TRAVEL : QUIXO PERU : Favorite Places in Peru
Your Guide: Catherine Criolla
Lima doesn’t have the best reputation, but it is great. It has the best museums, the best food, the best nightlife, and some wonderful and picturesque sections including downtown Lima ("the historic core") and Barranco. Lima is also a big city, with big city crime, pickpocketing, robbery, scam artists, and some terrorism, so if you spend time there be alert (refer to Peru In Focus: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture, The U.S. State Department,the Travel Advisory section of the South American Explorers Club website and to security sections of any guidebook).
My top three museums to see in Lima if you are interested in archaeology are:
- Museo de la Nacion in San Borja — The major permanent exhibit covers the entire archaeological sequence of Peru. The website is only in Spanish but it includes a virtual museum of sorts. This is the place to get an overview and see examples of all the well documented (and a few newly discovered) archaeological cultures of Peru. It is also a major center of cultural life, with classical music concerts and other cultural events. A great introduction to Peru.
- Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Arqueologia e Historia in Pueblo Libre — The holder of the major archaeological collections in Peru, with many new and exciting exhibits of objects you won't see elsewhere. This is a wonderful place for a more in depth exploration of major archaeological themes.
- Museo Larco Herrera — which has many wonderful objects and a room of Moche "Huacos eroticos." A beautiful private museum that focuses on the North Coast of Peru, especially the Moche civilization, this museum emphasizes the objects rather than the story behind them, but it has spectacular collections.
- Another museum that is not to be missed is the Museum of the Inquistion in the center of Lima. This is a fascinating and horrifying place, with great historical information and gruesome displays of human bones. The website is only in Spanish.
Must-see areas of Lima:
Downtown — The historic core of Lima, including the Plaza de Armas, the Church of San Francisco, and some walking around to see the Colonial houses with their spectacular balconies. Many of them are comercial or cultural buildings which you can enter, such as the Palacio Torre Tagle, and the Riva Aguero Institute (of the Catholic University of Peru) with it's museum. The Peru Handbook's section on the center of Lima provides a good map and list of some of the more memorable of these.
While in the center of Lima have lunch, a drink, or afternoon tea at the Gran Hotel Bolivar. For a real treat, walk through the traditional Chinatown area, and have lunch at Wa Lok. Peruvian Chinese cuisine is a little different than what we get in the U.S. and this place is one of the best.
- The Barranco area — including the Puente de los Suspiros (Bridge of the Sighs), and shopping at Las Pallas (English and German spoken), for great Andean folk art, and a look at the studio/shop of the famous retablista Nicario Jimenez.
Archaeological sites around Lima:
The major archaeological attraction near Lima is Pachacamac, in the Lurin Valley about 40 minutes south of Lima. This site was a major city during Inca times, and contained one of the most powerful shrines in the Inca Empire. Any travel agent and many hotels can arrange tours, although it can also be reached by public transportation. The website is only in Spanish but the website of a big international archaeological research project there includes some good information in English.
For those who want to explore archaeology in the city there are monumental archaeological sites in many areas.
- Early sites such as Garagay — which has preserved painted freizes — can be visited (although you'll probably need to hire a guide to take you there).
A complex of mounds has been preserved in the Parque Las Leyendas (the zoo) and adjacent university campuses, and there is a small site museum there as well as interpretive signs. The zoo website is only in Spanish.
- In Miraflores, the mudbrick mounds at the Huaca Pucllana, and the small site museum are also worth a visit (the website is only in Spanish) – there is a restaurant there and at night it is quite spectacular.
Other recommended shopping in Lima (handicrafts and folk art):
- Feria Artesanal on the Avenida de la Marina in Pueblo Libre, where you can find all kinds of items from all over Peru.
Kuntur Wasi (English spoken) for high quality but pricier items in Miraflores.
- Silvania Prints, for cotton textiles with designs inspired by Precolumbian and Colonial designs (there's also one in Cuzco) in Miraflores and San Isidro.
- Las Pallas (English spoken) Mari Solari’s amazing folkart shop – it is in her house in Barranco where she also has her absolutely amazing private collection. Do not miss this place.
- The open markets ("Mercado Indio") on Petit Thouars in Miraflores. This is a smaller and more manageable version of the sprawling area on Avenida de la Marina.