Volunteering abroad is about serving struggling communities, but it’s also a unique way to experience a different culture and really get to know a community. Our Peru service program allows you to explore some fascinating attractions near our work site. When planning your service program with us in Lima, we urge you to consider spending your free time at some of these top destinations.
By Daniel Salazar, Peru Country Manager
I’m very proud of my culture, and love to share it with our volunteers, both at our work sites and around my homeland. When you serve in Peru, you will stay in Ancón, a beach district in Lima. This small town, technically a part of Lima but located 21 miles north of downtown Lima, is not very touristy. This gives you the advantage of seeing a true part of Peru, off the beaten road. Ancón offers some fun free-time activities that volunteers love:
Islas Grupo de Pescadores
The name is not telling, even in Spanish, meaning Islands Fishermen Group. But this is the coolest site in Ancón by far. Imagine an island filled with thousands of birds, sea lions, crabs, and even penguins. This is it. The adventure starts at the colorful fishing pier, where volunteers board Mayumi’s boat. Mayumi is the guy for this ride, as he is the director of all the protected areas in Ancón and he used to serve as president of the fishermen’s union. He will take you aboard Joan I on an hour-long ride along the beautiful Ancón bay and among this group of small islands. You will have plenty of time to take pictures and be amazed by this “national geographic experience,” as some volunteers have described it.
“Our delicious lunch at the beach was topped by an amazing three-hour boat ride out of the bay into the rolling swells of the ocean to an island absolutely chock-o-block with birds, including cormorants, penguins, pelicans, kiwis, and other wildlife.”– Betty Folliard
This lovely esplanade along Ancón’s bay is perfect for relaxing after a busy day. Almost a mile long, it’s perfect for walking, running, or just sitting to watch the sunset. Volunteers love getting ice cream and going for a walk here. Another fun thing to do is get in one of the anconetas, local pedicabs that take you on a relaxing ride along the promenade.
Both of these are activities that Peruvians enjoy just as much as you will on a service program. And, the fun doesn’t stop at Ancón. There are lots of other great sites to explore while you are in Lima. We suggest you take advantage of the weekend and explore some cool sites. Volunteers’ favorites include:
This archaeological complex built approximately 1,500 years ago offers, as its main site, a great adobe and clay pyramid that you can climb on a 40-minute tour. If you were thinking it was built by the Incas, then you should visit Huaca Pucllana to learn about the ancient cultures that ruled Lima long before the Incas. Even if you are not that interested in the tour, you may be interested in the Peruvian restaurant overlooking the ruins, perfect for dinner.
For shoppers, the Inca Market is a whole stretch of blocks fillled with shops with traditional Peruvian souvenirs and handcrafted objects, including art, jewelry, and alpaca clothing. This market is located in the district of Miraflores, the most tourist-friendly area of Lima. Volunteers usually opt to spend a couple of hours at the market and then head to Huaca Pucllana, also located in Miraflores.
This is perhaps the best museum in Lima to learn about the Inca and other ancient Peruvian cultures. It features a great collection of pre-Columbian exhibits (such as gold, jewelry, textiles, and vessels), beautiful gardens, and, of course, a gorgeous restaurant (when in Peru, you’ll get used to awesome restaurants). Ancient Peruvians were curious and graphic people.
Lima’s Historic Center
When the Spanish conquered the Inca, they settled in Lima. This was the most important city in South America until the 19th century, and so it’s full of history and architectonic masterpieces. It includes the Plaza Mayor (Main Plaza), Presidential Palace, Cathedral, and other majestic colonial buildings. We suggest you tour the Convent of San Francisco, an architectonic complex built in the 17th century with a network of underground galleries and catacombs. If you are interested in art, you should also check out Lima’s art museum: MALI.
Lima’s bohemian district overlooking the Pacific was built in the 19th century as a beach resort for Lima’s high society. The streets are filled with palm trees and mansions. Its colonial architecture is home to some neat shops, restaurants, bars, and art museums. Barranco is located right next to Miraflores, so you may want to walk around Barranco in the morning, have lunch there, hit the Inca Market, and finish up your day at Huaca Pucllana. Unless you want to explore’s Lima’s night life, for which Barranco is the spot.
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