If you appreciate fine art, you’ll love perusing the countless paintings in the artisan markets of Lima. There are some recurring themes throughout a lot of the art, but you can find virtually any style at any price level, and own an authentic, one of a kind piece of artwork from Peru. Some of the most popular Peruvian paintings are of Peruvian children in traditional dress, women in the rural areas with their long braids and hats, and landscapes of Machu Picchu and the Amazon. But there are also very realistic composition pieces, modern black and whites, and just about any other style you could wish for. If you buy a large piece you can have the canvas wrapped up for easy traveling – we did this with several pieces on a recent trip.
From the category archives:
Trip to Peru
On our last trip, we visited a family operated business where Peruvian alpaca fur is spun to make yarn, then woven by hand on a loom to create beautiful blankets, sweaters, scarves and shawls. They explained the entire process from start to finish, and we thoroughly enjoyed shopping through their selection of handmade goods. Here you can see how they spin the yarn using a foot pedal and simple technique. This woman also explained that their yarns are colored using natural dyes. They crush natural ingredients to create dyes ranging from purple to red to green, and they avoid using chemical dyes. We also felt the natural alpaca yarn next to synthetic yarn, and of course the natural fiber definitely has a softer, more luxurious feel. The markets in Lima are filled with alpaca goods of all kinds, so it was interesting to see how they are actually made in the more remote areas, using the same techniques that have existed for many years.
On our recent trip back from Huancayo to Lima, we stopped to take a dip in some thermal spring baths. The baths are interesting and relaxing – the water is heated by sulfur as it bubbles out of the ground, providing a natural jacuzzi effect. There are several areas of Peru that are famous for their thermal baths, including the Colca Canyon, Aguas Calientes, and the Inca Baths of Cajamarca. The Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world, and visitors often relax in the baths there after exploring the area. Aguas Calientes, literally meaning Hot Waters, is located at the base of Machu Picchu, and has become a very popular attraction for people seeking not only relaxation, but also medicinal healing from the naturally warm water. The baths in Cajamarca have remained mostly intact from the time of the Inca Empire, making them a special historical site as well as a place to enjoy the water.
Other areas of Peru are more remote, and not as famous for their hot springs, but can be just as enjoyable. We stopped at one of these spots to experience the baths, and it was a peaceful respite from the long drive back to Lima. The warm water fizzed and bubbled with each of our movements, but was calm and clear when no one was in it. There were two baths in the small building, and privacy for changing into bathing suits. We could smell the sulfur when we first arrived, but quickly got used to it as we relaxed in the water. For just a few soles, we were able to experience what many consider to be a natural healing method that can treat not only stress, but even bone and muscle disorders. Be sure to bring a bathing suit on your trip to Peru, and experience one of these naturally relaxing thermal baths.
In the heart of Lima, you’ll find architecture that is reminiscent of the European influence in Peruvian culture. Balconies like the ones in this photo add to Lima‘s architectural charm, and interesting details on many of the buildings get their inspiration from the streets of Spain. We even saw artisans in the marketplace selling tiny carved wooden replicas of balconies like these, some of which are quite intricate.
I took these photos from the car while driving through the area, but you can also enjoy this part of Lima by joining a bike tour, or just by taking a walk. Some sightseeing opportunities along the way include the Lima Cathedreal, Santo Domingo Church, and many historical monuments that have earned this area the distinction of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Center.
Also near Larcomar in the Miraflores district of Lima is the Rosa Nautica restaurant, sitting on a long pier that stretches into the Atlantic. The restaurant’s location allows for fantastic views, and although the dinner menu has a lot to offer, you may want to stop for lunch to see the impressive waves while the sun is still shining. This area of Peru is also known for perfect surfing conditions, and you’ll see surfers taking advantage of the waves while you eat in Rosa Nautica’s sunny, elegant dining room. On a recent trip, we visited the Rosa Nautica for a birthday celebration. The service is fabulous and the food is too. I tried the classic Lomo Saltado made with Pisco, and finished every last bite. The food is presented beautifully, and it was hard to decide which dessert to choose from the impressive selections. The Rosa Nautica is a “must see” for first time visitors in Peru.
Larcomar is an indoor/outdoor shopping mall perched atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean. It’s a great place to stop while sightseeing in Lima, and provides tourists with a chance to see the upscale side of the city. The shops are much pricier than the markets of course, but their displays are perfect for window shopping and checking out the latest styles and trends. There is also a large indoor arcade for the kids, and small rides in the outdoor area. The restaurant options within Larcomar include everything from an inexpensive food court to fine dining overlooking the ocean. Stop here for an hour or two to relax and enjoy the views during your stay in Lima.
Believe it or not, one of my favorite parts of the Ballestas Islands boat tour was waiting in line to board. As a wildlife enthusiast, I love getting close to animals that I don’t get to see on a regular basis. The Peruvian pelicans that inhabit the area of Paracas and the Ballestas Islands are larger than most pelicans, and apparently very friendly if you’re willing to feed them fish. Locals feed the pelicans right next to the line for the boat tour, so tourists can see them up close. They even offered to let us throw the fish, but we declined! They are beautiful birds, and it was interesting to see them so well.
The sea lions also had a lot of personality, and were caught jumping in and out of fishermen’s’ nets to steal their catch of the day! Our tour guide wondered where they were, until we saw the fishing boat and discovered where they’d been hiding.
On our most recent trip to Peru, we had the pleasure of visiting the “Galapagos of Peru,” or the Ballestas Islands. Located near the port of Pisco, and just outside the Paracas National Reserve, the islands are home to one of the largest sea lion communities in the world, as well as a variety of other wildlife. There are several hotels within walking distance of the dock, and several boats go out each morning. We stayed in Paracas for a night so we could take the morning boat tour at 8 am. The boats are small, and an unusually strong white current tossed our boat up and down through the waves at some points of the tour. Our tour guide explained that this is not a regular occurrence, and added that if that current had not been so strong, we would have seen more flamingos and dolphins. However, despite the less than favorable conditions, we saw several sea lions, including a mother and baby, countless birds (particularly pelicans) and some penguins, which were fun to watch and an unexpected sight for us. This area of Peru is definitely worth the trip for wildlife enthusiasts and especially photographers.
On our most recent excursion outside of Lima, we took the train through the mountains to Huancayo. Its a twelve and a half hour ride, but the views are worth the time. Once the train reaches the mountains, there are fascinating rock formations, cliffs, valleys, and lakes around every corner. Since the mountains are so steep, the train has to climb them in a zig zag pattern – this is why the trip takes so long. There are several switch backs along the way, which is when the train backs up to make the change to another track up the mountain. There are a few opportunities to get out and walk around, which also allows for some great photo opportunities. Although some travelers suffer from altitude sickness, you shouldn’t let that stop you from visiting this breathtaking area. If you follow a few simple tips, you should be fine. First, drink the cocoa leaf tea that they offer on the train and in many of the little restaurants in the area. It helps a lot with the effects of altitude. Also, resist the urge to enjoy more than one or two drinks from the bar car. Alcohol worsens the effects of altitude. Try not to eat large meals the day of your trip and the first night when you arrive in Huancayo. Also, remember that the air is thinner, so don’t overexert yourself physically. Take it easy until you can tell how the altitude affects you. I had a very slight headache on the train, but I felt little to no affect from the altitude. However, if you don’t take precautions you could end up sick on your trip. In order to enjoy the beautiful mountains of Peru, just follow the tips above and it will be a trip to remember.
Nine riders rode Peruvian Pasos from Lambayeque to La Libertad recently, in an effort to raise interest in horseback tourism in Peru. It was the second annual horseback trip of its kind, and the riders were greeted with enthusiasm from everyone they passed during their eight day trip. Peruvian Pasos have been used for travel in Peru for centuries. They are known as strong, elegant horses that offer a smooth, comfortable ride. Now that Peruvians are promoting their use in the tourism industry, more people may be able to experience Peru from the back of one of these majestic animals.