How to Peru in 2 weeks, Day#1: Lima – Miraflores district
Getting over the anxiety I managed to acquire a couple of days before our departure, due to some rumors about kidnappings and pick pocketing in Lima airport, I found myself in the same mentioned airport waiting in the line to obtain my tourist visa beside few other hundred tourists. The fact we landed a little bit more after midnight didn’t take away my excitement, and, while I was standing for a photo session by the airport officer, I remembered a similar situation when we were taken pictures entering to Cuba. Tourists from all over the world, backpackers, bikers, in groups or alone, there was such a variety of people in that enclosed space I haven’t really seen anywhere before. I suddenly felt at ease, one more crumb beside over 4 million tourists that visit Peru annually.
For most Europeans and North American people, Peru is a country of many wonders, with many magical places, with different people, a different culture, various climate, and mysterious history. With so many points of interests, but with so little vacation time, we had to schedule our trip wisely. We had to take the altitude in consideration, to let our bodies acclimatize before trying to do any sort of hiking. Are we actually going to be able to see everything from our long list in two weeks? We’ll see..
We started with 2 days and half in Lima, for a couple of local dishes and a stunning sunset on Pacific Ocean shore. And A LOT of walking.
After sleeping several hours on our first day, we had a chance to talk a little bit more with our host, thanking him properly for sending a car for us at the airport, and waiting for us at such late hour in the night. He also gave us directions where we can have a quick breakfast, and where we can exchange some money. With an offline map on our phones we started our journey through a busy Lima; only our feet didn’t know we will end up walking for 50+ km in the next 3 days.
Our first goal in Lima was to exchange some soles (Peruvian money), and our host has kindly given us directions to get to the main street, where we could find several exchange offices. We left the first office in surprise as the exchange rate was so much higher than the one in the airport. The third was a charm. With all soles in our pockets we stopped at a Starbucks (very popular in Lima, especially in Miraflores district) to have a big coffee and some breakfast; where we paid with a credit card, which are widely accepted almost everywhere.
History lovers, adventure seekers, the first archaeological site we wanted to visit was Huaca Pucllana, located right in the heart of Miraflores district, only 2 km from the cliffs of Costa Verde. Walking distance from our hotel, we promptly arrived at the gate ready to learn new things under the hot Peruvian sun. Serving as an important ceremonial and administrative centre for Lima Culture (a Pre-Incan civilization), this sacred place Huaca Pucllana, built around 500 AD, is actually famous for its great adobe and clay pyramid.
Even though some areas have been re-constructed, we were amazed how all these adobe bricks were still in good shape after 1,500 years or so, they must have had a secret brick recipe to build such a Great Pyramid. While we were waiting at the gate to purchase our tickets we found ourselves asked if we prefer a tour in English or Spanish. The local guides were rushing people to get to the tours that were just about to start, telling us that we can buy the tickets on our way out. This was an interesting solution to make people happy, minimizing the waiting time in an ingenious way. Skipping the time we would just wait in the torrid sun, we happily joined the group and the park guide directed us, explaining the meaning of each platform and the findings across the time, including some remnants of the Wari Culture that was living in this area, as well as Ychsma.
No wonder that the site was used as a burial place (especially by the Wari who followed Lima Culture), but I can say I was pretty shocked when I learnt that there was also human sacrifice during the religious ceremonies. But as a very religious civilization, I found out later that human sacrifice (especially children) were very popular up until the Incan civilization has ended.
Different rooms across the site had different functions. I was impressed when I saw a big platform with small holes across the floor, and it was surprising how the yellow paint from the back wall was still visible, pretty well preserved in this arid area, where the sun is merciless, and the rain is scarce. Shark remnants were found, obviously from the religious offerings, invoking the rain maybe, or praying to devoid a storm.
Although the architecture is preserved as best as possible, the weather is a big factor in deteriorating the site. There is an ongoing research, like any other side we found across Peru, and once in a while new archaeologists have new ways of interpreting the findings.
The tour ended through a small park dedicated to the local flora and fauna, showing us the plants and animals known since Lima Culture, and some human size models showing the tourists how the clay bricks were made. The tour of this temple took about 45 minutes, and we found ourselves debating if we should have a drink in the restaurant inside the park. We decided we still have a lot to see by the time of the sunset and headed straight to the Pacific Ocean.
La marina Lighthouse. The 22 metres iron tower is located in one of the most popular parks in Lima, Parque el Faro, on top of the high cliffs above Pacific Ocean, since 1973. It is one of the famous and visited lighthouses in Peru, place of gathering not only for tourists, but for locals as well.
Parque Antonio Raimondi. Walking south the pathway above the high cliffs, we got into another park, meeting place for locals, with kids, dogs, or simply hand in hand walking by for a stroll. I was amazed how many small kids were running around, chasing, and playing with each other.
We didn’t realize when we got to the next park, as I haven’t seen any real boundary, if there wasn’t for the artfully decorated stones that told us we are in the Parque del Amor. Not only the messages encrypted on the mosaic, but also the lovers laying around are a sign that this is one of the most romantic places in the world.
The huge statue of two lovers kissing each other in a romantic embrace El Beso couldn’t have a better spot. Several people trying to make pictures from all angles were walking all around, and why not me as well?
The sunset makes a perfect time to relax and enjoy the breeze, and even though the view is perfect from the whole cliff, we wanted to make sure we get a sit in one of the restaurants from Larcomar facing the sea at the actual sunset time.
Continuing to walk south, we got distracted by the paragliders, of course, and while the pictures don’t make justice, the cascades of them coming up along the shore was a view I will not forget soon.
I tried to understand why there were so many surfers on the water, and actually only a couple on their boards. They were still waiting for the big wave by the time we passed by, or a wave to carry them in their perfect world.
6 o’clock came by quickly, time to settle for another magical moment: the sunset. We didn’t quite know where we could find a restaurant to get us a treat while watching the sunset, and I got a little bit panicked, starting to walk very fast as the time was fast approaching. After several stairs and turns, we found ourselves at a nice table, with a Pisco sour in our hands. Two great treats after such a long walk!
The night enveloped us quickly, as Peru sunset does never pass 6:30 pm. By the time we left the restaurant it was dark, and our tired feet told us it is the time to head back to our hotel. By the time we reached the room, my Fitbit sent me my first award for walking more than 30K steps. I didn’t know yet how many more awards were awaiting for me in the next days!
Tip(s) of the day:
*The airport exchange rate in Lima is not the most expensive one, as most of the countries have in the capital’s airport. You need to check more exchange offices in Lima until you can get a good rate to exchange soles – the Peruvian money. Also, they offer a better rate for a bigger amount exchanged.
*Do not rely on the Tourist information centers to get a local map, as they might be closed, or they might not have the map you’re looking for.
~ visited in April 2019