Centuries before it was founded as the City of Kings, the territory of Lima, capital of Peru and of the department of Lima, was inhabited by civilizations that had gauged its wealth and strategic location. Proof of that can be seen in the countless huacas or temples that dotted the valley, particularly the Pachacamac shrine, a major pilgrimage center during the Inca empire. This spurred Spanish Conqueror Francisco Pizarro in 1535 to choose the Rímac River Valley to found the capital, as its location by the sea provided a link with sailing routes.
Lima is the main gateway to Peru, a major city bustling with living history and movement. It is an ethnic melting pot, featuring pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern elements. The metropolis is also surrounded by every aspect of Nature: the sea, islands, mountains, desert and plantlife. Its various quarters feature an active nightlife and well-endowed cultural scene, as well as plentiful public transport and non-stop activities, a city of more than 8 million souls.
Before exploring Lima, the visitor should map out a route. The old city center harbors churches and mansions brimming with colonial and religious art, including such superb architectural examples as the Casa Aliaga or Palacio de Torre Tagle mansions. Colonial Lima also features many fine churches and convents such as Santo Domingo, San Agustín, San Francisco and La Merced.
Further south lie the Pantanos de Villa, a natural wetlands area which has been declared a reserved zone and which is a haven for more than 150 bird species, while the Pachacamac complex is to be found further south. In the Cañete highlands, 180 km from Lima, lies the Lunahuaná Valley, a hotspot for adventure sports.
To the north, 105 km from Lima are the Lomas de Lachay, a national reserve in the foothills which features a unique mist-fed eco-system of wild plant and animal species. A little further north, meanwhile, is Paramonga, which features pre-Hispanic archaeological sites.
The climate is dryer and sunnier east up the Central Highway, in the Andean foothills. The road heads up through the province of Huarochirí, until it reaches the town of San Pedro de Casta, from where one can see the Marcahuasi plateau. The area is the site of huge natural formations eroded by the climate into the shape of animals and people.