Lima Cathedral
Lima Cathedral © Judith Duk
Peru's capital, Lima, lies between the Pacific Ocean and the foothills of the mighty Andes Mountains. Sprawling, chaotic and overcrowded, visitors will note the stark contrast between wealth and poverty as they take in the city's glitzy seaside suburbs and its dusty shantytowns. Even so, Lima remains a vibrant and colourful destination, and a wonderful introduction to this mysterious country.

Regarding its history, Lima was once the most important and prosperous city in Spanish America. It has not retained that distinction, though it is still an animated stop, where travellers will encounter an exciting mix of influences and nationalities, and an exceedingly rich cultural heritage.

Today, Lima dominates Peru's commercial and political life, and some of the country's best nightlife, museums, and restaurants are located in the city. Its old colonial centre also holds a certain elegance, with its beautiful churches, convents, central plazas and graceful old mansions. The city's outstanding art and archaeology museums provide an excellent introduction to the history and culture visitors will discover in other parts of the country.

Travellers who visit Lima in June can see it celebrate the anniversary of Peru's independence from Spain on the 28th. The occasion involves a great deal of dancing, flag flying and folk music in the city's parks and plazas. Also, Lima puts on the Lord of the Miracles Festival in October. It is the most spectacular of Peru's religious festivals and honours the venerated image of a black Christ.