Lima Peru, was founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. He moved the capital from Cuzco, high in the Andes mountains, to the coast where Lima is today. Lima became one of the most important cities to the Spanish Vice Royalty of Peru. Basically, after the Spanish came and killed off 90% of the native indian population, there were three cites that were of prime importance to the Spanish Vice Royalty; Mexico, Antigua (in Guatemala) and Lima.
Today Lima has about 8.5 million people if you include the whole metropolitan area. The climate and landscape is what was the biggest surprise to us. Peru is divided into three very distinct regions that vertically divide the country. The west side from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes Mountains, is a dry desert like area. This is were Lima is! There is VERY little rain in Lima. When we flew in, we could see nothing but brown and gray. There was almost a total lack of color in Lima. Its too dry, nothing grows. No trees, no grass, no green. The buildings are brown brick or in the outskirts of town, sod and adobe houses. I do not know why none of the houses were painted. Lacking paint and vegetation,(and advertising signs) from the air, the entire city was just a big brown spot on the earth. Not beautiful at all.
But Lima showed us it could have it’s contrasts.
The old part of town had colonial style buildings but these seemed to be of an 1800’s style rather than the late 1700’s colonial buildings you find in Antigua, Guatemala. Lima has very wide avenues and large round plazas. The older buildings are taller; 3-5 stories high. This is what gives it a later (1800s) look. Yet the buildings are a nondescript gray color.
The streest were pretty clean too. Meaning there were no large piles of trash and litter strewn about. Sure there was plenty of dust and soot from the many buses belching exhaust, but there was a noticeable lack of paper and litter in the streets. It impressed me.
There was a lot of traffic. To me, it looked like all the old Japanese cars got recycled and ended up in Lima. Many of them still covered in Japanese writing. Way to many cars… the air in Lima is pretty bad.
The historical part of the city is where the interesting churches and buildings are. Specifically Plaza De Armas. The buildings are beautiful colonial style made the from the riches the church could afford at that time. If you think about it, religion has always been big money and therefore, they build the most beautiful and expensive buildings money can buy. No different in Lima.
Like most tourist areas, Plaza De Armas, has attracted the usual restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. In this case they make a circle around the plaza. It is here that I found a good Espresso. And we ate Ceviche, raw fish that is partially “cooked” by pouring lemon juice on it and mixing in onion slices and a few other vegetables and perhaps some other shellfish. It is GOOOOOOD.
Despite the nice architecture in the Plaza De Armas and around some of the other plazas, Lima still is a big city. Unlike some big cities that you feel energized, Lima seems to rob your energy (Or Ki). Both Soon Jeong and I felt that Lima is not a vibrant, energetic city. The people, streets, buildings, and even the sidewalk dogs radiate nothing. They are static and listless. Add to that a lack of color around the city and it just seem that the place drains you.
Only a couple of miles away is Miraflores. Here is the polar opposite of Lima.
The center of Miraflores is a well groomed lovely park. Sidewalk cafes and restaurants line the streets around the park. There is a Starbucks, Marriot Hotel and a terrific open-air shopping mall that is built into the side of a cliff over looking a nice beach and the Pacific ocean. Enen those who do not like malls will be impressed by the unique architecture and location of this place. Buildings are newer and colorful. There are signs out advertising lunch specials and tall cold drinks for happy hour. Yes… this is the heart of the tourist district for Lima. No matter what you think about tourist areas, Miraflores FELT much better than downtown Lima. It was quite refreshing to us.
The hostel we stayed in was great. The Flying Dog Hostel. (We highly recommend it) We had a nice double with a kitchen and private bath, free WiFi and breakfast for USD $30/night. The Starbucks was right next door and the park was across the street. Two blocks away a supermarket and dozens of restaurants within a 10 min walk.
Local bus transportation into downtown Lima was cheap and easy. Tip: stay in Miraflores and take the bus into Lima as needed.