Lima is the largest city and the capital of this diverse country on the western side of South America. The city was founded by the infamous Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro in 1535. During early colonial times Lima was the richest and most important city in South America. A devastating earthquake in 1746 almost completely destroyed the city, and it never regained its importance as a colonial city.
Lima grew astronomically in the twentieth century from less than 500 thousand citizens in 1940 to over 8 million today--one third of the total population of Peru. Lima suffers from what has been called urban sprawl in the United States, spread over a large geographical area. Cruise ships visiting Lima port at Callao, which is near the airport, but most of the interesting colonial buildings are in the downtown area.
Lima's climate is somewhat surprising. Since Peru is just south of the equator, you might expect the coastal weather to be warm. However, Lima is located in the middle of Peru's desert coastline on the cool Pacific Ocean, and from April to December the coastal fog blocks the sun most of the time. Sounds dismal, but although the weather is cloudy and humid, little rain falls! November temperatures are moderate, and you can expect highs in the 70s and lows in the 60s.
Things to Do in Lima
The emphasis of many of the sightseeing opportunities in Lima is on colonial times. Visiting museums, churches, and colonial houses will keep most tourists busy. A good place to start a visit to Lima is in the main plaza, Plaza de Armas, where Pizarro first founded the city. The plaza is surrounded by the Government Palace, the City Hall, the Archbishop's Palace, and the Lima Cathedral where Pizarro is buried. The old colonial city is laid out in a checkerboard grid from the plaza. Some of the colonial homes have been renovated and are open to visitors. Opening hours for all of Lima's attractions are varied and change periodically, so visitors might want to check in advance.
Lima's museums are diverse and sound very intriguing. Many of the museums such as the Museo de la Nación and the Museo Amano have models and archaeological artifacts from ancient Peruvian cities. Just the name of the Museo de Oro del Peru (The Gold Museum of Peru) sounds interesting to me! Its huge basement gold vault is home to thousands of gold pieces from jewelry to clothing embroidered with gold plating. Ceramic lovers might want to check out the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera. It is said to have over 55,000 pots, many of which were collected by a former vice president of Peru in the 1920s. One room in the museum features a famous collection of pre-Columbian erotic pots that illustrate the sexual practices of several Peruvian cultures. I've been fascinated by pre-Columbian jewelry and artifacts but wasn't aware of this ancient "pornography"!