Introduction to “The City of Kings”
From the beginning Lima, the city of kings and viceroys, was an oasis of culture and elegance in the American-Indies. Just a few decades after its foundation, Lima already rivaled Mexico as the most important metropolis in the Spanish-American empire. Baroque and Renaissance churches, mansions, palaces, universities and archdioceses filled Lima. The cultural scene positively bummed as early as the beginning of the seventeenth century, when Lima had but a population of just 25,000.
The ancient Rímac Valley, “the speaker” in the Quechua language, was originally settled by fishermen and hunter-gathrers, ruled over by a local chieftain, Taulichusco. It was here that on January 15, 1535, Spanish Conqueror Francisco Pizarro founded the city of Lima. In less than 70 years, Lima was to concentrate all the power and wealth of all trade and cultural activity in the Vice-regency: it had become, in effect, the most important city in the Americas.
The History of Lima
In the eighteenth century, Lima fell into decadence and instability due mainly to the creation of the Vice-regency of Río de la Plata, which took over the great mines of Alto Perú (now Bolivia). Things came to a head in 1821, when Peru daclared its independence as a Republic. At the start of the twentieth century, during la belle Epoque (1915-30), the city enjoyed a privileged position once more as one of the most modern cities on the continent.
In the 1940s, as growing waves of migrants left the countryside bound for Lima, the capital became a miniature replica of the country itself, – a melting pot of people and cultures. Today, with a population of 8.5 million, Lima is home to a quarter of the country’s population and nearly two-thirds of Perú’s economic and industrial activity. More than 460 years have passed since its founding as a Spanish city, and Lima today has become synonym of Peru’s mestizo or mixed-blood heritage, one that baffles those in the know and first-time visitors alike. In fact, this quandary is one of Lima’s greatest features. This alchemy of influences is most clearly seen in the city’s innovative cuisine, which gourmets rate as one of the world’s finest. UNESCO meanwhile, ranks Lima’s architecture as a world heritage site, while the city’s inhabitants, fun-loving and skillful, have become experts at adapting to change.
Furthermore, Lima offers tourists superb museums, dozens of art galleries, theater productions and every kind o top-notch cultural exhibition, modern shopping malls and recreational areas, in addition to archaeological and natural attractions.
154 meters above sea level. (505 feet)
Population in Lima
Metropolitan Lima and Callao
Distances from Lima
How far is Lima from Cuzco?
From Cuzco 724 miles (1,165 Km) (by Nazca)
How far is Lima from Arequipa?
From Arequipa 633.8 miles (1,020 Km)
How far is Lima from Paracas?
From Paracas: 152 miles (245 Km)
How far is Lima from Huaraz?
From Huaraz: 248.5 miles (400 Km)
Weather in Lima
Lima overlooks the Pacific Ocean, and is subject to two well-defined seasons: winter, from May to September, with temperatures dipping to 18°C and humidity running off the charts, making it feel extremely chilly, especially when a light drizzle sets in; and summer, from December through March, with sunny days and temperatures often topping 30° C. It rarely rains in Lima.
How to get to Lima
The city of Lima is easily reached overland and by air. The capital is linked to all the cities on the coast by the modern Pan-American Highway, that runs along the coastline; the northern stretch runs for 1,370 km from Tumbes, on the Ecuadorian border, to Lima, while the South Pan-American Highway runs 1,291 km from Lima to Tacna, on the Chilean border.
The capital is connected to the Andes via the Central Highway (Carretera Central) and the Paramonga-Huaraz highway route, both paved, and via roughgrade roads running from Cañete-Yauyos-Huancayo, Huacho-Oyón-Huánuco and Lima-Canta.
As the gateway to Perú, Lima features an international airport which has regular flights to major cities around the world as well as dozens of domestic flights. Every international flight to Peru arrives at Lima.
Lima’s Lima’s menus offer a wide variety of dishes from all parts of the world as well as the more select dishes of Peruvian cuisine, amongst the best in the world.
Whoever comes to Lima cannot leave without trying its “criollo” cuisine (peru’s traditional cuisine) and one of it’s most emblematic dishes: cebiche.
Particularly, Criollo-Cuisine has many dishes based on fish and shellfish, which magnificently combine flavors and aromas beyond imagining. Ceviche, raw fish marinated in lemon juice and seasoned with chili, is the most representative of all Peruvian seafood dishes.
Other favorites are the “jalea” (deep fried mixed fish and shellfish) and “tiradito”, (strips of fish marinated in lemon juice, similar to ceviche) and “coctel de camarones” (shrimp cocktail).
Other jewels of “criollo” food are lomo saltado (stir fried pork and vegetables), carapulcra (a type of potato and meat stew), arroz con pato (duck cooked with rice), cau cau (tripe and vegetable stew) and anticuchos (barbecued pieces of meat, chicken or fish on a skewer). Desserts such as arroz con leche (rice pudding), mazamorra morada (a purple coloured jelly), suspiros a la limeña (a sticky sweet classic pudding), picarones (deep friend pumpkin and sweet potato doughnuts eaten dipped in sugar cane syrup) and turrón de Doña Pepa (a multi coloured cake). All these dishes are delicious enough to satisfy even the most demanding of tastes.
Attractions in Lima
THE HISTORIC CENTER
PLAZA MAYOR OR MAIN SQUARE
The site of the Spanish founding of Lima by Francisco Pizarro, the Plaza ayor, has witnessed some of the most important historic events in Peru. The Plaza Mayor, or main square, was originally surrounded by small shops and businesses. It was also used as a bullring and scaffold to execute those condemned by the Holy Inquisition. More than a century later, a bronze fountain, built in the center in 1651, still stands today. It was in this plaza that Peruvians declared their independence in 1821. The Presidential Palace sits on the northern side of the square, while the Cathedral and Archbishop’s Palace are on the east side and the City Hall is located to the west.
Built 1625 in Baroque Renaissance style and rebuilt after an earthquake in 1940, the Cathedral is a veritable work of colonial art.
While its facade is somewhat austere, the Cathedral houses magnificent Churriguerra altars, beautifully-carved wooden choirstalls and gold-leaf altars, in addition to a unique collection of oil paintings and sculptures from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
IGLESIA DE SAN FRANCISCO
This is a striking colonial complex consisting of a church, the convent of San Francisco and the chapels of El Milagro and La Soledad. Built in
the seventeenth, the complex’s cloisters and patios are decorated in blue Sevillian tiles, while there is also a well-stocked library. This complex houses the Religious Art Museum and the Zurbarán Room. The church is built on top of a network of underground tunnels or catacombs which were used as a cemetery during colonial times, and today is open to the general public.
IGLESIA DE SANTO DOMINGO
Construction of this church, which features three naves, got underway when Lima was founded, however it was not finished until the late sixteenth century. The church has superb choirstalls, carved in cedar, as well as an imposing dome. The convent cloisters are lined in Sevillian mosaic tiles, while the chapel is filled with Baroque sculptures. It was here that San Marcos University, the first in South America, was founded in 1551.
IGLESIA DE LA MERCED
Built in the eighteenth century, this church is an execellent example of the splendor of Spanish colonial, architecture. With a Churriguerra facade, the church is filled with works o art, such as the main altar dedicated to the Virgen de la Mercedes, patron saint of the Peruvian armed forces, and a beautiful sacristy decorated with Arabesque tiles. La Marced houses one of the finest collections of colonial oil paintings and carvings in Lima.
CASA RIVA AGUERO
Built in the nineteenth century, the house was donated to Lima’s Catholic University (one of the most prestigious in Peru) by the last of the original owners’ descendants, Don José de la Riva Aguero. Today it houses the Riva Aguero Institute, which in turn features vast historic archives and a fine library. It is also the site of the Museo de Arte Popular, the Folk Art Museum.
PALACIO TORRE TAGLE
Built in 1730 by the Marquis of Torre Tagle, treasurer of the Royal Spanish fleet, the palace is one of the finest examples of colonial architecture to be found in Peru. Its facade features two superb carved wooden balconies and a Baroque stone doorway. The interior, decorated with Moorish arches, Sevillian tiles and soaring coffered ceilings, is particularly noteworthy. Today it is the seat of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Built on top of the foundations of a pre-Hispanic temple, this mansion has been inhabited since 1535 by the descendants of the Aliaga clan, one of Lima’s wellestablished families, and is the oldest standing mansion in Lima. It features huge, luxurious salons, coffered ceilings and a beautiful inner patio, a characteristic of great colonial mansions in Lima. Today, it is used for a variety of cultural events.
OTHER TOURIST DISTRICTS
RIMAC AND PLAZA DE ACHO
Known as the district “under the bridge”, this is one of the most traditional areas of the downtown Lima and features streets that are notably Sevillian in style. Located on the banks of the Rímac river, on the other side from the original city center, Rímac was known in colonial times as the Barrio de Indios San Lázaro (Indians’quarter), and is linked to the city by centuries-old bridges. The cradle of Creole culture, Rímac is home to some of Lima’s best-known Creole clubs, or peñas, and traditional restaurants. The district features some extraordinary spots like the Alameda de los Descalzos, the Paseo de Aguas, The Quinta Presa and several squares and churches. In addition, Rímac is home to the Plaza de Acho (1768), one of the oldets bullrings in the Americas. Every October, Acho hosts the famous Señor de los Milagros bullfight season, which draws many of the world’s top bullfighters to participate.
BARRIOS ALTOS AND BARRIO CHINO
One of the most traditional quarters of downtown Lima, this distric was home to composers, intellectuals, musicians and Bohemian types, who took criollismo to new hights. Here one still finds some of the best examples of colonial and republican architecture that includes the Quinta Heeren, an area with its own plaza; the Casa de las Trece Monedas, a majestic nineteenth-century residence; the iglesia de las Trinitarias and the Molino de Santa Clara. Lima’s Chinatwon, bordering the mercado Central, is home to oriental tea rooms, and restaurants serving up exquisite varieties of Chinese food.
CALLAO AND LA PUNTA
Located 14 km west of Lima, Callao is the country’s largest port. Founded in 1537 to serve as a site for loading the treasures of ancient Peru on to galleons headed for Spain, callao features the pentagon-shaped fort of Real Felipe, built in the eighteenth century to fend off attacks by pirates and corsairs. Later, the fort was to play a major role in the war of independence. Callao tapers off in the district of la Punta, a long peninsula that just out into the Pacific Ocean and is home to the Navy base, a few pebble beaches, the old beachfront drive and residential areas in vogue in the 1940s and 1950s. A few kilometers off the coast lies Isla San Lorenzo an island featuring pre-Hispanic burial grounds, and the islet of Frontón, once the site of a maximun-security prison.
BARRANCO AND CHORRILLOS
Together with the neighboring district of Chorrillos, Barranco, a few decades ago, was the fashionable seaside district for lima’s aristocracy. Today it is Lima’s premier Bohemian quarter. Over the past 15 years, Barranco has made a comeback. Its parks and republican mansions have been refurbished, with frequent concerts and cultural shows along its tree-lined streets. A must-see is the Bridge of Sighs, a favorite hang-out for courting couples, and its seaside drive overlooking the “Costa Verde”. Further south lies Chorrillos, famous for beach resorts like La Herradura, featuring restaurants and eateries known as picanterias. The area had a rich Republican history, that can still be seen today in the sweeping masions still found there. Chorrillos is also home to the astronomical observatory on top of the hill called the Morro Solar, scene of major battles in the war against Chile (1879-1883). This spot provides visitors with an unrivale view of lima’s coastline, stretching from Chorrillos to Isla San Lorenzo off Callao.
Lima’s foremost tourist and hotel district is without a dubt Miraflores. This distric features spacious modern shopping areas. Well-manicured parks and gardens. Miraflores is known for its many flower-filled parks, but is also famous its beaches, that are part of the “Costa Verde” area, which draw thousands of beach-goers and surfers in summertime.
The district also puts on many cultural events at theaters, cinemas and art galleries, and boasts a pre-Inca mud-brick tmple called the Huaca Pucllana, one of many archaeological sites still found in Lima. The district teems with cozy cafés, pubs, restaurants and shops, while its freshly remodeled parks and gardens attract thousands of Lima inhabitants every Sunday who congregate to visit art exhibitions, take in open-air cocerts and browse through flea markets.
This is Lima’s “garden” district, as it stands out for its green zones and exclusiv residential areas. San isidro also features many of the city’s finest restaurants, hotels and concert halls. Despite the building boom, San Isidro has kept something of the aristocratic atmosphere for which this suburb was known for at the beginning of the century. This can be still felt clearly seen in the area of El Olivar, the centuries-old olive grove that has kept many of its original trees that stud this popular park. In recent years, the district has become a major financial quarter as many banks and businesses left downtown Lima to set up their headquarters in modern office blocks. The district features a pre-Hispanic temple, Huallamarca, where concerts and exhibitions area held occasionally.
ENVIRONS SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST
Just 31 km down the South Pan American Highway, the anciant Columbian temple of Pachacamac rears over the fertile valley of Lurín.
Built largely from adobe mud bricks, the temple housed an oracle that was considered, along with Cuzco, to be main ceremonial center in pre-Hispanic peru. Pilgrims flocked here from far away to render homage to the god Pachacamac, believed to be the creator of the world and its creatures. The Inca section (1440-1533) is the best-preserved part of the archaeological complex. The site includes palaces, plazas and temples that have been painstakingly restored, and even includes an on-site museum that houses an interesting colection of pre-Hispanic relics.
PANTANOS DE VILLA
The Pantanos de villa (Wetlands), a marshy area 18 km south of Lima, features a aprawling zone of totorareed-lined pools that are one of the main havens on the coast for more than 150 bird classes, including 30
migratory species that fly here from all over the continent. Lima’s last remaining natural reserve, the Villa Wetlands spread across 396 hectares which are an obligatory stopping-point for the world’s ornithologists and nature lovers. Many of the birds can be spotted during a three-hour stroll down signposted trails and strategically-located look-out towers. The wetlands can be reached by car along Huaylas Avenue.
THE SOUTHERN BEACHES
The summer hotspot for Lima inhabitants. Starting around 35 km of the South-Panamerican Highwy, a string of beautiful beaches stretches down 100 km along the coastline to the city of Cañete (135 km south). Beaches are either sandy or pebbled, while some feature perfect waves
for surfing (Señoritas, Peñascal, Pico Alto, Punta Rocas), others (El Silencio, Embajadores) enjoy calmer seas. Many beaches have become seaside resorts (La Quebrada, Santa María), while others provide services such as hotels, restaurants and discos (Punta Hermosa, San bartolo). Other beaches have preserved their natural surroundings, something which appeals to campers (Chepeconde, Gallardo, Cerro Colorado).
CAÑETE AND LUNAHUANA
The Valley of Cañete is located 135 km south of Lima on the South Pan-American Highway. The area is blanketed in sweeping, fertile and well-irrigated croplands, especially cotton fields, sweet potato, asparagus and marigold. The valley is blessed with a pleasant climate that has made it a popular spot with Lima inhabitants. During the summer time,
the local beaches ( La Ensenada, Cerro Azul and Cerro Colorado) fill up with swimmers and surfers. Just 40 km east, along a recently-paved road, lies Lunahuana, a pleasant farming town that in recent years has become a mecca for adventure-sports lovers, offering rafting. Mountaing-biking, parasailing and hiking. But not everything is adrenaline in this usually sleepy area, which also features archaeological sites, vineyards and outdoor restaurants.
ENVIRONS NORTH AND NORTHEAST
CHANCAY AND HUACHO
Chancay, 87 km north of Lima, features an old castle aprawling across 10,000 m2 that houses an interesting exhibition of mummies, textiles
and huacos (pottery) dating back to the Chancay culture. Further north, the province of Huaura features a string of beaches, its main natural attraction. Moreover, 5 km south of Huacho (149 km north of Lima) lie the El Paraíso lagoons, a haven for egrets, coots, flamingos, pelicans, ducks and other migratory species such as the Artic tern, which flies over from France. Further north, at 175 km of the Pan American Highway lies the Albufera de Medio Mundo, wetlands nearly 7 km long which are very popular with canoeists and fishermen. A few kilometers north, after crossing through a clutch of towns and fishing coves, one can visit the pre-Inca fortress of Paramonga (Chimú culture), located in the province of Barranca.
LOMAS DE LACHAY
Nestled in the Andean foothills off kilometer 105 of the North Pan-American Highway, this national reserve is a unique eco-system known as coastal foothills (lomas costeras). Stretching across an area of 5,070
hectares, these desert hills turn bright green in winter thanks to the condensation that forms from the rolling mist. The area a haven for a veried range of animals and plantlife, features signpostad trails, picnic areas and a visitors’ center. All in all, it is an ideal spot for nature lovers, and should be visited from August through October, when the hillsides are completely carpeted with bright green undergrowth and brightly-colored flowers.
Some 210 km northeast of Lima, up the North Pan-American Highway and then branching off a detour heading east, lies Churín, a picturesque inter-Andean village famous for its hot springs. Every weekend, hundreds of visitors flock here in search of fresh air, spectacular highland landscapes and the health benefits from taking a swin in the thermal baths. From Churín then road climbs further up into the Andes, winding its way through countless traditional highland villages. These include Andajes, which is famous for its manjarblanco cream, and the archaelogical sites of Ninash, Kukun, Antasway and Kuray. At the village of Huacho sin Pescado (at 3,200 meters above sea level), that lies at the foot of the imposing peak of Mount Yarahuayna, one can find the pre-Inca ruins of Antamarca and Chaulín, both of which are well-preserved. Fishermen will delight in lake Wayo, that is well-stocked with trout, while mountain climbers can tackle the aweinspiring peaks studding the Cordillera Raura range, that rise above 5,700 meters.
ENVIRONS CENTRAL HIGHLANDS
FORESTS OF ZARATE
At Kilometer 56 of the central Highway (Carretera Central) lies the town of san Bartolomé, from where a six-and-a-half hour hike leads to the forests of Zarate (3,100 meters), a highland grazing area. The trail is narrow and zig-zagging, but crosses through several picturesque villages until it reaches this balmy forest teeming with wildlife. The area has given life to native tree species including the San pedro cactus, used by medicine men for its hallucinogenic effetcts. The ideal time to visit the forest is from April through June.
SAN PEDRO DE CASTA AND MARCAHUASI
San Pedro de Casta, a pretty little town in the Lima highlands, (3,350 masl) is famous for celebrating the traditional Fiesta del Agua (water festival) on the first Sunday in October, and also for being the starting-off point to visit the archaeological site and natural rock formations at Marcahuasi (4,000 masl), a center for new age mystic who believe it to be a magnetic center. Marcahuasi spreads across 4 km2 of high platteau, featuring colossal rock formations such as the well known Monumet to Humanity, a rock with the shape of a human face. The site is ideal for astronomers and those seeking spirituality.
CANTA AND OBRAJILLO
These picturesche towns lie between 104 and 106 km east of Lima up the valley of the Chillón River. Surrounded by filds of crops and green hills, the area is ideal for camping. Canta, at 2,800 meters and linked to the capital by a paved road, is famous for its breathtaking scenery and dairy products. Obrajillo, 3 km from Canta, is smaller and more quiet, and is popular with campers for its peaceful countryside by the banks of the river, an area carpeted with wildflowers. Its main square features superb colonial houses with ancient wooden balconies. Some 15 km from Canta lie the pre-Hispanic ruins of Cantamarca (3,500 meters), built by the Atahuallos culture. The locals gather here to celebrate the Fiesta de la Cruz (Festival of the Cross), held from May 1-3. Near Canta, between the Yanacocha gorge and the town of Huaros grow two groves of the Puya Raimondi, a cactus-like plant. The Puya Raimondi, which can grow more than 10 meters high, produces around 17,000 flowers, a world record. It flowers just once in its 100-year lifetime, before releasing its seeds and dying.