Located among the manors and genteel condominiums of the upper-class district of San Isidro, the Olive Grove Forest is a green and peaceful haven in the middle of a crushing population of 10 million people. It’s devoid of the “weekend-fever” crowds experienced in the parks along the ocean-side promenade of Miraflores, and it’s a delightful break from the tourist-saturation of Lima’s popular Huaca Pucllana, the Mercados Artesanal, and the Basilica Cathedral.Started from the only three saplings that survived the ocean journey from Spain in 1560, the grove is now a national monument, home to 1600 gnarled olive trees. Several of the twisted trunks still bear the scars where retreating Spaniards attacked the grove during the Peruvian War of Independence (1811-1826). After visiting the impressive historic center of Lima with its astonishing tourist crowds, a quick taxi ride to the grove was a sheer delight. We meandered through the shady park, serenaded by tanagers and squawking parrots, and then used Uber to return to our hotel (1/2 the price of the taxis, which are already very cheap).
A note on taxis: they are everywhere, and they are cheap. Strap yourself in; when they’re able to move fast, they do so, viewing speed bumps as launching pads for a little air-time, rather than devices to slow them down. To save money, some cab drivers have converted their vehicles to run off of BBQ propane tanks. Exploding taxi cars are not unheard of. As for cars running on regular gasoline, a local advised us to always open the cab windows, as carbon monoxide poisoning of passengers in the backseat is another common hazard.
Amidst the glass high-rises, apartment buildings, and traffic-jammed streets of Lima squats the terraced adobe and clay pyramid of Huaca Pucllana. This pre-Inca temple spreads over more than 10 acres in the Miraflores district of central Lima, easily reached on foot from most hotels in the area. We arrived just in time to catch a 10:30am English speaking tour (45minutes in length). The walking tour leaves promptly at each allotted time and will not wait for those who are tardy, even if the tour guide can see that you are in the process of purchasing your tickets. Several Aussies who were late to the ticket gate missed the first 10 minutes of the tour. Tours are conducted frequently throughout the day. Our guide regaled us with a bevy of fascinating facts about the ancient site. During the years 200AD to 700AD, every seven years or so the ruling priests paved over the existing ceremonial & administrative center and built a new one on top (talk about an ongoing employment program). Until relatively recently, before the site was excavated, the hill was both a garbage dump and a popular spot for bicycle and motor-cross races.
The remains of Tumba Wari (500AD-900AD) were found onsite, as well as a tomb containing the remains of two masked adults, and the bones of a sacrificed child alongside a third adult.
The ruling priests controlled the viaducts and irrigation around the surrounding farmlands, and although the rivers that were then in existence are no longer present, one section of the archeological site has a garden with a sample of the crops that were commonly grown at that time.
A patio restaurant backs right onto the archeological site and makes for a fantastic spot for dinner, with the clay-brick terraces lit up before you as you dine under the night sky. Located at Cuadra S/N, Calle General Borgoño 8, Miraflores 15074, dinner reservations are recommended for the restaurant… and yes, the food is great.
The Mercados Incas, also called the Mercados Artesanal or Indian Market, is within about 20 minutes walking distance from Huaca Pucllana, south down the Avenue Arequipa. There’s a tiny little tourist information booth about 200 feet away from Huaca Pucllana that has free street maps.