Colors and Culture in Peru’s Capital
Secondary Categories: Dig Deeper
For the second largest desert city in the world, Lima is surprisingly colorful in the summertime. Candy-colored paragliders float through the air, pastel colonial churches withstand the test of time, and local markets display a cornucopia of tropical fruits.
Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535 and still thriving today, Lima is the vibrant cosmopolitan capital of Peru, and it carries a weighty nickname: City of Kings. And sure enough, as I stroll along Lima’s Malecón, a coastal walkway, I truly feel like royalty. The landscape is a painter’s palette of emerald lawns, navy waves, and crystal skies. Surely a setting fit for any king.
The pampering continues when one heads indoors. Lima is home to some of the country’s best 5-star hotels, including the seaside Marriott, a favorite of celebrities and luxury lovers alike. Right across the street from this artistic glass building is the up-scale shopping center LarcoMar. Built into the side of a cliff and overlooking the ocean, the complex is covered with a rainbow of canvas sheets, creating an airy, carnival-colored atmosphere.
I slide into my seat at one of the restaurants and am greeted both by appetizers and panoramic views of the Pacific. Causa, ceviche, conchitas: a whole sea full of delicious dishes. Peruvian cuisine is famed around the world, but no place serves it better than Lima. A sip of a pisco sour—the national cocktail—and a dessert of pastel de maracuya (passion fruit pastry) and I’m ready to head inland to Lima’s colonial center.
Compared to the residential calm of coastal Miraflores, the Centro Historico is a bustling metropolis of businesses and government buildings mixed with historic churches and impressive museums. I ponder visiting Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion with the remarkable record of being the oldest private family home in the Western Hemisphere, continuously inhabited by the Aliaga family since 1535. However, this prestigious home is only open to by appointment, so I instead opt for the yellow layer cake style San Francisco Church and Monastery. I feel like a student at Hogwarts when I’m shown the historic library, which houses thousands of ancient dust-covered texts, and then even more so when I’m shown the creepily fascinating catacombs, which wind beneath the church and hold thousands of bones, sorted by type.
I then swing by Larco Museum, which tastefully displays the world’s largest private collection of pre-Columbian artifacts. The gold jewelry and silver plates designed by ancient cultures maintain their sparkle despite the passing of centuries.
My day in Lima concludes with a dazzling water and light show at the Magic Water Circuit. The park contains 13 fountains, each one festively lit like a holiday display with rotating shades of reds, greens, yellows, and blues. The park holds a Guinness Record for being the largest water fountain complex in the world. One fountain shoots water more than 250 feet into the air, the perfect kaleidoscopic display to conclude my colorful day in this capital city.
Thanks to Christian Haugen for the title image of this blog.