On its surface, Lima is no thing of beauty. A sprawling desert city clinging precariously to dusty cliffs, it spends much of the year marinated in a perpetual fog that turns the sky the color of Styrofoam. It is loud, chaotic, and gritty; much of its architecture is bulky and gray. Foreign travelers tend to scuttle through on their way to more pastoral destinations in the Andes.
This is unfortunate. Lima may not wear its treasures on its sleeve, but peel back the foggy layers and you’ll find pre-Columbian temples sitting silently amid condominium high-rises. Vestiges of colonial mansions proudly display lavish, Moorish-style balconies. And, here and there, graceful modernist structures channel architecture’s most hopeful era.
What Lima lacks in attractiveness, it makes up with a huge array of downright literary experiences. Stately museums display sublime pottery; edgy art spaces host multimedia installations. There are solemn religious processions dating back to the 18th century and crowded nightclubs swaying to tropical beats. You’ll find encyclopedic bookstores and cavernous shopping malls, well-heeled private golf clubs and baroque churches ornamented with the skulls of saints. It’s a cultural phantasmagoria with a profusion of exceptional eateries, from humble to high-brow, all part of a gastronomic revolution more than 400 years in the making.
This is Lima. Shrouded in history, gloriously messy and full of aesthetic delights. Don’t even think of missing it.
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Best places to stay in Lima
Peru - Lima (Chapter)
With fog bundling its colonial facades and high rises, it takes a little imagination to get beyond the grit of Lima’s first impression. It’s a city shrouded in history, gloriously messy and full of aesthetic delights - don’t even think of missing it.
El Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles): a Peruvian festival to a miraculous mural
Cristo Morado en el Congreso by Congreso de la Republica del Perú. Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY 2.0) Location: Lima, Peru Dates: 18, 28 and 29 October Level of participation: 3 – slip into something purple and hit the streets This large procession celebrates a 350-year-old mural of the Lord of Miracles (Christ).
Best places to eat in Lima
Lima destination guides
Peru: travel books to read before you go
This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Peru guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip. Inca Land: Explorations in the Highlands of Peru, by Hiram Bingham, is the classic traveler’s tale.
Scan the canopy for wildlife from the comfort of our intimate and exclusive G Lodge Amazon, contemplate mountain vistas or take an optional flight over the Nazca Lines—this epic journey explores the geography, culture and history of Peru, offering you the perfect blend of guided excursions and free time.
Classic Inca Trail
Trek the legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and explore Cusco
What are the world's best airports?
Yesterday, Skytrax held its annual World Airport Awards ceremony. To determine which airports took out top prizes, millions of air travellers were surveyed in hundreds of destinations.