After a few months of living in Lima, it’s easy to get stuck in the same routine day in and day out. You might find yourself confined to one or two of the city’s many districts, which might give you a certain type of tunnel vision.
I was beginning to feel that way until a friend recommended that I go up to the top of San Cristobal hill. From there, you can see the entire city and if you’re lucky, gain a new perspective of what it means to live in this sprawling capital.
My trip to San Cristobal started with a stroll down to the Plaza de Armas in central Lima on a warm Saturday afternoon. Once I reached the Plaza, a man approached me with a flyer for visiting the top of the cerro or hill. Normally, I wouldn’t accept flyers from a stranger, but I had heard some people talk about how powerful it was to go up there and had never had the chance to go myself, so I said ‘OK.’
For only S/. 5, I purchased a ticket for a tour bus to take me up.
After about a two minute wait, the little green tour bus came around and all of a sudden there were about 20 people on the bus. We left the plaza and crossed the Rimac river on our way to the top of the hill.
To my surprise, there was a knowledgeable tour guide on the bus and she told the passengers about the landmarks we passed along the way. By far the most stunning site we passed before reaching San Cristobal was the Alameda de los Descalzos. The promenade was built in the 1600s and is lined with a number of beautiful churches and large marble statues.
According to the tour guide, the alameda remained unchanged for many years, until in late 18th century, when three fountains were added. Then in the mid-19th century, Peru's president, Ramón Castilla y Marquesado, added his own unique style, with iron railings being imported from England to complete the look.
A few years ago, the city of Lima spent S/7 million to restore the centuries old park.
On ward, we started to climb through the narrow passageways that lead to San Cristobal. Dotted across those streets are green crosses that on Good Friday guide pilgrims carrying the cross up to the peak of the hill.
The tour guide told us that when the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro arrived in Lima in 1535, he replaced all of the indigenous spiritual sites with Christian crosses.
When the city was founded the Spaniards placed a giant wooden cross on the highest hill that overlooked the entire city. Quechua soldiers destroyed the first cross in what turned into a series of bloody battles between the native population and the Spanish. Ultimately, Pizarro’s forces won the battles and later he ordered that a new cross be erected atop the hill. The cross that currently stands on San Cristobal is a replica of that one.
I arrived on the top of San Cristobal just a few minutes before sunset. From the vantage point of 400 meters above the city you have a 360-degree view of Lima. On a clear day you can see all the way to La Punta, the beaches of Chorillos and even San Lorenzo Island. But you can also see the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
The sun was glowing in the sky and was beginning to set over the Port in Callao. Once the sun finally set, the city came alive in a different way, at this time one by one millions of lights were turned on and the city now looked like a modern metropolis, shining with hues of orange and purple coming from miles away in the Pacific.
I only had about thirty minutes to spend on San Cristobal, but I went just at the perfect time of day: when the city came alive.
Source and More info: Peru this week
Redaction: Diego M. Ortiz