The title of this page is a bit misleading, and led us to ignoring this destination within the city of Lima for many years. Translated from Spanish this means literally “Park of the Legends”, which provides no clue as to the nature of the park. In 2019 during our recent visit to Peru, we met with the founder of the Cactario (“Cactarium” in English) at the Park, Guillermo Pino. We had met Guillermo many years earlier at a cactus-related talk I had given in Lima to members of their cactus society. Guillermo is an expert on Peperomia in Peru (he noted that there are over a thousand Peperomia worldwide, so it is impossible to be an expert on all of them), though he is a surgeon by training.
After our visit to the Rio Marañon we thought that our remaining time in Peru would be anticlimatic, especially since a planned day trip from Lima to the Lomas de Lachay and interior valleys failed to materialize due to miscommunications. So we accepted Guillermo’s offer to guide us around the Parque de las Leyendas the following day.
Manolo Fernandez (with whom we had traveled to northern Peru days earlier) and his son met us at our hotel and drove us to the Parque. Arriving just after the 9 AM opening time on Saturday morning (Aug 3) we did not see anyone in the parking lot. (It turned out that we had parked in a less-used lot.) We were met by Guillermo Pino and Engineer Daniel Orrego, the Chief of Operations of the park, who showed us around the zoological facilities. The Panthers and Jaguarundi’s were particularly active – more so than at other zoos we had been to.
We did not explore all parts of zoo – it is quite large. As we walked we began to appreciate the large size of the Parque de las Leyendas.
Though surrounded by cityscape, the Parque is comprised of three main components. Perhaps the largest in area are the archaeological ruins (huacas), which are of limited access. Then the zoological park combined with amusement and grassy picnic areas. These include artificial lakes and tropical forest environments. Though artificial, we were surprised at the size of these aquatic/forested areas and the fact that they are maintained in a region with essentially zero rainfall. Finally, there was the botanic garden. This was a large area with many trees from around the world. Within the botanic garden was a region with succulent plants from around the world. A separate cactario, near the east entrance to the Parque, had, on an artificial hill, cacti native to Peru.
OUR TOUR PARTICIPANTS
We spent the first few hours, not only with Guillermo Pino, but also with Eng. Orrego and Manolo Fernandez (whom we had traveled days earlier to northern Peru) and his son. Once we arrived at the Botanic Garden we met Biologist Carmen Martínez in charge of the collections of the Botanic Garden and she and Guillermo provided detailed descriptions of the Garden plants. Finally, later in the day Guillermo showed us the Cactario and other sections of the Parque, including the tropical rainforest walkway and tropical lake habitats.
THE BOTANIC GARDEN
The Botanic Garden is mostly covered with trees from different parts of the world. These are also arranged taxonomically – by their orders or families. We have fewer images of these trees or plants – we were focusing on the more photogenic cacti that we had come to see. Nonetheless, the non-succulent plant displays are very good – considering the lack of rain in Lima.
We spent hours in the botanic garden. Shown below are some of the photos we took – ones that mostly emphasize the succulent plants. See the individual photos and their captions for more detailed explanations.
Although we came prepared with tripod and an Olympus camera to take many Helicon-focus type of images, the ease of using our iphones resulted in our taking many of the photos this way. They are not as nice as I like to present on this website – but the need for spontaneity and quick photos outweighed the desire for better quality – with the slower to compose Olympus that might require changing lenses.
BOTANIC GARDEN PHOTOS
Below are photos from our visit to the Botanic Garden – they are put into a more compressed layout to save space. The figure captions explain each of them.
The “cactario” is a separate part of the Parque de las Leyendas, outside of the Botanic Garden area. It is normally restricted to individuals being on a guided tour, since it is not designed for heavy people traffic. The cactario is organized on a hill that extends to perhaps 20 feet above the surrounding area and the plants are arranged by elevation that they would be found in Peru. That is, higher altitude plants are near the top of the hill and near-sea level plants are closer to the bottom. Of course, the climate of Lima does not really represent well the climates of other parts of Peru, so not all cacti from Peru can be grown in this cactario. But it is an impressive collection of plants that do survive in the Lima area and when combined with the rocky landscape (entirely artificial) makes for an impressive garden.
13 Photos from the cactario are shown above. During our visit to the cactario both our camera and our iphones ran out of battery – as we hadn’t anticipated such a long tour we hadn’t thought to bring extra batteries!
Our visit concluded after we noted that the crowds seemed less than we expected for a Saturday afternoon. It had also gotten darker, though low clouds had been present all day. It was only then that Guillermo noted from his watch that it was after 5 PM – the Parque was closed! We had spent 8 hours at the Parque de las Leyendas (without lunch), yet we had not really felt the time going by. We had not imagined that we would find a city park so fascinating – but this, in retrospect, was due to the very interesting conversations we had along the way with Guillermo, the Zoo’s Operation’s Manager and and the Botanical Garden Curator. The random visitor would not have been so lucky!