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Main Cities of Peru

LIMA -  "The City of Kings"
Lima city

The current Capital of Peru, was founded in 1535 by conqueror Francisco Pizarro who built his palace over the old buildings of a local pre-Hispanic settlement. The downtown area of Lima was declared by UNESCO as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity, due to the many remains of Colonial occupation under rule of Spain.

 It has 9 million inhabitants and is a place of big contrasts. It has luxurious districts surrounded by shanty towns. It is noisy though attractive and has the best museums in Peru. 

The main attractions of Lima include: 
Plaza de Armas (Main Square), where the most representative samples of colonial architecture in Lima are located: the Cathedral, the Government Palace and the City Hall; in the surroundings are also the Torre Tagle Palace and the Casa del Oidor. A city tour of Lima includes a visit to the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral and a ride towards the modern areas of Lima near the coastline.

Gold Museum; it is a private collection belonging to Mr. Miguel Mujica Gallo. The collection includes golden pieces of the different pre-Hispanic civilizations developed in Peru especially Chimu, Mochica and Nazca. There is also an interesting collection of textiles belonging to our old civilizations.

Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology; it exhibits pottery, textiles and handicrafts of most of the old Peruvian cultures, including Chavin de Huantar, Tiawanako, Paracas, Nazca, Mochica, Chimu and Inka.

Larco Herrera Museum; it is located in a Colonial House and exhibits mainly artifacts of the Mochica and Chimu civilizations, including thousands of pieces of ceramic, textiles, wood, stone etc. Over here is also the famous collection of erotic Moche pottery.

Museum of the Nation; it was open in 1990 and exhibits a chronological development of the Peruvian culture, including all of our ancient civilizations.

Amano Museum; includes a collection of mainly textiles and pottery of pre-Hispanic cultures.

Pachacamac; it is an archaeological site where there are remains of a pre-Inkan civilization and a later Inkan occupation. The buildings were made of adobe (sun-dried mud bricks) and are supposed to be remains of an important sanctuary including a Temple of the Sun and another of the Moon.

 

CUSCO

CuscoIt is one of the most famous cities in South America, because of being the oldest continuously inhabited metropolis in this Continent. The city itself was probably founded by 1000 BC, but in 1534 the Spanish Conquerors re-founded it according to the European way. Wherever you stop in Cusco you will find remains of ancient civilizations.

As this was the Capital of the Inkas, Cusco is the place where most of their superb works were done. This city is considered as the Archaeological Capital of South America and was declared by UNESCO as Cultural Heritage of Mankind.

The Cathedral; a colonial massive built in almost a century using stones of the Inkan Palaces and Temples surrounding the ancient Main Plaza, and the hard work of the descendants of the Inkas. It is one of the richest and the most magnificent work of Colonial Architecture and Art in South America. It contains canvases of famous Quechua Painters such as Antonio Sinchi Roca Inka, Basilio Santa Cruz Pumacallo, Marcos Zapata, etc. Diego Quispe Tito was the founder of the cusquenian school of painting (developed by local artists); and he painted the well known canvas of the Last Supper in which central portion is a plate containing the most representative Andean dish: a roasted guinea pig.

Qorikancha; it originally was the Sun Temple of the Inkas, that is, the most important temple in pre-Hispanic South America. All its walls were covered with plates of gold and silver, and all the artifacts and furniture inside it were made of precious metals and stones. The gardens had representations of the regional flora and fauna but made in gold and silver.

Spanish Conquerors melted down all the artifacts to make coins and bars to take them more easily to Spain. Later they constructed the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo on top of the Inkan Temple.

Saqsaywaman is one of the most incredible buildings made by mankind, with enormous stones weighing some of them over 140 metric tons. It originally was a temple for worshipping the Sun God but it had an excellent security system because temples like this were used only by the King and the priests it was like a fortress to enable its protection. It was built in about 50 years by some 20000 people working at the same time. When the Spaniards arrived, the temple was fully finished and in use. What today is seen around here are just the foundations of the Inkan temple that was destroyed in about 4 centuries.

Pisaq is located by the beginning of the Sacred Valley of the Inkas and was one of the important Inkan cities in the region. The original city was by the top of a rocky mountain, having different neighborhoods and a Ritual Sector named Intiwatana (Sun Fastener) where the quality of buildings is also amazing. By the bottom of the valley is the Colonial town of Pisaq where on Sundays and Thursdays there is a colorful Quechua market
Ollantaytambo was another complex Inkan City on the way towards the Antisuyo. Today it is the only place where it is still possible to find people living in the same houses that once belonged to the noble Inkas. It also has a Religious sector with remains of an amazing temple dedicated to the Sun.

Chinchero; another of the many Inkan Cities of the region that was destroyed by the conquerors. It is possible to observe that the Catholic Church was built on top of an ancient Inkan Temple. On Sundays they also have a very genuine market.

Machupicchu is the highlight of any trip in South America. Located by the beginning of the Amazonian Jungle, it was one of the power nucleuses dependent from Cusco. That Inkan City was very effectively protected by its difficult topography and the elements built for that purpose. It was supposed to house the Inka King, his family and close friends. Its population was about 1000 people and 80% were women, so perhaps it had one of the most important...... houses for the Virgins of the Sun (something like a nunnery). It was rediscovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham who took all its artifacts to Yale University. Over here you will be able to admire many temples including that of the Sun, the Three Windows Temple, the Main Temple, the Temple of Condors, an imposing Intiwatana (sun fastener), etc.

Staying overnight in any of the many hotels in Machupicchu is a great idea, that will give the opportunity to explore the environment and perhaps take walks to Wiñaywayna, the Draw Bridge or maybe climb to the very top of the Waynapicchu Mountain.

The Inka Trail; it is one of the shortest and most accessible treks you can take while in Cusco. It is a really exciting experience for getting Machupicchu after 3 or 4 days of hiking in the High Andean Mountains and the beginning of the Amazonian Jungle. You will be crossing ancient Inkan Towns and walk over the original cobbled path. This is also a great opportunity for appreciating the natural environment of the different ecological levels of the Inka Trail.

 

PUNO

PunoIt is a city on the shores of the Titicaca lake at about 3800 meters above sea level. The Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and is shared by Peru in its western side and Bolivia in the eastern. The mythical Titicaca is the spot where according to oral tradition Manko Qhapaq and his wife, the founders of the Inka civilization appeared. Puno is located in the ancient Collasuyo of the Incas, the Altiplano (high plateau) a broad territory between 3800 and 4200 meters. The inhabitants of the Collasuyo speak mostly Aymara, the old language rivaling the Inkas' Quechua. The air is somewhat rarefied due to the high altitude and its consequent lack of oxygen so try to take it easy when staying around here.

The Puno City was founded by the Spaniards in 1668 and was an important point serving the colonial administration. It has many remains of colonial architecture and specially churches like the one of Lampa that contains nice pieces of art. Today Puno is considered as the Folklore Capital of Peru due to the diversity of folk dances and music existing in the region; their top festivity is during the week of the Candelaria Virgin by February, a whole week of dancing, singing and drinking alcohol.

The main attractions in the area are:

The Uros Islands, they are small floating islands artificially built with totora reeds (the natural reeds growing in the lake). They are inhabited by small organized communities; the Uros people are mainly fishers and hunter of marine birds; but they even have small farmlands in those floating lakes for growing different vegetables.

The Sillustani Chullpas, Chullpa is a circular shaped tower used as cemetery. As there were mummies inside those buildings they were looted in colonial times, so now it is somewhat difficult to know many aspects of those stone buildings. The quality of their walls is excellent having many characteristics of the Imperial Inkan architectural type.

The Taquile Island, is a beautiful somewhat large island in the Titicaca Lake. Its inhabitants speak quechua and they still keep many aspects of the way of life of their ancestors, centuries ago. The visit to Taquile takes the whole day but it is possible to stay overnight in the island, getting lodge in the house of one of the local families (they were arranged for that purpose). The weavings produced in Taquile are very elaborate, they are hand made by the male weavers.

 

AREQUIPA

ArequipaIt is known as the White City because of the white porous volcanic rock (sillar) that was used to build most of the its buildings. The city is surrounded by mountains and snow capped volcanoes such as the Misti (5820 m.), Chachani (6096 m.) and Pichu Pichu. Arequipa City lies at 2400 meters above sea level but it has a very pleasant climate, its days are mostly warm and sunny, and its nights are cool.

Its main attractions include:

The Convent of Santa Catalina (Saint Catherine of Siena), is one of the most interesting samples of colonial religious architecture in Peru. The whole complex is a real town inside Arequipa City. Its construction began by 1579 and took many decades to finish it. It housed about 450 nuns who were secluded for their lifetime. The convent was opened as a museum in 1970. The City Tour in Arequipa always include a visit to this convent, the Cathedral and a ride around the picturesque landscape near the downtown area.

Other attractions near the city include Yanahuara, a famous district having a nice colonial church and a lookout with arches carved in volcanic rock.
Cayma is a couple of miles away from the city and has another nice church and an beautiful view of the city as well.

The Colca Canyon, is considered as the world's deepest canyon (even deeper than the Colorado canyon), located about 170 Kms. away from the city. On route you will be able to appreciate small interesting towns with friendly people dressed very colorfully; there are also lots of South American Cameloids including llamas, alpacas and even vicuñas on the highlands.

Around there you will probably see some condors flying around the mountains. Besides, you will be able to see stone carvings, cave paintings and thermal baths.


THE JUNGLE

PUERTO MALDONADO
It is the capital city of the Madre de Dios Department, in the east southern jungle of Peru. A flight from Cusco takes about 30 minutes, so it is the best choice for visiting the jungle once that you are in the Inkas' Capital. As in the case of Iquitos over here you will be taken to one of the many lodges in the region for starting expeditions of nature observation.
The jungle around here is even less explored than in Iquitos, and you will be able to take walks around the famous "Cochas" or ox-bow lakes, that are the main fauna environment.
From Puerto Maldonado it is possible to take trips to 2 Peruvian Nature Reserves:

Manu Biosphere Reserve, it is a broad territory between Cusco and Madre de Dios covering about 19137 sq. km (10% of the national territory). The scientific interest that awakens the Manu Park is based on its great diversity of flora and fauna species that is one of the biggest in the world and which is kept almost unchanged in millions of years of natural evolution. If you are looking for a real experience in nature observation this is the spot for you.

It is estimated that in Manu there are about 1000 species of birds, 200 different mammal species including 13 species of primates, 100 species of bats, etc. Moreover, over here is possible to easily find endangered species such as the Black Caiman and the Giant Otter. All those characteristics made the UNESCO recognize the Manu Park as a protected Biosphere Reserve.

Tambopata
Candamo Natural Reserve; it is another Park in the jungle between Madre de Dios and Puno and not so far from the border with Bolivia; on the banks of the Tambopata River. It is a reserve ideal for observation of undisturbed flora and fauna including jaguars, ocelots, peccaries, giant otters, tapirs, etc. It is estimated that around here there are about 600 different species of birds

IQUITOS
Iquitos is the biggest Peruvian City in the Amazonian Jungle; it is located on the banks of the mythical Amazon River. The main attraction of Iquitos is in the jungle: observing, exploring and enjoying the nature of the most extended and less explored jungle in the world. It is known that about 10% of the flora in this jungle is not known to science, and its wild fauna is one of the most exciting you will ever find.

For enjoying the jungle atmosphere you will be transported to one of the many lodges inside the jungle, from those spots you will be able to take excursions for nature observation. Many of those lodges have spectacular hanging bridges around, those are walkways constructed by the top of the trees for a better enjoyment of the aerial flora and fauna.

From Iquitos it is also possible to take boats for visiting some of the jungle tribes such as the Yaguas, Omaguas and Cocamas. Besides, Iquitos is a port for cruise lines traveling to some other Amazonian Cities such as Leticia in Colombia and Tabatinga in Brazil; those are small ships having some kinds of comfort such as air-conditioned rooms, bathrooms, restaurant, open decks, and some other facilities depending on the size of the ship.

 

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