Lima, the capital of Peru, is the main commercial and industrial city in the country. It’s located over the coast, 13 km (08 miles) inland of the Pacific Ocean (Callao port). With 156 meters (512 ft) elevation, on the Rimac river south bank. And a population of around 11 inhabitants millions. The Andean country is located in the middle of an area where plateaus, peaks, and valleys abound. And one of its most inhabited areas is the coast, where a large part of the country’s population lives. And exactly where the capital of Peru is located is on the coast. That is why together with the Machu Travel Peru team, we want to tell you everything about the capital of Peru, Lima. Learn about this magical city that is often overlooked.
Everything you need to know about the capital of Peru, Lima
- History of Lima, the capital of Peru
- The origin of the “Lima” word
- The capital of Peru location
- Lima population
- Tourist infrastructure in the capital of Peru
- The best time to visit Lima
- How to get there
- Security in the capital of Peru
- What to see in Lima
- Other important questions
History of Lima, the capital of Peru
Lima’s origins have a lot to do with the Wari culture. The other great Peruvian culture besides the Incas. Maybe, Wari is not so well known, but they were the first to inhabit the center zone of the Peruvian coast around 550 and 900 A.C. Years passed and, like other cultures, Wari suffered a decay around 900 A.C but little lordships were created instead of it. In this sense, the Ichma Lordship prevailed in the area, as guardians of an ancient Wari vestige, the Pachacamac religious, and adoration center.
Years later, around 1469 the Ichma lordship was annexed to the young Incas empire. The zone was surrounded by the main rivers, the Rimac, The Lurin, and the Chillón and the Incas took advantage of it as an agricultural production field destined to the Inca capital, Cusco until the arrival of Spanish conquers in 1532.
In this form, the capital of Peru was founded on January 18, 1535. Specifically, over the settlement of Curacazgo de Taulichusco by the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro, who chose the site because of its strategic location near the sea where it would form the main port, Callao. At least, this is a formal explication imparted in Peruvian schools.
However, other reliable sources assure that Francisco Pizarro was not so popular in recent years just after the conquest. He lived in a politically unstable zone where the majority of the population were Incas, Andean (people that he had conquest a short time ago), and fewer Spanish people. Therefore, he wanted a zone with a direct escape to the sea, in case of any revolution or political uprising.
The initial project for the capital of Peru consisted of about 117 blocks. The Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas of Lima was not located in the center of the map, but rather close to what was the river bank (Again, to have a direct escape to the sea). In this way, it was possible to have access and control of the water that was distributed in the different channels. And it was thus that Lima was initially defined for its subsequent development and evolution.
In this form, through the years, the “New” Peruvian city served as the axis and center of Spanish power in South America. Also, this was a focal point within the Peruvian coast. And Lima ended up being the political, ecclesiastical, and commercial capital of the Spanish Kingdom within South America. Even during colonial times, it was considered the most important municipality in Latin America, and it was superimposed on the roads and indigenous buildings by the new Spanish Renaissance buildings.
Also since then, different traditions, ideas, and customs arose due to the overlapping of cultures. And along with local migrations (People who came from rural and Andean zone to the capital) and international migratory waves of Chinese, Japanese, Italian, even European people contributed to form the city as a mix of cultures. Nowadays, the visitor can see the result of it in Peruvian gastronomy, customs, even the lifestyle of Peruvians.
But today, the capital of Peru is an important political and economic center of the country. In addition, it is home to 30% of the total population of Peru. A vast majority of its surviving colonial buildings and temples give the city great architectural aesthetics. And the historic center is where you can enjoy a true fusion of architectural styles to know. Where you will find buildings such as Santo Domingo, San Francisco, La Cathedral, Palacio Torre Tagle, La Iglesia de San Pedro, and Las Nazarenas. In addition to its beautiful 19th-century houses that have impressive balconies. Nor should you miss the markets in Lima, a significant cultural center to visit.
The origin of the “Lima” word
About the name of the city, it is said that it comes from a Quechua word that the Incas gave to one of the three main rivers that surrounded the zone; “Rimaq”, which means “the one who can speak” or “the one who speaks”. Through the years, this word was drifting to another one that replace the “R” with the “L”, without the “Q” final letter.
Therefore, this name does not refer to the inhabitants of the capital of Peru, but rather to the Rímac River. Since the Rímac River is known as the “talking river”. Because the stones in its channel that are dragged create a sound similar to babbling.
At the time of Peruvian Viceroyalty, the city was renamed as “City of Kings” because the day of its foundation coincided with the Christian holiday “Three kings day”. However, over time it took again on the name of Lima, which was the name that the native peoples had given it.
As you see, the origin of the “Lima” word couldn’t be further from what is commonly known; the fruit that intervenes in the Ceviche preparation.
The capital of Peru location
The capital of Peru, Lima, is located in the middle of the coastal desert of Peru. Right at the foot of the western slope of the country’s central Andes. It is approximately at sea level and about 12 degrees latitude. And even though the original settlement was located in the Rímac river valley, today the city extends over a vast desert region with other different valleys around it. Even Lima is considered the world’s second-largest desert city, just after Cairo, in Egypt.
The inhabited area is situated within the valleys of three rivers; the Rímac, Chillón, and Lurín. While the elevation of the capital of Peru gradually increases as one moves away from the coast, leading to mountains of more than 5000 feet. For example, the Main Square or Plaza de Armas in Lima is located about 15 kilometers from the coast of the Pacific Ocean, over 161 meters above sea level. While the highest district of the city is that of Lurigancho, located about 950 meters above sea level. Therefore, you can feel the altitude difference when you go from Lima to Machu Picchu, the Inca citadel is located at a high altitude (2430 m.a.s.l)
The capital of Peru borders the coast from the Ancón district in the limits of the Huaral Province, at KM 50 of the North Pan-American Highway to KM 70 of the South Pan-American Highway of the District of Pucusana, just within the limits of the Cañete province. What makes up an extension of about 130 kilometers of coastal beaches. While to the east it extends to kilometer 50 of the Central Highway in the District of Chosica, right on the limits of the Province of Huarochirí.
The capital of Peru has a figure of about 11 million inhabitants, according to estimates of the Peruvian Institute of Statistics and Informatics made January 2022. The capital of Peru is home to around a quarter of the Peruvian population in total, so you can appreciate true cultural diversity and ethnicity. Its millions of inhabitants are the cause of the rural migration that has occurred in recent decades. Especially the one that occurred in the 60s of the 20th century.
At the beginning of independence, the city was made up of a population of Spanish, African, Amerindian, and mestizo origin. But with the start of the Republic, the city became a source of European immigrants. The vast majority are Italians, Germans, French, and British as well as other Central Europeans. Also, at the end of the 19th century with an influx of Asian Japanese and Chinese immigrants, diversity was further promoted.
Tourist infrastructure in the capital of Peru
In the last years, Lima experienced a fast growth of foreign visitors. According to the data of PROMPERU (the tourist promotion office of the Peruvian government), the Andean Country receive more than 4 million visitant per year. A considerable number, taking into consideration that we talk about South American country.
Of course, Lima is the main entrance door (International airport of Jorge Chavez, the international port of Callao, inter alia) of all these travelers who want to visit Machu Picchu, as a high point in their trip (info of PROMPERU). However, many of these travelers surveyed affirm their hopes of getting direct to Cusco or another Peruvian attraction without having to go through Lima, considering it boring and without any interest.
Therefore, the capital of Peru developed, in recent years, a great tourist infrastructure that the visitors can enjoy:
- Jorge Chavez International Airport: The first South American airport in three consecutive years by Skytrax Research, about guest attention, services, and security. It is the best airport for international flight connection in all South America, receiving more than 22 million visitants per year (Most of them, passing passengers)
- Callao International Port: The principal port of Peru and the first one in international commercial transactions into South America. The port receives cruise ships too. Making it the second entrance door to the country for international visitors, just behind Jorge Chavez International Airport.
- Hotels: In the 70s, the majority of hotels were located in historic buildings in Lima center zones. However, since the 90s Lima received an important variety of international hotel franchises that are located in middle-class neighborhoods like Miraflores, Barranco, Surco, and San Isidro, like Marriott, Hilton, Accor, Westin, Savoy Holidays Inn, Miraflores Park Hotel, inter alia.
- Restaurants: The boom of Peruvian Gastronomy around the world in the last few years has its cradle in Lima restaurants. Criollo, Novo Andean, Marine restaurants are located there. Eve, Central Restaurant (of Virgilio Martinez chef), and Astrid & Gaston (of Gaston Acurio chef) are the restaurants that were awarded as the first restaurants in Latin America, consecutive years in the prestigious ranking of “The world 50s best”
The best time to visit Lima
The climate in the capital of Peru is quite particular due to its geographical location. Lima’s climate has practically a lack of rainfall, but a high level of humidity accompanied by persistent cloudiness, which is present from June to December until the beginning of summer.
So, it can be said that the climate in the capital of Peru is quite warm without presenting excessive heat or extreme cold, despite being in a tropical zone. So you will not require heating at home, except that it is winter. The average annual temperature is about 19 to 18 º C this has an annual maximum of 29 º C.
- Summer: The summers that pass from December to April have temperatures that range between 21 and 28 º C. Only when the “El Niño” phenomenon occurs, the temperature in summer can exceed 31 º C. Also, during this season the clouds are lower, and you can see a sunny and hot climate with recurring humidity.
- Winter: Winters usually occur between June and September. The winter of Lima contains temperatures that range between 12 and 19 º C. Winters are quite mild and cloudy. And the historically proven minimum temperature is about 5 º C.
- Autumn and Spring: While in the autumn and spring seasons, there are temperatures that fluctuate between 17 and 23 º C.
Something to keep in mind in the capital of Peru is how the rain is almost nil. Regarding the best time to visit Lima, we can say that summer is the best time. Although, the whole year is a good time.
How to get there
There are many ways to get to the capital of Peru. An advantage of Lima is its high connectivity, in comparison with other South American Capitals. Below, you will have the three ways to get to Lima:
- Flights: The International Airport of Jorge Chavez has a flow of 22 million visitors per year because the airport is one of the principal hubs in South America. It is used as a connection terminal for many international flights. Therefore, finding a flight direct to Lima from different parts of the world is almost sure!
- Bus/Car: The Panamerican is a large highway that begins in Alaska (EE UU) and finishes in Buenos Aires (Argentina). Even so, there is a section that reaches Patagonia and Ushuaia in Argentina. This highway passes throughout all pacific coasts of American countries; Alaska (United States), passing through the cities of Mexico City (Mexico), Guatemala City (Guatemala), San Salvador (El Salvador), Cali (Colombia), Quito (Ecuador), Lima (Peru), Los Andes (Chile) and Buenos Aires (Argentina). So you can take this way if you have a particular car or hire a Bus service (Of course, if you want to take your time to get to Lima)
- Cruise: As we mentioned, Callao (A constitutional province of Peru) is one of the most important ports in South America and the principal in the capital of Peru. It is not only used for commercial transactions but tourism activities cruises, too. Usually, the international cruises that navigate by the pacific coasts of UU EE, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador arrive at Callao Port, as the final destination, to then start the return. Royal Caribbean, Pacific cruises, Disney, Marvel trademarks are the most significant cruises companies that operate in Peru, already.
Security in the capital of Peru
Is it safe to visit Lima? This is the principal question of many passengers at the moment to planning a trip to Peru, including Lima. Like any big city around the world, the capital of Peru has “red zones” where it is dangerous to take a walk, fortunately, these are located far from middle-class neighborhoods, where are located the majority of hotels, many attractions, and restaurants. However, not trusting and taking precautions will always be important:
- First, we recommend booking a travel agency services (tourist package) to visit these kinds of big cities. Having a tour guide (A person who knows very well the zone to visit) will be important and a great company for you.
- If you want to change money, do it in Banks offices or formal money exchanges houses. Never in the streets. Despite working with the highest exchange rate than the money changers street, the security offered by banks and formal houses of money exchange always be an advantage for you and your safety.
- Use credit cards or different payment method apps to buy something or hire services in the capital of Peru. Lima is one of the cities with high-level payment technologies implementation in the region. These are accepted in the majority of restaurants, hotels, and even attractions entrances. You can only carry cash to give tips, an unusual practice in the Peruvian capital, but always important to practice it.
- The capital of Peru doesn’t have a coordinated system of taxis (for example, with a taximeter). Happily, Lima Municipality allows the operation of many taxi apps like Uber, Cabify, Didi, Beat inter alia. The Capital of Peru residents tend to use them very often and these apps mean security in your journeys inside the capital of Peru.
- Keeping your cell phone in your pockets, while you take walk by Lima streets will be crucial. There are reports of Raqueteros (Persons who snatch the cell phone from their distracted victim in the middle of the streets, to begin to run). Of course, using your phone inside hotels, attractions, restaurants, even formal taxis will not mean any problem.
- Regarding health, the capital of Peru has many particular clinics and hospitals with a good level of attention. Therefore, if you have any discomfort or ailment, we recommend you call your travel insurer (They have conventions with many of these health centers). If you don’t have insurance, the personnel of the hotels and travel agencies are capable to refer you to the best possible health center.
What to see in Lima
The capital of Peru is essentially a historic city with a clear stamp of the colonial era and a modern urban dynamism that permeates the streets. At the end of its buildings, streets, and churches, you can appreciate the sea and its waves breaking on the different beaches. Its beauty is spread out with quiet corners, new streets, and elegant old buildings. While the night air transforms the city into a new and distinctive place where youth takes over the streets. You will find many things to do in Lima, so you should not miss exploring this city.
- Main Square and Historic center of Lima: On its main square, you will find the beautiful Lima Cathedral of Renaissance style, the Torre Tagle diplomatic palace of Andalusian baroque style, the San Martin square of French style inter alia.
- Miraflores: This is the Lima middle-class district by excellence. There you will find modern houses, commercial centers, the cosmopolitan Kennedy park (where cats abound), the Miraflores pier with a great view of the sea, inter alia.
- Barranco: Barranco is just located south of Miraflores district and there you will find picturesque streets, colorful houses, cozy boulevards, and the “bridge of sighs”, famous to be mentioned in a song of the most representative Peruvian singer, Chabuca Granda.
- Beaches in Lima: Peru is known for its amazing beaches, besides Machu Picchu, and Lima isn’t the exception. In Lima, you will find beaches for everyone; Miraflores (surfing, paddle surf), Punta Hermosa (relaxing, Sun tanning), La Herradura (swimming), Asia (boulevards and active nightlife), and more!
- Larco and other museums: The best representative museum in Lima is the Larco (Museum that preserves ceramics from ancient pre-Inca cultures in Peru), among other ones like Anthropological museum, the MALI (Lima Art Museum)
- Magic water circuit: Located in a district close to Lima center. This attraction consists of fountains of water that release jets of water incoordination and combined with colorful lights lasers, form attractive figures in the air. We recommend visiting it at night to see better these figures.
- Huaca Pucllana: It is a pre-Inca archaeological rest belonging to the ancient Lima human settlement (200-700 B.C) located in Miraflores district. We recommend visiting it with a tour guide, to learn about the fascinating history that keeps.
- Pachacamac: Another important archaeological rest belonging to Wari Culture (7th to 13th century BC), the other great Peruvian culture, just behind the Incas. You could visit it in the Lurin district and with a local tour guide.
- Catacombs of San Francisco Church: In viceroyalty times, when Peruvian cities were still forming, the inhabitants used to bury their dead in the basement of churches (For lack of cemeteries). The catacombs of San Francisco Church is one of the most demanded tourist sites in Peru, and it is located in Lima Center, still stands, and you can visit it paying a little contribution to San Francisco friars.
Other important questions
- What language is spoken in Lima?
The official language of the city is Spanish, occupying 84% of its inhabitants. The Spanish spoken in Peru is considered Castellano. And it is the main language used in the Peruvian educational system, the media, and the bulletins of the Peruvian government, However, the Human Development Index is very high in the capital of Peru and its inhabitants can speak English very well if they need. But this does not mean that these are the only languages, there are other ones; like the official native language Quechua, and the Aymara, too.
- What religion is commonly professed in Lima?
While the predominant religion in Peru is the Catholic religion. There are other religions both in the country and in the city of Lima. This is due to the great diversification and cultures that exist. Other religions of Peru include Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. Although many indigenous Peruvians also mixed their traditional beliefs with the same Catholicism. And many of the temples are today considered great historical buildings in Lima. So you must know them thoroughly.
- What is the local currency coin in Peru and Lima?
The Sol (the sun) is the name of the currency unit in Peru, including Lima. There are bills of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 Soles. Yellow coins of 5, 10, and 50 cents of Sol. Silver coins of 1, 2, and 5 Soles.
Remember, 1 American Dollar is equal to 3 Soles with 70 cents of Soles approx. The exchange rates are around 3.50 to 4.00 Soles.
“FOR THOSE WHO ARE LOST, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE CITIES THAT FEEL LIKE HOME”
As you will see, the capital of Peru is a point as relevant as it is essential to get to know the country. Besides, if you are planning a trip to Peru, you will have to land on this site. So we recommend you not to miss out on this wonderful site. Together with the Machu Travel Peru team, we hope we have been helpful. If you are planning your trip to Peru, we recommend that you consult our other articles. We do them with love and thinking of you. Don’t miss it and start organizing your dream trip!