From the Incas to the Amazon

Lima & the Central Coast

Peru's primary portal is its capital, Lima, and like most big cities it has its rough edges in the form of poverty and pollution. For some travelers this makes Lima a get-in/get-out proposition, but skipping Lima would be a serious oversight. Its amazing Spanish colonial history, which started when Francisco Pizarro "founded" the city in 1535, along with its surrounding beaches, is definitely worth a couple days.

Pay a visit to the architecture-rich Plaza de Armas (Main Square) and check out the stately Government Palace, where Pizarro held court, and the elaborate bronze fountain dating back to 1650. For an eerie good time, don't miss the nearby San Francisco Church, a 16th-century complex built over a maze of subterranean catacombs where you can see the segregated bones (femurs here, skulls there...) of roughly 90,000 slaves, servants, and other penniless souls interred here until 1821. For more lively, contemporary city sights, visit the coolest of Lima's suburbs, Milaflores and San Isidro, home to art galleries, pubs, and great restaurants permeated with Peru’s distinctive flavor.

Try to spend a day shuffling along the sandy beaches, too. Just to the north lies the secluded beach known as La Isla, near the town of Puerto Supe. Locals have dubbed it El Faraon, or "The Pharaoh," because of the small island 100 feet offshore that resembles an Egyptian pyramid. On the return leg, don't be shy when hunger rears. In Puerto Supe you can grab killer fish and shellfish dishes along with classic chicken tamales for under seven bucks. The peninsula and beaches of Lima's El Paraiso are another option. They're clean and tranquil, even solitary. A short scoot south of Lima is Punta Rocas, a sandy surfing hot spot where international surfing championships and rock concerts are hosted. Nearby vendors offer surf and boogie board rentals, so get wet.

Published: 23 Aug 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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