Lima in Peru South America - Abbey Travel - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Lima


A third of Peru's population live in Lima, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Remnants of Lima's colonial heyday remain today in downtown Lima, such as San Francisco church founded in 1535 and La Merced whose earliest construction predates the founding of Lima. Visit the Plaza Mayor or main square, flanked by the Government Palace, the City Hall and the Cathedral. Modern Lima is a mix of architectural styles and beautiful gardens. The fashionable residential and commercial districts of Miraflores and San Isidro have an abundance of excellent shops, art galleries and restaurants. Barranco, home to Lima's best-known artists and writers, is filled with bars and nightclubs.

Positioned halfway down the dry and dusty desert coastline of Peru, the city of Lima is hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean on the one side and the foothills of the Andes mountain range on the other. A sprawling and chaotic city, the capital of Peru is overcrowded, polluted and a noisy metropolis. The stark contrast between poverty and wealth is most visible in the miles of dusty shantytowns that stretch along the coast on either side of the city, and the glitzy apartment and office buildings of the affluent seaside suburbs.

During the days of Spanish colonial rule the city was regarded as the most important and prosperous city in Spanish America and was the finest in the region, known as 'The City of Kings'. Today the splendour may have paled, but Lima is still an animated and bustling city with an exciting mix of nationalities and styles; a city crammed with culture, a rich heritage and eight million people.

Information & Facts


Lima has a mild climate, although it is situated in the tropics, and rain in the city is almost unheard of. The weather in Lima is influenced by the cold offshore Humboldt Current, which ensures that summer temperatures hover in the low to mid 60's Fahrenheit (16-18ºC), and only a few degrees lower in June and July. Humidity in the city is very high, and as a result fog is often present, especially between May and November.

Getting Around

Lima is divided into four quarters, which are small enough to explore on foot. Travelling from one section to another is best done in a bus or taxi, however. The regular buses serving the city consist of microbus vans and larger 'school bus' vehicles. These are plentiful and inexpensive, although uncomfortable and frequently involved in accidents. These 'micros' and 'combis' can be flagged down in the street. Destinations are usually not marked so ask the driver before boarding. Taxicabs are also plentiful and cheap, of no particular make or model, but recognisable by plastic signs on the windshield. Taxis are not metered and the fare should be agreed before departure. Driving in Lima is hazardous: not only are the roads in generally bad condition, but local drivers are reckless and aggressive. Car rental is therefore best avoided.


Spanish and Quechua are the official languages, but many other dialects are spoken. English is spoken only in major tourist centres and hotels.


The official currency is Nuevo Sol (PEN) divided into 100 céntimos. Visa is the most widely accepted credit card, but all major international credit cards, including Diners Club and MasterCard, are accepted in many, but not all, establishments. Outside Lima facilities may be more limited. Travellers cheques may also be difficult to exchange in small towns and villages, and travellers are advised to have cash on hand. US Dollars are the easiest currency to exchange and plenty of restaurants, hotels and shops in the main cities accept dollars for payment. Casas de cambio(exchange bureaux) often give better rates than hotels and banks and can be found in any town on the tourist circuit. ATMs are available in the main cities.


Shopping in Lima is a very rewarding experience, with a vast selection of both local and international goods on offer; alpaca wool garments are a prized souvenir from Lima. The most popular shopping areas are Miraflores and Lima Centro, and most shops are open Monday through Saturday from 9:30am to 12:30pm, and from 3pm to 8pm. There is no tourist rebate on the 18 percent sales tax charged in Peru.

Alpaca sweaters, ponchos, rugs, coats, blankets, and other popular Peru souvenirs are available from Alpaca III in Miraflores. Other handicrafts, including woven items and ceramics, can be found at markets in the main squares of Miraflores and Barranco, in the shops on Avenida Ricardo Palma, and in Centro Comercial El Suche. There's a good selection of silver jewellery and antique stores on Avenida La Paz in Miraflores, while La Casa Azul on Alfonso Ugarte specializes in colonial furniture and religious art. Those looking for traditional Peruvian instruments like quenas or charangos will find good stores on Calle Cantuarias near Astrid y Gastón. Several will even help you find someone to teach you!

There are a number of markets and malls to browse for bargains in Lima. The Feria Artesanal (Artisans' Market) has a great selection of local handicrafts, and Mercado Central and the Río Rímac flower market are also worth visiting. The Jockey Plaza Shopping Center in Surco and the Larco Mar mall in Miraflores offer a vast array of high-end shops, restaurants, cinemas and entertainment. Good supermarkets in Lima include Metro, in Lima Centro, and the Vivanda supermarket chain.


Local time is GMT -5.

The most spectacular of Lima's colonial churches, San Francisco is a striking white and yellow building with twin towers and a stone façade. It was one of the few buildings to survive the devastation of the 1746 earthquake and is famous for its underground catacombs that contain the bones and skulls of an estimated 70,000 people. The interior of the church has arches and columns decorated with beautiful mosaic tiles and an exquisitely carved Moorish-style wooden ceiling above the staircase leading to the cloisters. The church also contains a superb 17th-century library with thousands of antique texts and a room containing painted masterpieces by Reubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens.

The superb anthropological and archaeological National Museum contains excellent exhibits tracing the history of Peru's ancient civilisations and provides an outstanding overview of the archaeological richness of the country. It is the city's largest and the country's most important museum and the chronological layout guides visitors easily through the complicated ancient history, highlighting the many conquering cultures and their achievements, from the art and history of the original inhabitants to the Inca Empire.

Housed in a fortress-like building are the safe-rooms crammed with treasures from the Inca civilisation and their predecessors. The massive collection of gleaming gold, ceremonial objects and jewellery compete for attention, and the famous golden Tumi, the symbol of Peru, has been exhibited around the world. The rest of the museum is just as interesting with thousands of exquisite tapestries, pre-Incan weapons and wooden staffs, masks, mummies, and clothing. There is also a vast display of antique weapons and uniforms, a reminder of Peru's violent past.

The 18th century colonial-style museum houses the largest and most impressive ceramic collection in the world, with about 55,000 pre-Colombian clay pots on display. The collection concentrates on the refined ceramics of the Moche Dynasty, the people who lived along the northern coast of Peru between 200 and 700 AD. The Moche culture is recognized as accomplishing one of the greatest imaginative languages of ancient Peru through the use of creative pottery, providing clues to all aspects of their civilization without the use of the written word. One can learn about their religion, agriculture, transport, dance and music through their ceramic designs and shapes. The Moche are also renowned for their fascinating erotic pottery and the famous collection is on display in the separate 'Erotic Hall', depicting sexual practices of several Peruvian cultures in a lifelike, explicit and often humorous way.

Pisco is a small port and fishing village, best known for its fiery white grape brandy of the same name. It also boasts the origins of one of the major ancient civilisations in Peru, the Paracas culture, who left an astounding collection of antiquities that are displayed in the museums of Lima. The area is primarily visited as a base to see the wildlife of the nearby Paracas National Reserve, home to an incredible variety and huge concentration of marine animals and birds. Locals proudly proclaim it to be the 'Peruvian Galapagos', and the main focus of a visit to the reserve is a boat tour of the Ballestas Islands. The islands are off limits to people but the boat tours afford spectacular close up views of the wildlife. The rocks are alive with thousands of migratory and resident sea birds, including pelicans, flamingos, penguins, cormorants, red boobies and terns. Huge colonies of barking sea lions line the shores, and turtles, dolphins and sometimes whales are seen in the surrounding waters. En route to the islands boats pass the famous Candelabra, a gigantic trident-shaped drawing etched into the sandstone cliffs overlooking the bay, and like the drawings at Nazca, its origins remain a mystery.

A long pedestrian street crowded with shoppers, vendors and sightseers connects Lima's two main plazas to each other. The heart of the old town is centred on the striking Plaza Mayor, or Plaza de Armas, gracefully colonial with its bronze fountain and old street lamps. It was once the central marketplace, where bullfights were held during Spanish rule. Surrounding the square are several notable buildings, including the grand Spanish Baroque Cathedral, occupying the site of an ancient Inca temple and housing the Museum of Religious Art and Treasures; the impressive Government Palace where the changing of the guard takes place; the Town Hall; and the Archbishop's Palace sporting a beautiful wooden balcony. The Plaza San Martin is an impressive square with a hive of activity surrounding its central fountains; a busy area of shoe-shiners, soapbox speakers, street artists and the site for political rallies and rioting workers.

Nazca is a small desert town, named for the Nazca civilisation that came after the Paracas culture, and it is a major attraction due to the mysterious presence of the lines and diagrams etched into the surrounding desert floor. It also has some interesting museums and archaeological sites, including the Chauchilla Cemetery, with 12 exposed underground tombs containing skeletons and preserved mummified forms. The main attraction of the town is an aerial flight over the Nazca Lines that are spread over miles of the vast desert floor. The dimensions of these enormous figures, geometric designs, spirals and perfectly straight lines are so large that the only way to view them is from the air and pilots will point out the outlines of intriguing bird and animal representations such as the hummingbird, monkey, condor, spider, and the unusual cartoon-like character known as the Astronaut. These figures were made by removing sun-darkened stones from the desert floor to expose the lighter coloured stones below, and were created over a thousand years ago. Theories abound regarding the mysterious desert etchings, and questions as to why they were created, how they were designed and what technology was used, remain unanswered and have puzzled experts for centuries. The Nazca Lines are among the most unforgettable and strangest sights in the country, an extraordinary legacy left by the ancient people of the Nazca culture, and one of the great mysteries of South America.

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