How much about a city should you know before you visit it? Everything? Here it is then! Lima, today, it is the largest city in Peru and the fifth largest in Latin America. A huge financial hub, it boasts of financial districts, and the metropolitan area hosts almost one-third of its population. If the etymology account is to be believed, the city was earlier known as Limaq. Today, this city is visited by tourists in numbers that are astonishing. There is something for everyone: a rich history and culture, fascinating monuments, and contemporary art and infrastructure. A trip to this city will leave no one disappointed for sure. Given below are 10 most famous tourist attractions, followed by a list of places you wouldn't want to miss once there.
1. National University of San Marcos
This university is officially the oldest university in the Americas. It was started on the 12th of May, 1551 by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. It also happens to be one of the oldest universities globally. In Peru, it is the most respected institution. The Natural History Museum or the Museo de Historia Natural is a part of this university. Along with this museum, you can also visit other famous museums in Lima, such as the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Gold, Museo Nacional de Arqueología Antropología e Historia del Perú, the Sala Museo Oro del Perú Larcomar, the Museum of Italian Art, Museum of Art of Lima and Museum of the Nation. Lima is home to approximately 11 museums. As a matter of fact, Mario Vargas Llosa studied Literature here, and won the Nobel Prize for it later.
2. The Temple of Pachacamac
Situated in the Valley of the Lurín River, this temple is an archaeological site southeast of Lima. It takes round about 45 minutes to reach this site, as it is a distance of approximately 25 miles from the main city. Roughly, it was built around 800-1450 CE . Just after that, the Inca Empire arrived and conquered it. Since it is considered to have flourished more after the Inca Empire conquest, it is considered a part of the Inca culture. Archaeologists have discovered some 17 pyramids here, and you can see them all when you visit. The Temple of the Sun is a must-see site here. There also exists a cemetery. Archaeologists also found a fresco of fish; multicolored and somewhat intact.
3. The Lima City Walls
After Spain conquered Lima, the city flourished considerably in trade, and its riches grew. This invited a lot of privateers and pirates from the Pacific. Their numbers grew, calling for some action from the state. The then Viceroy, Melchor de Navarra y Rocafull, built the Lima City Walls, to protect the city from probable threats. These walls were built between 1684 and 1687. Many years later, in 1872, these walls were torn down by the then president, José Balta. This was done to expand and increase the city limits. Almost a century later, a developer found remains of these walls near the Rimac river. A part of these walls are today restored in the Church of San Francisco, Lima. The other remains still exist, and are a major tourist attraction. Today, this site has been made public under the name Parque de la Muralla, which literally means Park of the Wall.
4. Monastery of San Francisco
The Saint Francis Monastery, also called the Convento de San Francisco in Spanish, is a sight you mustn't miss. It is a part of the Historic Centre of Lima, and is enlisted with it as a UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991. The Church is one of the most surreal structures today, and an example of the finest Spanish Baroque architecture. The entire complex comprises the convent, the temple, and two churches called 'El Milagro' and 'La Soledad'. This site also contains catacombs, which were identified in 1943. They are said to have held some 70,000 burials. You should also lookout for the courtyard here, and its amazing cloisters. This monastery is situated a block away from the Plaza Mayor, south of Parque la Muralla.
5. The Government Palace of Peru
The Government Palace of Peru is a famous structure globally. This palace was built by Francisco Pizarro, the governor of New Castile, and is thus also called the House of Pizarro. The entire construction was carried out under the supervision of a Polish architect called Ricardo de Jaxa Malachowski. The current palace was built in the 20th century, in the French Baroque architecture styles. The palace is famous for its grandeur even today. It has served as the Peruvian government headquarters for the longest time. All the ceremonial rooms in this palace have a story of their own, painted in different styles. The facade facing the Main Square is designed in French-inspired neo-baroque architecture. It is located north of Plaza Mayor.
6. The Huaca Juliana, or Huaca Pucllana
The Huaca Pucllana is a pyramid built out of clay, and an adobe, situated in the Miraflores district. This pyramid is established from seven astonishing platforms. It was built during 200 AD and 700 AD, in times of the Lima Culture, which flourished around the Peruvian Central Coast. It is said that few of the best clergymen performed their religious rituals here; the area having said to belong to the most elite. There is a huge pyramid here, known as the Great Pyramid. Though most remains were discovered when in a dilapidated state, the remains of The Lord of the Unkus are completely intact. These were found within the ceremonial center, in the first tomb. The tomb holds three burial garments; one belonging to a male adult, one to a female adult, and one to a sacrificed child. The Huaca Juliana is indeed an explorer's delight!
7. The Historic Centre of Lima
This is perhaps the best among all the Lima attractions. It consists of some 20 principal monuments including the Archbishop Palace, Museum of Italian Art, House of Aliaga, House of Oidor, House of Pilatos Sanctuary, and Monastery of Las Nazarenas. Due to its eminent concentration of historic monuments, and due to the individuality of each, this Historic Centre was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. On an individual basis, each monument here is considered a famed tourist destination. Covering the entire site in detail would require a day at least. It is advised that you hire a guide, to know more about each monument in detail. Visiting the entire center would require a day or two.
Claimed as the oldest city in the Americas, Caral was inhabited during approximately 2600 BCE and 2000 BCE. Situated in the Supe Valley, Barranca province, this huge colony covers an astonishing area of around 60 hectares. Many researchers have studied this site, gathering vital information on the Caral Norte Chico civilization. One of the most prominent Norte Chico landscapes, it is said to have accommodated 3,000 inhabitants or more. There are roughly 19 pyramid complexes spread throughout the site, with the main pyramid covering an enormous area, almost four times that of a football field. Known as the Pirámide Mayor, it stands at 18m (60 feet). The entire city was discovered by Paul Kosok, in 1948. It was built almost 5,000 years ago. Officially, it is the oldest city in the Western Hemisphere today.
9. Lima Park of Legends
Now here, you shouldn't really judge the place by its name. The Lima Park of Legends, or the Parque de las Leyendas is not just a park, but much more. At this site, you will find not only animals, but huge botanical gardens, museums and even some archaeological remains. The botanical gardens will introduce you to flora that is so diverse, that even someone who doesn't know much about botany will be astonished. It has an unbelievable collection of some 3200 plants. The museums display artifacts that don't only have an intriguing history, but also collection value. Of course, the animals will keep your children entertained. The best part about this visit, in my opinion, would be the pyramids. This park also has temples and burial grounds that served Peruvian civilizations. It would be nice if you could get hold of a good guide, someone who can give you detailed yet apt information on the beautiful assets of this park.
10. Park of the Reserve
The Lima Park of the Reserve is a park located between Arequipa Avenue and Paseo de la Republica expressway. Though built earlier in time, it was extravagantly renovated, and inaugurated again in 2007, on 26th July. Situated in downtown Lima, it spreads over 8 hectares. It was built in a neo-classical style by Claude Sahut, a French architect. Many Peruvian artists have contributed sculptures to this park. However, it has gained international fame due to the various fountains built here. They are truly a wonder of exceptional human thought. Known as Parque de la Reserva in Spanish, this park is famous for the Magic Water Tour or the El Circuito Mágico del Agua. The main fountain is the Fuente Mágica, that has water jets reaching a height of 80m. It is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 4-11pm. There is an entry fee for adults and children above 5. Don't miss the Fuente Túnel de las Sorpresas, Fuente de los Ninos and the Fuente de la Fantasia.
Some More Interesting Things to Do in Lima, Peru
Here are some other activities you can indulge in while holidaying in the city. Though they aren't as famous as the attractions mentioned above, they provide that extra bit we look for in every new place we visit. Have a look!
- If you're young at heart, and hunt for adventure during every vacation, Lunahuana is the place to be. Situated towards the south of Lima, it is known for water rafting and similar adventure sports. Nearby, you have the beach of Asia, famed as a summer retreat.
- Second on list is the Miraflores District. Visited mostly for its pubs, it attracts youth from every part of the world. The nightclubs provide a nightlife different from the rest. It's also home to some amazingly beautiful scenic attractions. Similar to this is the Barranco District.
- Last but not the least is the Supreme Court of Peru, the Palace of Justice. Known as Palacio de Justicia in Spanish, it is a major tourist attraction. Among the must-visit places in the city, this one has superb architectural value. Also, don't miss Balconies of the Osambela House.