Lima and the Desert Coast
The coastal capital Lima is a sophisticated city wrapped in history and culture. With its eclectic mix of Spanish colonial charm and modern architecture, the city offers a contrasting wealth of attractions. From world-class museums to historical sights, upscale shopping and a tantalising food scene, it is a city worthy of a few days exploration.
As the gateway to Peru, Lima is often overlooked but as the largest city in the country, it has something to offer for everyone. Its beautiful historical centre is the city’s main allure, offering a treasure trove of attractions. Once the headquarters of the Spanish empire, the historical centre is recognised as World Heritage Site and peppered with baroque churches, monasteries and mansions, rich in Spanish heritage and charm. The Plaza de Armas is at the core of the historical centre, fringed by historical buildings and home to the Cathedral, the emblematic Convent of San Francisco and the Archbishop’s Palace, which boasts ornately carved wooden balconies typical of Lima’s old colonial structures.
Sprawling out from the main square is a wealth of museums, which delve deep into Peru’s rich heritage and display extraordinary collections of gold, silver, textiles and ceramic artefacts from ancient Peru. The Larco museum is a particular highlight home to over 3,000 years of pre-Colombian Peruvian history and housed in an extraordinary mansion built on a pre-Columbian 7th century pyramid.
Contrasting to Lima’s old-world charm, are the trendy neighbourhoods of Miraflores and Barranco. Modern and cosmopolitan, both areas boast upscale shopping, luxury boutique hotels, leafy green parks and quirky art galleries. As one of the culinary capitals of the world, Lima also offers some of the finest cuisine in Latin America and a wealth of world-class restaurants in the city.
A few hours south of Lima is the Paracas National Reserve, famous for its wildlife and beaches, it also serves as a gateway to the stunning Ballestas Islands. Home to a plethora of wildlife, an array of bird species can be seen on these islands, as well as large colonies of sea lions, whales and dolphins. Surrounding the area is the desert oasis Huacachina, a region of immense rolling sand dunes, perfect for adventurous travellers, wanting to dune buggy at full speed or sand board down the dunes in an area of spectaculars scenery.
The mysterious Nazca Lines are also worth a visit when travelling Peru's desert regions. As another one of Lima’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, taking the stomach-churning flight over these ancient lines, offers spectacular views of this landmark only available from air.