On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many of the places I used to dream about visiting. One of the last places I had never seen and still dreamed of was Machu Picchu. I thought that was never going to happen; it was too far, too difficult, and too expensive, and after the Covid years I’m not as adventurous as I once was.
But I saw that Road Scholar had a ten-day trip to Peru that wasn’t too expensive and after mentally hemming and hawing for weeks, I signed up. Going to Machu Picchu wasn’t going to be any easier on my knees or my back next year, or the year after, and if it was really now or never, I decided to choose now.
And Peru made me fall in love with travel again, despite some bad altitude sickness and a few of the typical misadventures that scholars of the travel genre may someday refer to as arrievesque. There’s a lot more to the country than Lima and Machu Picchu, and I only saw a small part of it, but I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.
The Palacio Municipal in Miraflores, one of the prettiest neighborhoods in Lima.
Both Lima, with 11 million people, and Peru itself are much larger than I had realized. In area, Peru is almost twice the size of Texas. (I would have guessed it was maybe the size of California, or a little smaller, but it’s much, much bigger.) And there are 20 distinct climatic zones, from the deserts in the south and on the coast, to the Andes, and then the Amazon Basin. Lima has an extensive underground water system so it’s full of parks even though it’s basically a desert.
One of those parks. I arrived a day early so I had some time to explore on my own before the tour started. It was a sunny day and warmer than I’d expected, so I decided to walk over to the beach. I never actually got on the sand, because there is a series of parks on cliffs above the water, and it was more fun to explore those. This is Parque Chino, which has koi ponds and a pagoda.
So it turns out there is an 1800 year old pyramid in the middle of Lima. I had never heard of Huaca Pucllana until I started planning this trip, but our visit there was a highlight of a very long first day that began with a lecture on biodiversity and the Humboldt Current, and included a visit to a fish market, a monastery, the catacombs under the monastery, and the Plaza de Armas and colonial Lima.
I loved reading about the Incas when I was a kid, but I never realized how short-lived the Empire was, really only a hundred years from Pachicuti, who expanded the kingdom of Cusco into an empire, to Pizarro.
This pyramid and the surrounding structures preceded the Incas by almost a thousand years. It was built by members of the Lima culture, who probably used it for ceremonial purposes; the Wari who succeeded them a few hundred years later used it as a burial site for their nobility.
That a structure built of adobe bricks has survived so long is partly due to the climate–Lima gets less than an inch of rain a year. Also, putting the bricks vertically, with spaces in between (called the library technique) makes it more earthquake-resistant.
Some of the future ceviche at the fish market.
The ornate Baroque façade of the Convento San Francisco, built in the late 1700’s. The interiors were magnificent—a cloister with an ornate wooden ceiling and tiles from Seville surrounding a garden, a library with spiral staircases, beautiful paintings. No photography was allowed unfortunately, but if you Google “Convento San Francisco” you can see pictures from visitors who ignored the rules.
It was very overcast so this isn’t a great picture, but I wanted to include it anyway. This is the presidential palace on the main plaza. It’s also known as the House of Pizarro, since it sits on the site of the first Government Palace, built by Pizarro, but this building dates primarily from the 1920’s.
It is the official residence of the president of Peru, and as such has seen a fair amount of turnover in its occupants. The current president (and first woman in the job), is Dina Boluarte. She was vice president under Pedro Castillo, who was impeached after attempting a coup. (For some reason, this sounds familiar.)
Castillo is now in the same prison on the outskirts of Lima as two other former presidents, Alberto Fujimori and Alejandro Toledo; I believe a few other former presidents are under house arrest elsewhere. And somehow the country manages to go on, despite holding its leaders accountable.
I took this picture because I liked the colors, but after I got home and did some Googling, I learned that this is actually an art project, intended to give a neighborhood on San Cristobal hill that had been hard hit by COVID the look of a giant mural when seen from the streets below.