By Hannah Vickers

Peru is one of the world’s cradles of civilizations, with people settling here around 15,000 years ago. Now, this country is famous for the Inca rulers and their Machu Picchu, but the Inca were just the latest of many Peruvian cultures to explore and interpret the mysterious land that today we call Peru.

From the Chavin, Moche, and Chimu cultures on the northern coast, to the Paracas and Nasca cultures in the south, the Huari culture in central Peru and the Eastern Andes culture of Chachapoyas, Peru has a fascinating history. Its capital city is one of the best places to explore this history, with a huge amount of top-quality museums telling Peru’s story through objects from deep in its past. Here are a few of the best.

Museo Larco (Larco Museum)

This museum gives an overview of 3,000 years of pre-Columbian cultures in Peru and is especially popular for its special erotic archaeological collection, tucked away in a separate room. You can see designs and styles change – sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically – as one culture either overtakes or merges into another, as each one’s interpretations of the world around them are set in designs for future generations to see and wonder at. It was founded by archaeology enthusiast Rafael Larco Hoyle, considered by many to be the ‘father of archaeology’ in Peru.

Av. Bolivar 1515, Pueblo Libre, Lima 21 – Peru
(00511) 461-1312 – 461-1835 – 461-5640
Opening hours: From Monday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (including public holidays)

Mario Testino Association (MATE)

Based in a restored 19th century mansion in Lima’s hippest district, Barranco, Mario Testino – one of the world’s most influential photographers – opened this museum in 2012. The museum holds the largest collection of Testino’s photos in the world, as the photographer has always wanted his work to contribute to his home city. And, this year, he also opened a permanent collection of his works.

Av. Pedro de Osma 409, Barranco, Lima – Peru
(+511) 251-7755
Opening Hours: Tue to Sat 11.00 am to 08.00 pm, Sun 11.00 am to 06.00 pm

Museo de la Gastronomía Peruana (Museum of Peruvian Gastronomy)

No trip back into the past would be complete without a look at Peru’s fascinating culinary history. This museum is the first museum in Peru dedicated exclusively to the history of Peruvian cuisine, detailing more than 2,000 years of Peru’s culinary traditions. Located in downtown Lima, this is a must-see if you’re interested in Peru’s culinary past.

Casa de Correos y Telegrafos, Jr. Conde Superunda 170, Downtown Lima
(+511) 426-7264
Tue to Sun 09.00 am to 05.00 pm
For more information, email aleon@mcultura.gob.pe

Museo Metropolitano de Lima (Metropolitan Museum of Lima)

This is the only museum in Peru (and most likely the world, but you never know) where the hologram of long-dead Ricardo Palma will welcome you into one of the exhibit rooms. The Metropolitan Museum of Lima was opened in 2011 and is the first completely virtual museum in the country.

The exhibits will take you through 10,000 years of Lima’s history, all without anything solid being displayed. Travel back through time with the help of 2D, 3D, and occasionally even 4D images and movies, holograms, and projections. There are more than 20 halls to explore, but unfortunately you can only visit with a guided tour at the moment, according to Lima guide, Lima Easy.

Av. 28 de Julio corner Av. Garcilaso de la Vega, on the side of the building towards the Parque de la Exposición, Downtown Lima
(+511) 433-7122, S/. 4 (some parts of the museum are free to visit)
For more information, email lrevoredo@emilima.com.pe

Museo Nacional Arqueología, Antropología e Historia Perú – MNAAH (The National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History)

Visit Peru of ages past through the pre-Hispanic ceramics, textiles, metals, and lithics in Peru’s oldest state museum. The items on display are separated into different exhibits based on their material, the most fascinating of which being, of course, the human remains gallery, where you get to have a look at around 15,000 people and bits of people, including funeral bundles, skeletons, and skulls.

Whichever museum you visit in Lima (and there are a LOT to choose from – this article is just the tip of the historical iceberg!) you’re sure to have an interesting and educational time… and you’ll leave Lima feeling closer to its past.

Hannah Vickers has lived in Lima, Peru for a year and a half and is the editor of Peru this Week. You can read more of her work on her blog http://hanwyn.blogspot.com/ or on the Peru this Week website. This article was written on behalf of Aracari Travel, specializing in cultural tours in Peru.

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