Park of the Reserve (Lima, Peru)

Written by Mark McElroy

This stunning fountain park is best seen on a crowded night.

We’re in Lima, with just a few hours to go before we head back to the airport. Rodrigo, our guide from Peruvian Local Friends, suggests we spend the sunset and early evening hours at the Park of the Reserve, in the shadow of Lima’s massive soccer stadium.

The park is now home to Lima’s “Magic Water Tour,” an outdoor showcase for the world’s largest fountain complex — thirteen lighted, synchronized fountains arranged along a meandering, wooded path. A stroll sounds like a great way to end the day … but nothing prepares us for the energy of this place.

It’s a Sunday night, and everyone — singles, families, and young couples — seems to be streaming into the park. We pay our four soles (about $1.30) and duck inside. Here’s what we see first:


That’s the first (and most impressive) of the fountains in the park — the Magic Fountain, featuring colored lights, steam, and a central geyser that shoots a column of water 260 feet into the air:


We stand there, gawking at the scene, for the better part of twenty minutes. The fountain itself commands a lot of attention, but watching people interact with it is even more engaging. Teenagers pose for photos. Little kids jog through the mist, dancing and squealing. Older couples walk slowly past, holding hands and smiling.

Clyde pries me away from the first stop, reminding me there are twelve more fountains to go. The next is the Fantasy Fountain, which synchronizes sixteen high-pressure jets with a light show and a two-hour new age soundtrack:


And there’s the Tunnel of Surprises, which converts sequential arcs of water into an tunnel twelve-feel tall. Walking through without getting wet is easy, unless the people around you give in to the temptation to touch the walls:


It makes for a nice photo opportunity, too:


But for me, the biggest magical moment of the night comes when we reach the Children’s Fountain: concentric rings of light and water that click on and off at unexpected times. Lots of people take their chances — dashing into the fountain during a break in the spray, standing in one of the dry rings as the water shoots up around them, and then dashing back out again.

I’m debating whether I want to try my luck (getting soaked right before a six-hour flight back to the States is, admittedly, not one of my best ideas) when I spot her — a young girl in her quinceanera (“sweet fifteen”) dress, standing between two walls of water, miraculously dry:


This ends up being my favorite photo from the entire trip!

We leave the park, climbing into the car and streaking through Peru’s chaotic traffic (more frightening, I think, than even Bangkok’s famous, free-wheeling madness) toward the airport.

Ready to head home? Yes. Ready to come back to Lima? Absolutely.

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Mark McElroy

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