Lima and Arequipa: Gifts from the Conquistadors

Peru’s Presidential Palace, located on the Plaza Mayor in the heart of Lima’s historic district.

LIMA, Peru — Peru’s two largest cities, Lima, the capital, and Arequipa, were essentially creations of the Spanish conquistadors. Their historic city centers date from the 16th century and appear on UNESCO’s list of historic sites.

I visited both during a recent press trip. It had been more than 30 years since I had seen either so it was about time I revisited and updated old memories. The refresher course was admittedly quick, but enlightening.

View of the Pacific Ocean from a high floor in Lima’s J.W. Marriott.

Lima.When driving from the airport into the city of 9 million, it wasn’t long before we got our first glimpse of the geography. The city sits on the Pacific coast, with dramatically rugged cliffs, in some areas 450 feet above the water. Several of the city’s popular neighborhoods, including the bohemian section called Barranco, come to the edge of those cliffs.

It’s amazing how quickly after arrival our press group was squired into one of Lima’s better restaurants (Panchita) sampling typical Peruvian foods and

Restaurant in Barranco, Lima’s bohemian area.

a pisco sour.

But then, it was off to the city’s natural touristic magnet, the historic Plaza Mayor, site of the Lima Cathedral, Lima City Hall, Presidential Palace, and the former Archbishop’s Palace.

After strolling the square and side streets to admire and photograph the fine-looking colonial structures, we toured the Archbishop’s Palace, now a

One of the dramatic balconies on the front of the Archibishop’s Palace in central Lima.

museum, for an up-close look at an archbishop’s digs during colonial times.

Buildings here and throughout the city — well, across the country, it turned out — were frequently distinguished by their balconies, which certainly add a lot of charm.

We made a short stop to view Huaca Pucllana, a surprisingly large mud-brick pyramid set among the high-rise buildings of the modern city and one example of pre-Inca ruins in and near Lima.

I was particularly fond of the Larco Museum, which houses a private collection of 45,000 pre-Inca archaeological objects, the vast majority of which are clay vessels.

Finally, we snatched enough time for a short stroll through Barranco, the artsy cliffside neighborhood characterized by colorful low-rise buildings, often housing the restaurants, shops and nightspots for which the area is noted.

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