The international airport in Lima was the starting point of my journey on to Machu Picchu. Many travelers do not stop in Lima but I was keen to see what the city had to offer.
The central area of Miraflores is typical of any modern city with high rise modern buildings. This area is right next to the Pacific Ocean. There is a pleasant walk along the cliffs to the trendy area with many artsy shops and cafes called Barranco. For those that can’t live without Starbucks you can find one here by the central square.
Miraflores has an upmarket almost sterile feel. It is certainly worth the walk to Barranco to enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere. It is an oasis as Lima is not a relaxed city at all. Beyond the central area Lima is a sprawl with traffic jams to compete with any city in the world.
I arrived late and spent my first evening in a hotel near the airport. The staff were great, as is often the case with privately owned hotels, but the area was rough and the hotel basic. When I later stayed in Miraflores they were quite surprised that I had stayed near the airport. They said it was an area which they would avoid. I think most tourists keep to the up market Miraflores.
The Larco museum is a gem in Lima. I would recommend everyone to do what I did and visit the Larco Museum before visiting any of the other historical sites. If possible find a guide at the museum who will help you interpret what you see.
Advanced civilisations have been found in in the area of Peru since 3000 BC. It was not until 1438 that the Inca empire developed. Just 100 years later the Spanish arrived and the Inca empire collapsed. I was surprised to learn that the time of the Inca empire was so short.
Many other civilisations came and went during the 4500 years before the Inca empire. The Larco museum contains many artefacts from these civilisations. I thought that one of the most impressive were these gold funerary ornaments were from the Chimu civilisation.
The founder of the museum Rafael Larco Hoyle produced a chronology of the different people in the area of Peru. The Inca were prolific builders and left many impressive structures. It is because of these that we focus on the Inca as the most important civilisation in Peru. The structures the Inca built were also earthquake proof. They have survived where other buildings would have collapsed in this geologically unstable region.
There are many items on show in the museum and more in the storerooms. The storerooms are open to explore. Some other impressive items on display include these funerary masks below. The clothing in the first photo is original and has been preserved in the dry desert climate.
This funerary mask below comes from the Moche civilisation.
The figure below shows a healer laying hands on a sick person.
The Larco museum is well know for its collection of erotic artefacts. The figure below is from the erotic collection.
Although interesting, the erotic gallery should not be a distraction from the rest of the collection. A half a day at the museum is enough to have a good look around.
If you have an interest in history and archaeology you must also visit the pyramid at Huaca Pucllana. It is close to Miraflores and dominates what would have been a large ceremonial and administrative site. You might think the pyramid is a hill. If you look more closely you can see it is made of bricks. It has been estimated that 9 million bricks are used in this structure. Rather than being straight sided it is formed from staggered platforms like the stepped pyramid in Egypt. I think it is difficult to make out the platforms given its state of repair. You can climb the pyramid and see where graves have been excavated. There is a also a helpful model showing what the site would have been like.