The territory of Lima, capital of Peru and of the department of Lima, was inhabited by civilizations that had gauged its wealth and strategic location centuries before it was founded as the City of Kings. Proof of that can be seen in the countless huacas or temples that dotted the valley, particularly the Pachacamac shrine, a major pilgrimage center during the Inca empire. This spurred Spanish Conqueror Francisco Pizarro to chose the Rimac River Valley for the capital in 1535 as its location by the sea provided a link with sailing routes.
Lima, the main gateway to Perú, is a major city bustling with living history and movement. It is an ethnic melting pot, featuring pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern elements. The metropolis is also surrounded by every aspect of Nature: the sea, islands, mountains, desert and plantlife. Its various quarters feature a city of more than 8 millions souls with an active nightlife and well-endowed cultural scene, as well as plentiful public transport and non-stop activities.
The visitor should map out a route before exploring Lima. The old city center harbors churches and mansions brimming with colonial and religious art, including such superb architectural examples as The Casa Aliaga or Palacio Torre Tagle mansions. Colonial Lima also features many fine churches and convents such as Santo Domingo, San Agustín, San Francisco and La Merced.
:: PANTANOS DE VILLA
The Pantanos de Villa, a natural wetlands area lies further south and has been declarated a reserved zone and haven for more than 150 bird species.
The Pachacamac complex is however found even further south from Lima. The Lunahuana valley, a hotspot for adventure sports lies in the Cañete highlands, 180 km (111 miles) from Lima.
:: LOMAS DE LACHAY
The Lomas de Lachay, a national reserve in the foothills is 105 km ( 65 miles) from Lima to the north and features, a unique mist-fed eco-system of wild plant and animal species. Paramonga is a little further north and features pre hispanic archaelogical sites.
The climate is dryer and sunnier in the Andean foothills east up the Central highway. The road heads up the province of Huarochirí until it reaches the town of San Pedro de Casta where one can see the Marcahuasi plateau. The area, is the site of huge natural formations eroded into the shape of animals and people by the climate.
:: THE TEMPLES OF METROPOLITAN LIMA
A huaca was the term given to a river, tree or mountain in ancient Peru, attributed with magical powers if the spot was inhabited by a deity or an ancestor. The same term was given to stepped pyramid shaped temples along the coast.
Lima has left untouched dozens of ancient temples archaeological sites which stand out against the bustling metropolis, thanks to the efforts of archaeologists and crusades launched by residents.
The Huallamarca complex stands in the heart of the leafy district of San Isidro. Hualla means uneven, and marca means town in the ancient quechua language. The name stems from the fact that the early remains of the structure showed remains of spiral ramps. In 1999 archaeologists found clay goblets dating back to Inca times. The fact they were buried there possibility points to the presence of the tomb of an important figure from the era.
What links the most important temples in Lima is the fact young archaeologists continue to work on them and integrate them into the community. One examples is the Huaca Pucllana in the Miraflores neighborhood, which is a historical and cultural park today.This complex was a ceremonial and administrative center run by the Lima culture (400 AD), which controlled the Lima Valley. There is evidence of religious ceremonies, rites and sacrifices in honor of their deities, and the possibly of this being the place where the high priests lived. The Pucllana Historical Park features an on-site museum and areas of research, conservation and restoration, as well as cultural promotion. The museum is working to integrate the site into the community, starting with schoolchildren. This will hopefully create an awareness of the importance of Peru’s archaeological and natural heritage.
:: THE PACHACAMAC ORACLE
The Pachacamac deity, which originated along the central coast, survived the Inca and Spanish Conquests. Inca mythology relates that the ancient deity was the god of fire and the offspring of the sun deity, the fountain of youth whose strength was linked to the earthquakes. With the arrival of Christianity, it was later bound up with the Christ of Pachacamilla, the painting known as the Lord of Miracles.
The area was first settled in 200 BC, but the shrine’s construction did not get underway until rise of the Lima culture (300-400 AD), where the Urpiwachak temple was built in the western sector and the Adobitos Complex, a set of large-scale constructions featuring complex architectural techniques.
Four hundred years before the Incas, the Ishmay culture developed a major ceremonial center, featuring streets, dozens of temples fitted with ramps and the Painted Temple, evidence of their sense of religious urbanism. When the Incas overran the valley in the fourteenth century, they adapted the existing constructions to their administrative needs, stripping the citadel of its sacred status and banishing the oracle to oblivion. The Incas built the Temples of the Sun, the Acllahuasi (House of the Virgins of the Sun), the Pilgrims’ Plaza and other palaces whose painstaking reconstruction gives visitors an idea of what the site looked like 500 years ego
Today the Pachacamac shrine is an archaeological zone in the department of Lima, doted with an on-site museum and natural protected areas, such as the carob forest and lake. A tour of the site takes you back in time through the history of the Lurin River Valley and the central coast, the burial sites and temples. Visitors can admire the age-old ability of the ancient Peruvians to live alongside nature.
:: LIMA: LORDLY BEARING AND TRADITION
Like its inhabitants, Lima the city of kings, is a rare and exciting mix of nationalities, styles and forms.
The urban landscape of Lima maintains the age-old texture of its rich tradition while other major cities in the Americas and around the world strive for modernity.
The streets of Lima have preserved the venerable beauty of the city’s original colonial architecture, and tour through old Lima is a chance to delve into more than four centuries of living history, peeking through the doorways of gracious manors and striding through sunlit patios and Baroque balconies.
The original city center, the old quarter of the city originally mapped out by Spanish Conqueror Francisco Pizarro, called el damero de Pizarro due to the classic geometric form found in other old Spanish colonial cities is today a UNESCO Mankind Heritage Site.
The city founded in 1535 by Pizarro, features a series of buildings that boast an incalculable architectural and historical value, which fringe the main square, the Plaza Mayor and the line nearby streets. Lima's Cathedral, built in 1625 in a Renaissance-Baroque style, with splendid Churriguerra altars, is definitely the first stop on the tour.
Other buildings are also not to be missed, like the San Francisco church, whose cloisters and patios are decorated with Seville mosaic tiles which the ideal picture frame for the religious art kept there. There is also the convent of Santo Domingo, which saw the founding of San Marcos University, the oldest university in the Americas in 1551.
The old Palacio de Torre Tagle, built in 1730, is one of the finest examples of colonial architecture in Lima, fitted with carved wooden balconies and its Baroque stone gateway. The Riva Aguero and Aliaga mansions, the traditional Acho bullring, and the revamped riverside promenades overlooking the Rimac River round off the traditional Lima landscape which, without a doubt, is one of the most interesting circuits of its kind in Latin America.
Peru’s foremost port, Callao has long enjoyed historical and commercial importance, having been founded in 1537, originally as a port of embarkation for merchandise to be shipped to Spain. Located 14 km (9 miles) from downtown Lima, Callao still features venerable wooden colonial mansions lined with long and elaborately carved balconies. Visitors can take in sights such as the Plaza Gálvez and Plaza Grau squares and the Iglesia Matriz church.
At the end of Saenz Peña Avenue stands the Real Felipe Fortress, a vast construction dating back to 1747; it was built to defend the port from pirates such as Drake, who sacked the city in the sixteenth century. The Real Felipe also played an important role in Peru’s war of independence. One can also visit Chucuito, a small fishermen’s cove lined with Gothic and neo-Renaissance houses, as well as typical wooden homes painted in bright colors nearby.
The tour continues on through La Punta, a traditional district which forms part of Callao and is ideal for walking and taking in the tangy sea breeze. This old quarter, once the home if Lima’s aristocracy, features a superb Oceanside promenade, pebble beaches and stately homes dating back to the early days of the Republic at the start of the nineteenth century, as well as others from the 1930s-50s. Out to sea lie the islands of El Camotal, San Lorenzo, El Frontón Cavinzas and Palomino, which can be visited in tours arranged by the Callao Town Hall. Tours set out from the Plaza Grau square, near the Real Felipe.
During the tour, visitors will take the boat in islands such as El Camotal, rich in scallops and according to history linked to Callao until the 1746 earthquake, then the boat skirts San Lorenzo, Peru’s largest island where religious ceremonies were performed in pre-hispanic times. The island was later studied by Charles Darwin. To the north one can spot El Cabezo, an ideal beach for fishing, and the island of El Fronton, once a prison which housed the country’s most dangerous criminals. The Cavinzas Isles are a haven for sea birds, some of them migratory, and with the Palomino isles form, a set of islands which are a refuge for species such as sea lions.
:: THE REAL FELIPE FORT: A BASTION OF LIBERTY
In 1747, Viceroy Conde de Superunda, tired of continual looting by some of the most famous corsairs of the era, ordered the construction of an impregnable fort in the port of Callao, near the city of Lima. The fort was to be the bastion that would defend the Vice-regency of Peru from pirates and other invaders. It marked the creation of the Real Felipe fort, which has witnessed some of the most important events in Peruvian history. The fort offers visitors the chance to roam its ramparts on a trip into a past filled with adventures and glory. The fort’s solid walls, which have resisted storms and battles for centuries, have served as a refuge for Spanish viceroys, Independence leaders and Republican paladins.
Lima is the gastronomic heart of the country.There are excellent restaurants in the city,serving peruvian food from every region of the country.
Cebiche: Bite-size pieces of raw fish marinated in lemon juice, onion and aji chilli pepper, garnished with corn on the cob and sweet potato.
• Escabeche: A cold dish of fried fish or chicken marinated in vinegar and then steamed with generous servings of onion.
• Causa limeña rellena: A cold dish of thickly mashed yellow potatoes seasoned with aji chilli pepper and lemon, and then stuffed with tunafish, chicken or vegetables.
Parihuela: A concentrated broth of fish and shellfish.
Lomo saltado: Sliced beef sauteed with onion and tomato, mixed in with fried potatoes, and served with rice.
• Aji de gallina: Diced chicken in a thick sauce of milk, cheese, aji chilli pepper and nuts, also served with white rice.
• Mazamorra Morada: Sweet purple maize jelly stewed with fresh and dried fruits.
• Suspiro a la Limeña: Rich milk and vanilla cream topped with meringue.
• Picarones: Fried donut shapes made from sweet potato and squash and drenched with carob-fruit syrup.