Saturday, May 04, 2019


Lima is only a few hours north of Paracas. As one of the biggest cities in the western hemisphere with a metro population of about 10 million, it has plenty of bad reputation for crime, pollution and traffic but like most visitors (and expats) we avoided most of it by basing ourselves in the affluent district of Miraflores for a few days. Miraflores was a nice change and a break from the chaos that had become our normal for the last few months. In truth, had I been randomly dropped in Miraflores, I would've had no idea where I was. It could have been a modern, new neighbourhood in one of 100 different cities around the world. No wonder we hadn't been hearing any complaints about Lima from travelers we'd come across. Most would feel right at home.
Lima is on the coast but is a desert city receiving almost no annual rainfall. This is still a difficult concept for me to grasp but we'd seen this on the Chilean coast and the cold Humboldt current still influences the climate this far north as well. Lima was not as hot as we expected and also suffers from heavy fog, especially in winter. It is the transition season now so views along the coast were usually pretty hazy. That didn't prevent us from enjoying an afternoon stroll along the Miraflores malecon, a "seaside" trail that passes from park to park along the upper ridge of a cliff the district sits on that overlooks the ocean. The area was full of tourists, expats and wealthy locals out for a stroll, jogging, riding bikes or relaxing in the parks. Down below us was a busy highway along the water, tiny beaches that would not attract visitors in their own right and tons of surfers. Surfing is the thing to do in Lima, especially for beginners as the conditions looked pretty easy overall.  Not that we were tempted. No way, I know that water is still cold.

The coast at Miraflores

Stopping for a snack

This could be anywhere...

Ice cream break in Kennedy Park, Miraflores

Peru is developing a reputation as a big culinary destination and Lima is the centre of all that of course. Sasha finally got to try ceviche, one of Peru's most famous dishes and was not impressed. We did have one good meal though. We are still on our honeymoon and every once in a while remind ourselves of that with something nice. In this case it was actually a wedding gift from a friend who bought us dinner at the restaurant at the Huaca Pucllana ruins in the centre of Miraflores. This popular and fancy restaurant seats diners on a terrace looking out onto the 1500 year old ruins of an adobe pyramid. Excellent place and a much needed treat.

Dinner at Huaca Pucllana
View of the ruins with our meal

The Huaca Pucllana ruins are one of many desert ruins in and around the city. The biggest and most impressive are the ones at Pachacamac, about an hour from the centre on a local bus and an easy half day trip. Pachacamac was a sacred city of many adobe temples built near the coast by the Lima culture (most of Peru's early civilizations seem to be named for the closest current city) starting around 1800 years ago. It continued to expand and was used as an area of sacrifice and rituals by multiple cultures over the years until the Spanish arrival resulted in its abandonment and destruction. There are a lot of ruins scattered about over quite a large area and it was a long walk in the sand to see it all.

Pachacamac ruins seen from the top of its highest temple
Ruined temples

A large residence

Of course we had to see Lima itself. The historic centre is one of the oldest settlements in Peru. It was established in 1535 and quickly became the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru which encompassed the whole of South America under Spanish control for the next 200 years before being further divided and seeing its power wane. Because of this, and the wealth that was generated for the Spanish during this time (mostly in the form of silver if we remind ourselves of Potosi), Lima developed a very impressive colonial core centered around the beautiful Plaza de Armas. This core is larger than most we've seen but newer because of the need to rebuild after several major earthquakes. We visited on the Thursday before Easter (which probably also has a name and is important to somebody) to find the plaza packed and the singing of the choir in the cathedral being blasted out over loudspeaker. It was actually very nice. It seems that the tradition (maybe on this day or just during this Easter period in general) is for everyone to make a quick circuit inside all the churches. Each one was open and free and if you could bear waiting in some very long lines, you could walk inside and follow a roped off path through the church and back out again.

San Martin Plaza

Old wooden balconies are very common and famous in Lima

The governor's palace, Plaza de Armas

Lima cathedral. Long lines to get in.

Plaza de Armas

We didn't bother but instead hung out in the plaza to watch the brief changing of the guards in front of the governor's palace and then paid for the normal tour through the Franciscan church and monastery. Why that one? Because it takes you into the catacombs under the church where they have thousands of bones on display. Bre especially loved it and that was her final site before returning back home with Dylan.

San Francisco church

Inner courtyard of the San Francisco monastery

In the catacombs

On our final morning in Lima we were met at the bus station by Ricardo, our Brazilian host from Belo Horizonte (and now good friend) who flew in specifically to join us for the next week or so. We immediately jumped on a bus heading north to start the next adventure.


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