Most travellers to Peru will spend a few days in Lima, but the surrounding area is also worth exploring — if only for a day. Here are five out-of-town excursions to consider if you’re travelling to Lima.
Dating back to 2600 BC, Caral is considered one of the oldest towns in South America, and is the largest site dating back earlier than 2000 BC in the Andean region. The sprawling ruins of this ancient city are located north of Lima, in the Supe Valley. These ruins include the foundations of numerous adobe pyramids, temples, and sunken circular plazas. This massive site is a fascinating place to explore Peru’s pre-Incan history and see some of its impressive architecture.
Another fascinating pre-Incan archaeological site located near Lima is Pachacamac. Dating to 100 AD, the ancient settlement was named after the creator god Pacha Kamaq, who was worshipped by the Wari people; the name translates to “he who animated the world,” or “he who created land and time.” After the Incan invasion, the Inca established Pachacamac as both an important religious and administrative centre. The Incans built on and expanded the site beginning in 1450 AD. Much of Pachacamac has yet to be excavated, and the site is currently dominated by the imposing Temples of the Sun and Moon. Visitors can climb the winding walkways to the top of the temples for sweeping views of the countryside, ocean, and Lima off in the distance.
Peru is known for its high Andes mountains, rugged coastline, and dense Amazonian rainforest. It also boasts some seriously impressive sand dunes. Heading south from Lima along the coast, the road cuts in and follows the arid desert deep inland until the asphalt gives way to a rolling sea of sand, where burnt-copper dunes ripple off into the horizon. At the centre of the dunes is a small oasis dotted with palm trees, a village, and quite a few resorts. The oasis of Huacachina is a great location for travellers to try sandboarding or even sand skiing. According to local lore, the mud and water of the oasis has healing properties, and many travellers journey here to attempt to cure ailments, including arthritis, rheumatism, asthma, and bronchitis.
The Peruvian version of the Galapagos, the Ballestas Islands, are located a half-day’s drive south of Lima (though this will shorten to less than three hours when a new highway is completed). Boat tours of these islands leave daily from Paracas near Pisco. Gnarled rocky islands, weathered inlets, and stormy seas make the Ballestas Islands a place for hardy animals, such as sea lions, cormorants, pelicans, penguins, and boobies. For their small size, these islands are packed with an impressive diversity of wildlife.
Paracas National Reserve
Dramatic sea cliffs, swirling waves, and being the entry point to a number of excellent nature reserves make the Paracas National Reserve an excellent side trip from Lima. This national reserve is comprised of ocean, islands, and even a subtropical coastal desert. Like the nearby Ballestas Islands, a variety of animals call Paracas home, including sea turtles, dolphins, orcas, spy whales, sea otters, Humboldt penguins, Peruvian diving petrel, the blue-footed booby — and, of course, sea lions are aplenty. Paracas even boasts a group of islands that are the breeding area for anchovies. In addition to excellent wildlife watching, the Paracas National Reserve also has almost 100 archaeological sites.
G Adventures runs a number of tours to Peru, comprising urban forays into Lima, excursions into the country's more rural centres, and beyond. We're excited at the prospect of showing you more of this big, blue planet — check out our small group tours to Peru here.