Andean village famous for its hot springs. Every weekend, hundreds of visitors flock here in search of fresh air, spectacular highland landscapes and the health benefits from taking a swim in the thermal baths. From Churin the road climbs further up into the Andes, winding its way through countless traditional highland villages.
Forest of Zarate
At kilometer 56 of the Cental highway, lies the town of San Bartolomé, from where a six-and-a-half hour hike leads to the forest of Zarate (3,100 masl) a highland grazing area. The trail is narrow and zigzagging, but crosses through several picturesque villages until it reaches this balmy forest teeming with wildlife. The area has given life to native tree species including the San Pedro cactus, used by medicine men for its hallucinogenic effects. The ideal time to visit the forest is from April through June.
Lima’s foundation (January 16)
Civil and cultural activities attended by authorities and the general public to celebrate the foundation of the city of Lima in 1535 by Spanish Conqueror Francisco Pizarro. Art exhibitions, guided tours, night-time parades in the main square, open–air concerts and fireworks.
Adventur Sport Festival (First week of March)
Lunahuaná, 170 km south of Lima (Cañete) is a veritable paradise for adventure sports like whitewater rafting, parasailing, trekking, gliding, mountain biking and fishing, apart from being the main wine producer in the department.
Wine Festival (second week of March)
La Fiesta de la Vendimia includes an entire program of celebrations in the traditional district of Surco, including trade fairs, dances, beauty pageants and visits to wine cellars to taste the local vintages.
Easter week (March-April)
A movable feast when the faithful visit the city’s colonial churches in downtown Lima to affirm their religious devotion.
National El Paso Horse Tournament (April 15-20)
This is a superb occasion to admire the Peruvian Paso Horse and its elegant gait (the simultaneous trot of fore-and hind leg on the same side) directed by the chalán or ride. Held in Mamacona in Lurin.
Independence Day (July 28 & 29)
Fiestas patrias is celebrated through solemn activities to commemorate Peru’s independence from Spain in 1821. A military parade is held around the downtown park of Campo de Marte, and the Te Deum religious ceremony is held in Lima cathedral, with the country’s main authorities in attendance. There are also colorful parades and concerts.
Cañete Week (Fourth week of August)
The Semana de Cañete highlights the local cuisine and folk music and dance that have been created in the town of San Vicente de Cañete, 135 km south of Lima and the cradle of Afro-Peruvian culture. Also great time for adventure sports.
Santa Rosa de Lima (August 30)
Religious ceremonies are held in churches in downtown Lima and the highland town of Quives to remember the life and miracles of seventeenth-century saint Isabel Flores de Oliva, patron saint of the Americas and the Philippines. Santa Rosa dedicated her life to caring for the sick and reputedly working miracles.
Lord of Miracles (October 18-28)
Processions that gather the largest number of followers in South America, dressed in purple, to render homage to the colonial painting of the Crucified Christ. It also heralds the kick-off of the famous bullfight season, while visitors can also try their hand at turrón de Doña Pepa.