Lima Peru for a Day

Our Machu Picchu Adventure Part 1

David Smitherman
9 min readJul 31, 2023

So much to see and so little time to see it all! But here we go on another travel adventure! Our journey took us on a flight to Lima Peru for a city tour, then to Cuzco for another city tour, an excursion out to the Sacred Valley, and then finally to Machu Picchu for a tour, plus a free day to wander. But first, some highlights from Lima Peru!

Our tour begins at the Main Square, or Plaza Mayor, where the Government Palace of Peru is found, along with the Municipal Palace of Lima Peru, and matching mixed use buildings around the square, and the Cathedral of Lima Peru next to the Archbishop’s Palace. The weather is dry, comfortable, and overcast, common for this arid seaside city bordering the Pacific Ocean.

The Government Palace of Peru, or Palacio de Gobierno del Perú, provides for the home and executive offices of the President of Peru. It was initially built beginning in 1535 with many follow on additions, and then a complete renovation in 1937, to include its current facade in a Neo Baroque architectural style, by the architects Claude Antoine Sahut Laurent, and Ricardo de Jaxa Malachowski. Laurent was from France but died before the work was completed, so Malachowski completed the work, along with many other significant buildings in Lima Peru. Malachowski was from the southern part of the Russian Empire known as Ukraine, but had completed his architectural education in France.

The Government Palace of Peru, and the Municipal Palace of Lima.

The Municipal Palace of Lima Peru, or Palacio Municipal de Lima Perú, also known as the City Hall, and several similar mixed use buildings around the square, were designed in a Spanish Colonial architectural style, also by Ricardo de Jaxa Malachowski, and other architects including Emilio Harth Terré, and José Alvarez Calderón. Terré was a Peruvian architect, educated in Peru and France.

The Archbishop’s Palace, or Palacio Arzobispal, is the home of the Archbishop, and headquarters for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lima Peru. It was built in 1924, in a Neo Colonial architectural style, also by Ricardo de Jaxa Malachowski. The Palace is noted to have many Baroque design features similar to those found on the Torre Tagle Palace from 1735, which we discovered later on our tour. Adjacent to the Archbishop’s Palace is the Metropolitan Cathedral, also called the Cathedral of Lima Peru.

The Archbishop’s Palace of Lima and the Lima Metropolitan Cathedral.

The Cathedral of Lima Peru, or Catedral de Lima Perú, was begun in 1602, and completed in 1797, displaying a variety of architectural styles. including a Renaissance facade, Neo Classical spires, Plateresque decorations, along with elements of Gothic and Baroque designs. The cathedral was open for tours so we were able to see inside.

Main entrance and interior of the Lima Metropolitan Cathedral.

The architects over the years included Francisco Becerra from Spain who prepared the original design around 1600; Juan Martínez de Arrona, a Spanish architect and sculptor; Juan Rher, a Jesuit from Prague; and Matías Maestro, a Spanish priest, artist, sculptor, and architect, primarily responsible for the Baroque design of the twin towers. Maestro also assisted with the additional repairs and reconstructions still needed in the area after the earthquake of 1746. Several reconstructions have occurred over the years due primarily to earthquakes. Emilio Harth Terré is one of the latest architects to design a reconstruction due to the earthquake of 1940.

The Cathedral was built on top of an Inca Shrine, a common approach at that time by colonizers and the Catholic church, to rid the native people of their former customs, traditions, and religions. Among the Inca customs reported by the Spaniards was child sacrifices, performed by the Incas in an effort to appease their gods. This practice is believed to have begun with the reign of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, to commemorate special occasions and appease the gods after major natural disasters. Also, older servants might be sacrificed to accompany royalty into the afterlife at their death. Pachacuti was the ninth Inca emperor of the Kingdom of Cusco, who during his reign from 1438 to 1471, was instrumental in expanding the Inca empire from Cusco to Machu Picchu, and nearly the entire west coast of South America, which included Lima Peru.

From the square, our journey carried us on a walking tour through the historic sections of the city where a wide variety of architectural gems were discovered. Among them were these beautiful markets with Spanish Colonial buildings on pedestrian streets, like this one named after José Olaya, a Peruvian hero from Peru’s War for Independence in the early 1800s.

Shops and pedestrian walk on street named after José Olaya.

Also found were the Central Post Office and Museum, or Museo Postal y Filatélico del Perú, built in 1897, in a Beaux Arts architectural style, by the architect Emilio Pazo and Máximo Doig, and the Torre Tagle Palace as mentioned earlier, built in 1735.

The Torre Tagle Palace, or Palacio de Torre Tagle, was designed in an Andalusian Baroque architectural style, by architect and aristocrat José Bernardo de Tagle y Bracho, who built this palace for his family after being granted title as 1st Marquis of Torre Tagle, by King Philip V of Spain.

Historic Central Post Office and Museum, and the Torre Tagle Palace.

The Torre Tagle Palace and hundreds of other buildings in the Historic Centre have beautiful wooden balconies overhanging the street, which you can also see above on the Municipal Palace, and the Archbishop’s Palace. Most of the balconies were built in the late 17th and 18th centuries from cedar and mahogany, a highly durable wood in this dry climate, which are maintained today through private, commercial, and publicly promoted sources.

Our next stop was a Convent located at the Basilica up the street, dominated by a bell tower in Baroque and Rococo architectural styles. The Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo, or Convento Máximo de Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario, was founded in the 1530s and completed in 1766, under the direction primarily of Friar Diego Maroto, an architect from Spain of the Dominican Order. Additional design contributions were made by Juan Martínez de Arrona, an architect and sculptor from Spain; Miguel Güelles, an artist from Spain creating numerous murals for the Basilica; and Juan de Uceda, also an artist from Spain.

Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo, and their historic Library.

Our walking tour included exploration of one part of the Basilica, the Convent, where our tour guide provided insights into the facility from her experience as a former student. Here a library with thousands of books dating back hundreds of years can be found and researched with appropriate permission.

The convent was completed in the 17th century in a Baroque architecture style by Friar Diego Maroto. He was noted to have been one of the most important architects of that era, leading in the redevelopment of Lima Peru, and an earthquake resistant arch design used in the reconstruction of the Cathedral of Lima Peru after the earthquake of 1687.

Interior of a chapel at the Convent of Santo Domingo.

Our final stop was across town at the Larco Museum, or Museo Larco, a wonderful museum of archeological relics from over 5,000 years of Peruvian, Inca, and pre-Columbian history. The discoveries from archeology are fascinating and I could have spent an additional day here, and will if I ever return.

Final stop at the Largo Museum.

Travel Notes Part 1

The local language is Spanish, and Quechua in some areas, but at most tourist destinations they speak English too. Their currency is the Sol, but the acceptance of US dollars and credit cards is common. Do not drink the water as it is not purified to the standards we are use to in the United States and Europe. It is fine for bathing, but not drinking. Ask for bottled water, and avoid fruits and salads that may have been washed in tap water. If you accidentally drink the water you should ask for medical advice as the nauseating symptoms will not begin immediately, but instead will likely occur a day or two later. Keep Pepto Bismol and similar medications available just in case. Also, they ask that you not flush toilet paper, so a trash can is provided beside all toilets. It sounds gross, and it took a little getting use to, but we found almost all of the facilities to be extremely clean and odor free.

We left on a Saturday flying United Airlines from Huntsville Alabama through Houston Texas to Lima Peru. We upgraded our seats to a business class so the flights were comfortable and included meals, but the flight from Houston to Lima Peru was delayed due to air traffic control issues, so our arrival was after midnight Sunday morning. We recuperated at the Miraflores Park Hotel, a Belmond owned facility with which we had booked our travels and tours. After recuperating in the hotel Sunday morning we took this afternoon tour of the city focusing primarily on the Historic Centre of Lima Peru.

Traveling to Lima Peru and views in and around the Miraflores Park Hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The city of Lima Peru sits about two hundred fifty feet above sea level, on a volcanic plain along the ocean that rises to about five hundred feet at the Historic Centre. No building construction is allowed along the beaches at sea level, which is bordered by black lava sand beaches, an incoming highway, and the black lava cliffs with the city above. Along the cliff edge next to our hotel were walkways, bike paths, and parks with beautiful views of the ocean below.

On Monday we were off to Cusco for Part 2 of this travel adventure! And yes, if I did it again, I would have liked an extra day in Lima Peru.

Notes and Reference:

Story by David Smitherman, and photographs by the author and his wife, Ana Mari Cadilla, from site visits made in June 2023.

Historical data collected from brochures, onsite inscriptions, Wikipedia, Google Maps, Google Translate, iMaps, iPhoto.



David Smitherman

Retired architect and space architect from NASA. Married with a growing family. Currently into travel, historical architecture, photography and genealogy.