Some 87 km north of Lima, the town of Chancay features a local equivalent of the Taj Mahal, a castle facing the sea built in the 1940s by Consuelo Amat y León, an amateur lawyer, architect and above all, poet. One of the salons is filled by an exhibition of weavings, ceramic pots and mummies from the Chancay culture. There is a modest entrance fee.
Lomas de Lachay National Reserve
At Km 105 of the North Pan-American Highway, a 90-minute drive from Lima sprawls one of the few mist-clad forests left on the Peruvian coast (5,070 ha). The first sight to greet visitors is that of groves of tara trees, followed by yellow flowers and a variety of ivy which carpet the gently sloping hills. Plantlife blooms through mid-August until October. The lower reaches feature a park warden's cabin, while gray-tailed deer graze unafraid nearby. Lower down are a look-out point, a stream and a picnic area with tables. Higher up the hills are studded with trees, largely eucalyptus, and the area is lined by sweeping gauze nets which serve to snare condensation.
The reserve teems with eagles, sparrows, owls, parakeets and a special bird, the vermilion flycatcher, with its bright red body and black crest and which flies in a particular manner, with one feather astray. One can also spot foxes if there are not many people around. In total, the reserve is home to 74 species of flora and 52 species of fauna. This kind of reserve is unique, and only found in Peru and Chile to the south.
Some 80 km east of Huaral, 5 hours from Lima. In the nineteenth century, during one of his countless expeditions around Peru, Italian naturalist Antonio Raimondi reached the town of Santa Catalina, where the locals invited him to take a dip. Raimondi accepted, thinking he would have to plunge into the frigid waters of the Chancay River. To his good fortune, however, he was taken to an open-air pool where hot water bubbled up from the ground. The naturalist studied the thermal springs and discovered they had high lithium content. Since then, many travelers have taken a relaxing dip in the Colpa hot springs, a place run by the townspeople of Santa Catalina, which has a small hotel and restaurant. The thermal baths lie just a few meters from the river, so that swimmers can alternate hot and cold water.
Just 65 km from Huaral, around a four-hour drive from Lima, in addition to an hour's hike, Rúpac (3,400 masl) is one of Peru's most interesting archaeological sites. Built some 800 years ago by the Atahuallo culture, there are around 50 well-preserved buildings, some standing as high as 10 meters. From here one can look out over much of the Chancay River watershed.