Almost everyone who comes to Peru has to stop by Lima. Even since pre-Hispanic times, Lima has always served as an administrative place where powerful decisions are made. Nowadays, Lima is inhabited by more than eight million people. As it grows daily, Lima continues to be the most visited city in South America. Learn some interesting facts about the “City of the Kings.”
Lima was built over a desert
Lima is the second largest city built on a desert after Cairo in Egypt. It gets 80 per cent of its water from the Rimac river, which runs across downtown Lima. Civilizations before Spanish conquest began to build water canals 2,000 years ago, which are still being used today. Despite Lima’s three main rivers, only 92 per cent of its citizens have access to drinking water.
Lima’s pre-Columbian buildings
Lima’s history dates thousands of years before the conquest. In fact, you can see traces of older cultures that inhabited the desert and made it possible for water to reach the entire city through the canals they built. Before the Incas, the dominant culture in Lima was the Yschmas, who left traces of their temples and administrative centers like Pachacamac – an astonishing archeological sanctuary in the southern coastal side of the city – or the Huaca Pucllana, right in the heart of Miraflores. Don’t wait until visiting Cusco to see amazing pre-Hispanic buildings.
City of the kings
Lima was founded on January 18, 1535 by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Legend says that Lima was given the title of “City of the Kings” due to its foundation date’s proximity to Epiphany, a Christian festival that celebrates the adoration by the three Biblical Magi. Anthropologist Maria Rostworowski clarified that the “City of the Kings” title was actually an homage to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and to his mother, Joanna of Castile.
Is the world’s smallest church in Lima?
Some say the world’s smallest chapel is called Cross Island Chapel and it’s located in Oneida, New York. But the Chapel Our Lady of the Rosary in the Rimac district in downtown Lima continues to be called by Peruvian faithful as the smallest church in the world because it has all the features of a normal-sized church: main altar, vault, towers, images and a pulpit. It was built in 1550 and it’s 16-feet wide, 39-feet long and 32-feet tall. Located at the second street of Trujillo avenue, the chapel is open Monday to Saturday from 8AM to 12:30PM, and from 4PM to 6:30PM. It’s open on Sundays from 8AM to 12:30PM.
If you’re in Lima, look up: you’ll see black vultures circling or watching over the city from a rooftop. Despite popular beliefs that give them a bad reputation (trash eaters, bad omens), black vultures – also known as “gallinazos” are responsible for cleaning up the city. They have also inspired short stories, academic essays and art pieces that revindicate their guardian status. Last year, a campaign was implemented to strap GoPro cameras onto black vultures to keep control over waste dumping areas throughout the city.
The Inca trail in Lima
The Inca trail known as Qhapaq Ñan (the Beautiful Road) is 6,000 kilometers long and connected the five countries of the Inca empire. For trekkers, it’s mostly known for being the perfect route to travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu. But Qhapaq Ñan also reached Lima. When Spanish conquerors arrived, they found a very urbanized area, with roads that connected the highlands with the coast. Some of the best preserved remains of Qhapaq Ñan can be found at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. Most of it was replaced with Lima’s main transit roads and avenues like Camino del Inca, literally meaning “The Inca’s Road.”
The first Chinese immigrants came to Lima in 1849 to work at plantations. They brought their traditions and, of course, their cuisine. One of their dishes, mostly made of fried rice, became popular under the name of “in chi fan”, which means “have you eaten?”. This word eventually became Chaufa (current name for fried rice) and Chifa, a term Peruvians use to refer to Chinese restaurants. You can visit South America’s most important Chinese colony at the Capon neighborhood located in downtown Lima, where you’ll find authentic Chinese food and you can even have your name carved into a hexagonal tile.
The Spanish Inquisition is best remembered for torturing anyone who did not believe in God. In some cases, people were burned alive at the stake. Although it was definitively abolished by royal decree in 1834, the Spanish Inquisition building is still open for visitors who want to explore their dungeons and more than 30,000 torturing tools. It is located in downtown Lima, right next to the Legislative palace.
Located in northern Lima, Callao is the principal seaport in Peru. Since it became a popular business center during Spanish viceroyalty times, many pirates tried to enter the city through there. Even Sir Francis Drake, one of the history’s most famous pirates, tried to rescue fellow buccaneers who were imprisoned in Lima in 1579. As a response to these attacks, viceroys built the Real Felipe Fortress, one of the most expensive buildings in Spanish colonies, now turned into Peru’s military museum. Legend says that the place is haunted and that cries can be heard during visits.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.