South America has always intrigued us as a travel destination. Home of several mysterious and uncommon destinations – Machu Picchu, Nazca Lines, Salar de Uyuni, Atacama desert, Easter Island – which either we had read in text books or National Geographic magazines.
Both of us being committed to full time jobs, 3 weeks was the maximum break we could manage, that too courtesy of our supercool bosses! We had to be super choosy what we should include and what we should leave out. After few months of intense research and planning, we finally nailed down the itinerary, and it started here in Lima!
Lima is the capital and largest city in Peru. It is one of the well connected cities in the continent, with direct flight connections to Europe. We flew to Lima from Mumbai via Amsterdam on KLM Royal Dutch. Although slightly expensive, this saved many hours of travel time a transit of United States/Schengen Zone and an extra connection. We left Mumbai on May 6 morning and reached the same day evening, as we gained 12 hours crossing time zones from east to west!
We had planned just a half day to see Lima, that too as part of a organised tour. If you have time, the city can be explored in 2-3 days, visiting different monuments, parks, museums, neighbourhoods etc, trying local food, experiencing local culture etc. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luxury of time, so decided to do the capsule form of sightseeing.
Basis reviews on Trip Advisor, we opted for “Kings & Queens Tour of Lima” offered by Haku Tours. We started our tour with a visit to a classic colonial house in Lima. Lima has a long colonial history and was founded by Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535! He defeated the last Incan Emperor Atahualpa and ended the dominance of Incas in South America. The site of Lima was carefully chosen, that it was suitable to supporting settlements, with access to water, fertile lands and ocean. So in the historic centre of Lima, you’ll see a lot of European influence, primarily Spanish. This particular house has been converted to a Hotel – Hotel España.
Situated just next to this building was an important landmark of Lima – Monastery of San Francesco.
More than 300 years old, this building complex is noted for it’s architecture and paintings. The complex consists of the chapel, convent and catacombs.
The convents and catacombs were off-limits to cameras. The most interesting fact was the style of the paintings. All the paintings look European to the untrained eye. But as our guide pointed out, these were drawn by local Inca converts. They were trained by Spanish priests and artists. But when they started painting, lot of local influence crept in. Like the recreation of The Last Supper, where the main dish Jesus and the Disciples are eating, is Guinea Pig ! Talk about local cuisine! Beneath the beautiful church is an eerie spot – the catacombs. Long maze of narrow passages which used to be old graves. Most of them still have bones and remains!
This is a very touristy area, and there are many local vendors selling souvenirs.
The next stop was the main attraction – Historic Centre of Lima – a UNESCO World Heritage site. This area houses the oldest and most beautiful buildings in Lima. The guide gave us some time to walk around, explore the area and take photos.
Afterwards, we moved on, walking through narrow lanes and streets, taking in more of colonial Lima.
After crossing the last street, we left the pedestrian street and boarded our car. That was Lima in a short glimpse. If you are on a dedicated visit to Peru or have an unconstrained/open itinerary, Lima is worth 3 days at least. You can explore the different neighbourhoods, mix with the people, taste the cuisine etc. Unfortunately, for us it was time to catch the bus to Paracas, our next destination!