July 12, 2024

Lima

Overview

As the international gateway to Peru, Lima is an unavoidable stop for travelers planning a trip to Machu Picchu. But there are reasons to stick around. Spend a day or two here to experience the electrifying mix of old and new; meet Peruvians from every corner of the country and with ancestry from all over the world; and work your way through a long list of must-eats including ceviche, lomo saltado, causa rellena and more.

In Lima, you can choose to relax in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the capital city or pack your itinerary full of visits to historic plazas and churches, 1,000-year-old adobe ruins, world-class restaurants, buzzing nightlife spots, ocean-view parks, and renowned museums and galleries. The capital city is a melting pot, with a long history of migration from other parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, and Africa. Add to that recent internal migration from the Andes, Amazon and coastal regions, and the result is a fantastic mix of vibrant backgrounds and cultures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climate & Weather

Lima has two clearly-marked seasons, summer and winter, with transitional periods in between. Being in the southern hemisphere, Lima has warmer, sunnier weather in the northern hemisphere’s winter months (December to March), and cooler, greyer weather in the northern hemisphere’s summer months (June to September).

Summer

  • January to March
  • Sunny, warm, humid days and spectacular sunsets
  • Temperatures: 81-85°F (28-29°C) during the day, 66-70°F (19-21°C) at night

Winter

  • June to October
  • Cloudy, damp, chilly days with a light drizzle
  • Temperatures: 62-65°F (17-18°C) during the day, 53-59°F (12-15°C) at night

There are quite a few factors that influence Lima’s weather. Peru is close to the equator, but the cold water Humboldt Current flows up from Antarctica and interacts with air temperatures to keep things cool.

The Andes Mountains are a second factor affecting the climate. The tall peaks, which begin to rise not too far from the coast, create a rain shadow effect that prevents rain clouds from forming. This geography explains why much of Peru’s coast is desert. In Lima, the result is a temperate climate with high humidity around the year.

During the winter months, a constant gray fog called garúa covers the city of Lima. Travel some miles north or south of the city or up into the foothills and you’ll experience the sunny skies that typify the rest of coastal Peru.

Best Time to Visit

It is best to visit Lima during its summer season, between December and April. Lima in the summer is sunny, and with temperatures in the 70s and 80s (roughly 21°C to 30°C), you can visit the parks, beaches, and historic districts with ease – and fully enjoy a refreshing, citrusy ceviche lunch. This is a great time to experience summer from the southern hemisphere, and perhaps even escape the cold weather of your home city in the northern hemisphere.

The transitional months between summer and winter, May and November, can also be a nice time to visit, as the weather can be more moderate with a mix of cooler, cloudy days and warmer, clear days.

Geography & Map

  • Situated on the desert coast of Peru, the city of Lima occupies an oasis-like valley. The Pacific Ocean is to the west and the foothills of the Andes to the east. Sandy 200-foot-tall cliffs separate the Pacific shore from the westernmost edge of Lima city.
  • ELEVATION0 to 500 ft (0 to 150 m)
    CITY POPULATION:~ 10,555,000

History

Francisco Pizarro founded the city of Lima in 1535, but indigenous populations settled the area around it for thousands of years before the arrival of Spanish conquerors. Peru’s earliest human settlements found hospitable ground in the fertile soils of the river valleys within the present-day department of Lima. Along the Río Chillón, not far from Lima city, archaeologists have excavated stone tools dating from approximately 7500 BC.

Plaza de Armas in center of Lima on a mostly sunny day with trees, colonial government palacas and a man on horse statue

Around 1535, Spanish settlement began in Lima. After the fall of Cusco, conquistador Francisco Pizarro established a new city with a central plaza and church. In 1542, the Viceroyalty of Peru was created, but not officially recognized until Viceroy Francisco de Toledo arrived in 1572. South America’s struggle for independence from the Spanish Crown began in the early 1800s. In July 1821, Argentina’s General Jose San Martin sailed into the capital and declared the independence of Peru on July 28th, 1821.

The 1890s-1920s were a period of great urban renewal and expansion for Lima, from which point the population continued to grow exponentially. The 1990s marked a time of notable instability in Peru. Alberto Fujimori was elected president, partly in response to a rise of violent guerrilla movements and economic turbulence. Fujimori maintained power for ten years until he was forced to resign in a bribery scandal in 2000.

Plaza de Armas of the historic center of Lima Illuminated at night with Peruvian colonial buildings on the perimeter

In the 21st century, Lima is enjoying a prolonged period of political and economic stability. In 2017, Lima’s metropolitan population was estimated at 10 million residents, representing about one-fourth of Peru’s total population. Today, the main tourist districts are Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro, all of which hug the coast and are bursting with parks, historic sites, boutiques, world-class restaurants and premier hotels.


Things to Do

Artifact of man with gold face and burnt orange clothing on display in a museum in Lima, an excellent Peru day tour

Lima Museums

Whatever you do, don’t miss out on Lima’s many excellent museums. Among the best: the Larco Museum, the Lima Museum of Art (MALI), and the National Museum. Scattered throughout Lima’s different districts, you can museum-hop while seeing the many faces of the fascinating city-scape.


More than 2 miles of continuous parks on the Malecon overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Lima’s trendy Miraflores district

Lima Parks and Plazas

In South America, parks and plazas are social spaces where people gather to rest, chat, read, snack, and spend time with family and friends. Whatever Lima district you find yourself in, make time to see the main park or plaza and get a glimpse of local life. One must-see park is Parque Kennedy in the heart of Miraflores, and a must-see Plaza is the Plaza de Armas of Lima in the historic center.


Traditional Peruvian ceviche, which is white fish prepared with lime, red onion and aji with corn and sweet potato side

Sample the Cuisine

If you travel for the food, you’ll be delighted with Lima’s exceptional dining scene. Peru is in the midst of a gastronomic boom and the capital city is its epicenter, filled with an endless variety of delectable cuisine. Some key dishes to try include ceviche, lomo saltado and causa a la limena. Don’t forget to pair with the national drink, the pisco sour, and sweeten the deal with picarones (Peruvian drip doughnuts) or suspiro de la limena (caramel custard with a port meringue).


Fountains at Circuito Magico del Agua, or Magic Water Circuit, of Lima Illuminated at Night, a popular Lima tour option

Circuito Magico del Agua

The Circuito Magico del Agua, Magic Water Circuit in English, is an impressive spectacle in downtown Lima’s Parque de la Reserva. One of the largest water fountain complexes in the world, the attraction features 13 cybernetic fountains that glow and “dance” along to music ranging from Peruvian traditional to pop contemporary. An excellent evening activity for families and couples.


San Francisco Convent and Catacombs in Lima, a popular attraction where 25,000 bodies are laid, with birds and blue sky

San Francisco Convent and Catacombs

Located just a block from the Plaza de Armas, you find the Saint Francis Monastery. The Baroque-style convent was built in the late 1600s and beholds a world-renowned library with 25,000 texts. Perhaps the biggest draw to the church and convent is its underground catacombs, where 25,000 bodies are laid.


Port of Callao in Lima, Peru’s principal port for commerce with the Pacific ocean in the Distance on a mostly cloudy day

Port of Callao

The Port of Callao is Peru’s principal port for commerce. A visit to this coastal attraction is made complete with stops to nearby Monumental Callao, an impressive community art project featuring art studios, restaurants and rooftop dance parties; the Palomino Islands, which you can reach via a half-day tour by boat to see an abundance of sea lions and sea birds; and last but not least the Real Felipe fortress, built to defend against the entry of pirate ships in the mid-1700s.


Huaca Pucllana ruins, a 4th-century adobe temple in the trendy Miraflores District of Lima on a mostly cloudy day

Visit Archaeological Sites

Peru’s most modern and dynamic city is also home to some of South America’s most ancient relics. Witness this contrast with a visit to Huaca Pucllana, the 4th-century adobe temple surrounded by Miraflores’ high-rises. Yet more temple ruins are scattered through Pueblo Libre and San Miguel districts. Eighteen miles outside of Lima, Pachacamac temple has been an important complex for millennia.


Lima’s Pacific Coast with its malecon, parks, buildings and paragliders in the air on a sunny day, a great Peru destination

Stroll the Seaside Promenade

El Malecon provides one of Lima’s most scenic landscapes. Stretching about 6 miles along the cliff tops that separates the Pacific Ocean from the city, this park-filled promenade is the place to go for sunsets, to get some exercise, or to try your hand at paragliding.

 Larcomar, a popular outdoor mall overlooking the Pacific ocean in the Miraflores district of Lima, with dining and shopping

Larcomar

Along the coastal malecon you find the immaculate outdoor mall that is Larcomar. The open air shopping experience with Pacific views is an excellent way to spend part of your afternoon. With 16 restaurants and cafes, and a variety of boutiques, this is a must-see while in Miraflores.

Colorful stand with Peruvian textiles, instruments, jewelry, scarves and other souvenirs at an artisan market in Lima, Peru

Artisan Markets

The best souvenirs from a trip to Peru include exquisite handwoven textiles, soft alpaca wool sweaters, artful ceramics, colorful chullos (Andean hats) and knitted scarves. Stock up in Lima’s artisan markets at the end of your trip. But if Lima is your first stop, you can just browse the shops and get an idea of what you’ll see later on; you’ll be better prepared to spot a unique item during your travels.


City Districts

Historic Center of Lima

Alongside Arequipa and Cusco, the historic Lima center presents the best preserved example of Peruvian colonial architecture and urban planning. Officially founded in 1535, Lima quickly grew to become the wealthiest city in the Americas. Today, the historic core forms just a small section of a sprawling city, but remains the best place to trace the evolution of Peru’s biggest city back to its beginnings. A visit to the historic center is highlighted by gorgeous colonial churches, government palaces, museums, historic houses and the scenic Plaza de Armas.

Yellow buildings displaying colonial architecture on a quiet street with trees in the historic district of Lima

Miraflores

If the Lima historic center represents the city’s past, Miraflores embodies its vibrant present and ever-evolving future. Home to the must-sees Parque Kennedy and the coastal Malecon, as well as an endless number and variety of cafes, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and hotels for all budgets, it’s no surprise that Miraflores is a favorite destination for visitors to Lima.

Barranco

Lima takes a bohemian turn in the seaside community of Barranco, a longtime hub for Peru’s artists and intellectuals. With its tree-shaded streets, colorful wall murals, graceful colonial homes and a few galleries, Barranco presents yet another side of Lima you won’t want to miss. Spend a relaxing afternoon at a cafe or restaurant by the Puente de los Suspiros, walk down the Bajada de Baños to check out the beach, or dance the night away with Lima locals at a live music bar.

The Bridge of Sighs, an iconic wooden bridge built in 1876 and located in the artsy and bohemian Barranco District of Lima

San Isidro

Financial district, upscale residential neighborhood, and home to a surprising array of bars and restaurants, San Isidro presents Lima’s most refined and elegant side. Spend a few nights in pampered comfort at the Westin (and check out their incredibly tranquil Heavenly Spa) or take some breaths of fresh air at the enchanting Parque El Olivar, a vast olive grove with more than 1,700 trees.

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