In the City Of Lima
There is much to experience in the capital for visitors on Peru tours. The country's national symphony orchestra, the Orquestra Sinfonica Nacional, is considered one of the premier orchestras in Latin America. Bullfights are held at the Plaza de Acho ring starting in July. Popular evening pastimes include the penas, bars that feature late night floor shows of performers in flashy costumes dancing to a fusion of Criolla music with primarily Peruvian and African influences.
Lima's Central Core
The City's Plaza Mayor, usually called the Plaza de Armas, is lined with some of the city's most important buildings including the Government Palace, the official residence of the president since Pizarro himself lived and worked there, the Cathedral (rebuilt in 1758), where Pizarro is buried, the Archbishop's Palace and the Cabildo (Municipalidad).
Starting at the plaza, the Jiron de la Union is a popular five-block pedestrian zone lined with shops and cafes, enjoyed equally by Limenos and visitors on Peru tours. Among the city's many fine churches, the baroque-style Iglesia de San Francisco dates back to 1674 and was one of the few structures to survive the earthquake. The complex is comprised of a monastery, chapels, cloisters and a museum of religious art.
Lima houses cultural collections from the grand to the esoteric. Among the city core's many notable museums are: The Museo de la Nacion which chronicles Peru's indigenous history to colonial times; the Museo de Oro del Peru, containing artifacts representing the centuries-old traditions of metalworking, and the Central Bank Reserve Museum with both historical artifacts and art of the last two centuries. The huge Museum of Art houses art and artifacts of Peru through the ages from pre-Columbian times to the present.
It is the fringe neighborhoods where the rich built their mansions and today give Lima visitors to Lima on Peru tours a break from the city bustle. The northern suburb of Rimac is reached via the 17th century Puenta de Piedras over the Rio Rimac. Here tourists see the elegance that once existed in the capital. Southwest of central Lima, Pueblo Libre is worth a visit to tour the extensive National Museum of Anthropology, Archeology and History, and the smaller but very fine private collection of pre-Columbian art belonging to archeologist Rafael Larco Herrera and housed in his mansion built atop a 7th century indigenous pyramid.
The other neighborhoods on most visitors' agendas border the Pacific and are south of the city core. San Isidro is an area of stately homes, fancy hotels, gourmet restaurants, boutiques, galleries, parks and a golf course.
Upscale Miraflores is a tourist magnet. Besides its sea air, ocean views, posh residences, and parks of perennials, cactuses and palm trees, the neighborhood offers plenty of shopping venues for antiques, crafts, knitwear and jewelry plus some of the city’s finest seafood. Galleries featuring primarily Peruvian artists, a craft market, clubs and bars entertain visitors at night.
The arty section of Lima is Barranco, known for its 19th century architecture and lively nightlife and is crammed with eateries, boutiques and galleries. Among its unique sights are tiny museums such as the handsome mansion that houses a collection of religious art, one devoted to trolleys, featuring a three block round-trip ride, and one with a small collection of colonial art that accommodates only ten visitors at one time. The neighborhood's artist cooperative, Dedalo, sells a wide variety of arts and crafts from a mansion, grouped by room.
Lima borders Peru's second largest city and most important port. Founded two years after the capital, Callao was once an enclave of the wealthy, but what the 1746 earthquake did to Lima, the subsequent tidal wave did to Callao. Like most South American capitals, Lima has pockets of poverty, most notably the shanty towns called entamientos humanos that have built up over the past three decades along the northern border of Lima and Callao.
Several major archeological sites are found in the vicinity of Lima. Heading northeast on a main route is Puruchuco, a pre-Incan palace that has been restored and a large Inca cemetery, recently discovered. Further north is the pre-Incan Marcahuasi, a 1.5 sq mile site, containing symbols etched into the slopes and sculpted figures. North of Marcahuasi are the carved pre-Incan burial chambers of Cantamarca. In the Lurin Valley, nineteen miles southeast of Lima, are the ruins of a large Incan city begun by an earlier civilization and later occupied by the Incas where worshippers came to pray to the God, Pachacamac. Part of the once elaborate complex of palaces and temples has been partially restored, and there is a museum at the site. Near Canete, ninety miles south of Lima outside Lunahuana, lies the Inca city of Incahuasi.
Surfing is a popular year-round pastime in and around the capital, and nearby Punta Rocas is the site of international surfing championships. Spots that are fine for all levels of ability include La Pampilla, Makaha, Waikiki and Rodondo. For intermediate and advanced surfers there is La Herradura. Within sixty miles south of the capital, surfers also enjoy Senoritas between Punta Hermosa and Caballeros, the resorts at Pucusana, Puerto Viejo, near Canete and Cerro Azul, made famous as a lyric in the Beach Boys' "Surfin' Safari." Visitors on Peru tours should note that the beaches and waves near Lima are crowded with day-trippers and weekend travelers from December to May.
More Active Sports
Bicycling is popular in the Lima highlands, inland from the capital. The vicinity of Pachacamac offers routes for all levels of expertise, most pleasant from April to December, and in the upper Lurin Valley from Olleros west to San Bartolo on the coast. This is difficult terrain and best undertaken as guided Peru travel between May and October. For mountain biking enthusiasts on Peru tours, one popular place is Los Platanales de Totoritas, a beach resort near the town of Mala, fifty miles south of Lima. The route travels through fields and is most pleasant between December and March. South of Lima, the best known rivers for rafting include the Rio Canete at San Jeronimo. Here the Class II and IV rapids are also suitable for kayaking, and the best months are October to April.
Other Sights and Activities
Visitors to Lima on Peru tours may combine trips to archeological ruins with wine tasting, as the best known of Peru's wineries are located in the Canete Valley around the towns of Canete and Lunahuana. Sixty-five miles north of Lima is the national reserve of Loma de Lachay, a popular place to visit when the garua mist turns the landscape emerald. Those looking for more nighttime action will find it in Los Olivos, an outlying town north of Lima, known for its nightclubs.
The first weekend in March, a popular grape harvest festival takes place in Canete.
In April, horse shows of the Peruvian paso horse are held in various locales, showcasing the breed and its smooth distinctive gait. The best of these events is held nineteen miles south of Lima at the Mamacona Stables near Pachacamac. The Festival of Black Art is a music celebration that occurs in Canete in August. Lima is the site of many religious and patriotic celebrations throughout the year. In October, one of Latin America’s largest religious events, the Our Lord of the Miracles (Senor de los Milagros) celebration, is held for the purpose of offering prayers for protection from earthquakes. It commemorates the escape from destruction of a painting of the Crucifixion in the devastating earthquake of 1655 that demolished the church of Las Nazarenas that housed it.
October's Fiesta del Nispero in Lunahuana is the most interesting of the country's wine festivals because the best of Peru's wine comes from this region.
Almost all of Southern Explorations' Peru tours begin and end in Lima. Visitors may also choose from among three tour extensions to add days and/or activities in Lima to their Peru travel according to their interests.
Terrain and Weather
Peru's capital sits majestically above the Pacific Ocean, lined with desert beaches up and down the coast and within shouting distance of the Andes. The Rio Rimac divides the city's northern neighborhoods from its central core and southern suburbs. Most travelers plan their Peru tours according to the best weather conditions at the sights they plan to visit, such as Machu Picchu or the Peru Amazon which doesn't necessarily coincide with the capital's best weather. During the capital's grey months from May to October, the department's territory further inland tends to be sunny and pleasant.