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Lima, Capital of Peru

City of Kings

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Lima, Peru The Plaza Armas
John Coletti/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Francisco Pizarro knew what he was doing when he founded the city of Lima on the banks of the Rimac river on January 6, 1535. This day is celebrated as the Epiphany, or day of the kings. Therefore, Lima is known as the city of kings. Located on the central coast, or costa,of Peru, the city is only about eight miles from the sea and serviced by the port of Callao, an important consideration then and now. See this interactive map from Expedia.

Lima now is a city populated with people of many nations and ethnic backgrounds. The population is swollen with people leaving the mountains, sierra, and the amazon rain forest, selva, areas looking for a better life in the capital. This leads to ever growing shantytowns ringing the capital. These pueblos jóvenes or young towns, pollution, heavy traffic, poverty and other unsavory features are what a visitor often sees first on a visit to Lima, and is a most off-putting feature. Add the city’s turbulent political history of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the prevalent foggy condition known as garúa that hangs for months over the city, and Lima can appear to be a place to avoid.

But the visitor who doesn’t rush through the city on the way to other regions and attractions of Peru, who takes a few days to visit the city’s cultural and historical aspects will learn much about Peru as a whole.

Lima in colonial days was the center of a vast viceroyalty that extended from present day Ecuador to central Chile. It was the seat of power, government, politics, trade, commerce and culture. For two centuries, Lima was the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition and home of the first university established in South America. Lavish buildings, religious and secular, graced the streets. as the continent's first university, founded in 1551. Behind baroque facades and elaborate gates, courtyards and palaces added grace to colonial life. Balconies and exterior decoration beautify the facades. Though much of Lima was destroyed by earthquakes over the years, many of the colonial buildings built around the original city center, now the center of Colonial Lima, survived. This area is now a UNESCO Mankind Heritage Site. Refer to this map of central Lima.

Getting There

  • By Air:
    Domestic and international flights arrive at Jorge Chavez International Airport, about 20 minutes from downtown. Check flights from your area. From this page, you can also browse hotels, rental cars, and special deals.
  • By Rail:
    Regular services run from Lima to La Oroya and Huancayo. There are also trains connecting Arequipa-Puno or Puno-Cuzco. Visitors using these routes will get the full local flavor. Tourists can also take a four-hour train from Cuzco to Macchu Picchu.
  • By Road:
    Getting around Peru by bus is a favored travel option, and buses run to and from Lima north and south on the Carretera Panamericana, the Pan American highway. Each bus company operates its own terminal. It’s a good idea to get your tickets in advance, without your luggage, then arrive at the terminal just before departure. Long distance buses have reclining seats. Public (yellow) cabs do not have meters. Negotiate the fare before setting off. Private cabs are more reliable. Use the taxis usually parked in front of your hotel. For more about the taxi situation, read Impressions of Lima.
  • By Sea: Many ships, commercial and passenger, use Callao as a port-of-call. From the port, day trips to Lima and environs are easy and interesting.

    Read Page 2 for tips on when to go and practical suggestions and page 3 for things to do and see in and around Lima.

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