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Visit Lima - Capital of Peru
The six million residents of Lima are divided between Indians and the mixed Spanish-Indians. Even though it's an old city, the downtown area looks like a modern city. Weather-wise, a strange phenomenon occurs in Lima - a thick heavy fog hangs over the city in winter. And it's limited only to Lima. 30 minutes away can be clear and sunny.

You will probably arrive at the new Jorge Chavez Airport, located 10 miles from city center. Taxi's and buses are available to take you into town. In town, buses are cheap, but very crowded, with passengers hanging on the outside. Taxi's are generally without meters, so establish price in advance, but be advised that many drivers do not honor their agreed-upon price.

Plaza San Martin: Located in the modern section, this plaza cuts through the heart of the city. Here, one will find the plush hotels, restaurants, and skyscrapers. The equestrian statue is San Martin, who helped liberate Peru from Spain in 1821.

Plaza de Armas: Located in the older quarter, this plaza is where Pizarro founded Lima in 1535. Here he laid a corner stone for the huge Cathedral of Lima. His remains are preserved in a glass coffin in the cathedral. The altars of the church are coated with pure silver. After visiting the church, observe the buildings surrounding the plaza. They have superb wooden balconies that are intricately carved. Also on the plaza is the Archbishop's Palace and the Government Palace, which is the home of the president. The changing of the guard takes place daily at 12:45, with trumpets, clanking swords and goose-stepping soldiers. The bronze fountain in the center of the plaza has been there for 300 years.

Church of San Francisco: Considered the most beautiful church in Lima... Baroque-style... located two blocks from Plaza de Armas. The structure has strong Arabic influences in its design. Look closely at the gold monstrance, which was made in Cuzco almost 300 years ago. Those jewels are real.

Plaza Bolivar: There are two worthy buildings located on this plaza. The first is the National Congress, and the other, to the right of Bolivar's statue is the Court of the Inquisition, where heretics were tried during the Inquisition. The Inquisition had been initiated to protect the Catholic faith, and did not end until 1813. Upon entering the main hall, you will see the seven red-felt chairs of the judges behind a mahogany table. To the right is the witness box. The ceiling of Audience Hall is an exceptional piece of work dating from the 18th century. Also visit the prisoners' cells on the lower levels. Hours Mon-Sat 10-5.

Museum of Anthropology and Archeology: This museum is dedicated to the study of the aborigines of Peru. On display are ancient capes, shawls, and ceramic objects that predate the Incas. There are also Inca relics here, as well as artifacts from the Paracas, Chavin, and Pachacamac cultures. In the Inca Room is a scale model of Machu Picchu, the famous "lost city" of the Incas. Hours Mon-Sat 9-1, 3-5.

Museo Arqueologico Rafael Larco Herrera: Located about 10 minutes from the Anthropology and Archeology museum is this famous privately-owned museum... at 1515 Avenida Bolivar. There are two reasons to visit here. Twelve 2,000 year-old mummies are in glass cases, most with their faces exposed. Parts of some faces are perfectly preserved, while others are nothing but skulls. Most are dressed in ceremonial clothing. The second reason to visit is to see the noted erotic art. To find this, exit the building, follow the wide brick path down to the lower level where a guard is on duty. Upon request, he will unlock the door so you can see the erotica of the past... hundreds of rather small ceramic pieces, most showing Indian figures in various stages of coupling. Hours are Mon-Sat 9-1, 3-6.

Museo del Oro del Peru: The Spanish colonial era is re-created in this gold museum where restored armor, cannon, pistols, swords, etc.are well displayed. The lower level is devoted to the artifacts of Inca and Indian civilizations... spears, shields, and beautifully crafted gold and jewelry pieces. Some of the pieces go back 3000 years. This museum warrants a visit. Mon-Fri 9-1, Sat 3-7.

National Museum of Art: The grand art of ancient Peru, dating from 2,500 years ago, is on display here. You'll find silver goblets, ceramics, jewelry, and ivory fans. Tu-Su 10-7.

Church and Monastery of Santo Domingo: Built in 1549... one block west of Plaza de Armas, this was home to St. Martin de Porres who served as barber and pharmacist to the friars, but was never permitted to become a priest himself, because he was black. His remains are buried in the monastery. The building is a fine example of colonial architecture, including some tiles shipped from Spain in 1586.

St. Rose of Lima's House: She is the first saint from the New World, and Peru's favorite. She grew up in this house, and the walls around the gardens bear plaques that explain her life. At the time of her death in 1617, at the age of 31, she was said to have nursed throngs of the poor to good health, as well as to have helped save the city during earthquakes and attacks by the Dutch pirates. St. Rose is buried in Santo Domingo.

Parque Japones: This peaceful and charming garden was donated by Peru's Japanese community in 1973. There's a great collection of plants and flowers, a dragon-shaped lagoon, filled with goldfish, and a small waterfall next to a Tea House.

Port of Callao: This is Peru's largest port... 8 miles to the west of Lima. The most famous attraction here is the Real Felipe Fortress, which at one time protected this city and Lima from British raids. Sir Francis Drake attacked Callao in the 16th century but failed to get past the fortress. This is also where the Spanish royalists made their last stand against Bolivar in 1824-26.

Excursion to Pachacamac ruins and museums: Located 20 miles south of Lima, these stunning ruins were once pyramids built by pre-Inca Indian tribes to satisfy their god. Upon the same structures, the Incas later constructed their own temples and pyramids dedicated to the sun god, and to the moon. They filled the temples with silver and gold objects, which were looted by the conquistadors. However, so many relics have been uncovered that a museum was erected on the site to house them...mummies, pottery, textiles, and many silver objects. Daily 10-5.

Excursion to Nasca: This is the famous site where an ancient civilization carved, with absolute precision, huge animals, birds, human figures, and geometric lines into a solid rock plateau that extends for miles. It is visible only from the air. These amazing drawings and lines suggest that a highly developed knowledge of hydraulic engineering and astronomy existed before the Incas. The experience will haunt you after the trip is over. Were the lines actually an airstrip? Did knowledge of aeronautics exist in pre-Inca times?

For shoppers: Centro Artesana de Pueblo Libre: A kind of shopping center run by Indian families. Here are 28 independent, semi-enclosed stalls selling gold, copper, and silver jewelry, alpaca rugs, leather goods, wall plaques, handicrafts, ponchos, etc. English is not spoken here, and service is indifferent. Be patient. The Indian vendors - sometimes children of 8 or 9, are remarkably uncommunicative considering they're trying to make a sale. They might stare at you saying nothing... so offer a counter price. You might hear a faint "no" and nothing more. Your patience is the key to winning here. It's certainly worth visiting, but not practical to make a sale.
About the Author
Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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