The mansions and churches of colonial downtown Lima and the modern suburbs of San Isidro, Miraflores and Monterrico, make Lima a study in contrasts. More than seven million people, a third of Peru’s population, live in the capital city of Peru, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Founded by Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro, Lima is also known as the City of Kings for its founding at Epiphany in 1535. For more than 300 years, Lima was the most important city and the greatest metropolis in South America. Vestiges of Lima’s colonial heyday remain today in downtown Lima: the Plaza Mayor or main square, flanked by the Government Palace, the City Hall and the Cathedral. Torre Tagle, an exceptionally beautiful mansion built in 1735, today houses the offices of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Nearby, the recently renovated Palacio de Osambela, built between 1803 and 1805, serves as a venue for art exhibitions and cultural events.
Dozens of Lima’s colonial churches are gems of Ibero-American architecture, such us San Francisco, founded in 1535, and La Merced, whose earliest construction pre-dates the founding of Lima.

Modern Lima is a mix of architectural styles and beautiful gardens, especially Miraflores and San Isidro, popular commercial districts with excellent shops, art galleries and restaurants. Barranco, home to Lima’s best known artists and writers, is filled with bars and night clubs.



Two hundred fifty kilometers (156 miles) south of Lima lies Paracas, a windswept arid peninsula and site of one of Peru’s most renowned archaeological sites. The Paracas Reserve, Peru’s largest coastal wildlife sanctuary, includes the Ballestas Islands, reached from Paracas by boat. These islands are home to thousands of resident and migratory sea birds, many endemic to the Humboldt Current. They include pelicans, boobies, cormorants, terns and gulls who share their habitat with herds of sea lions and fur seals. In the summer, condors are also frequent visitors and flamingoes occasionally pause at the bay. Paracas and its charming hotel are ideal for a weekend getaway.

From Paracas, an hour’s drive along the Panamericana highway takes the visitors south to Ica, a verdant oasis, home of Peru’s famous pisco grape brandy. Ica, 310 km. (194 miles) south of Lima, also houses a fine archaeological museum. Further south is Nazca, situated in the Ica fertile valley irrigated by a pre-Hispanic aqueduct. It is a mandatory stopover for visitors to the famous lines and for travelers going by road to Lima, Arequipa or Cusco. These giant animal and geometric figures were etched on the desert sands by Nazca people 1,500 years ago. Best viewed from the air, flights over the markings can be arranged from Ica, Nazca, or Lima.