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Lima History

It’s often said that Lima was founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro, the conquistador who toppled the Inca Empire. But a pre-Inca civilisation had thrived here for a thousand years before the Spanish arrived, leaving behind many impressive huacas (enormous pyramids and monuments) as well as beautiful ceramics.

The most prominent site is Huaca Pucllana, a structure built by the so-called Lima Culture on seven staggered levels. The Lima civilisation declined around 600 and by the time the conquistadores turned up, it was part of Inca territory.

The colonial city established in the Ri’mac valley soon became a focal point of the Spanish Empire. A great deal of Andean silver passed through Lima en route to Spain, and some of it funded the colonial mansions and baroque churches whose altars still gleam in the city today.

As the centre of a Spanish viceroyalty that spanned Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile, Lima was the most important South American capital until the 19th century. It was also here that the Argentine general and legendary liberator José de San Martín announced Peru’s independence in 1821. Afterwards, Lima became the capital of the Republic of Peru, and the city’s Plaza San Martín was named after the general.

Post-independence, the free South American countries didn’t always get along. In the War of the Pacific (1879-1884), Peru joined forces with Bolivia against Chile, which ultimately led to the Chilean army occupying Lima and swiping many of its riches. After recovering from the war, Lima expanded rapidly in the 1900s, with shanty towns beginning to pop up mid-century as a result of the booming population.

In more recent years, the capital was beleaguered by terrorist threats from groups such as Shining Path and the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. President Alberto Fujimori fought against the insurgents and presided over a period of drastic economic reform during 1990s, but he was later jailed for human rights violations and corruption. Although parts of Peru remain very poor, the economy has grown rapidly since the 1990s, with Lima leading the way as a vital financial hub of Latin America.

Did you know?
• Former president Fujimori is of Japanese descent, reflecting Peru’s sizable Japanese minority, most of whom live in Lima.
• Lima’s Monastery of San Francisco survived earthquakes in 1687 and 1746, but a third in 1970 caused significant damage.
• The historical centre of Lima was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

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Featured Hotels


JW Marriott Hotel Lima

The Lima offering from this reliable international hotel chain is a comfortable concoction of well-dressed rooms with sea views. Eat in at the second floor restaurant La Vista, offering Peruvian and international flavours, or try the Sushi and Cerviche Lounge for fusion fish dishes. The hotel also has fitness facilities, a spa and pool.

Miraflores Park Hotel

This highly regarded hotel benefits from a stylish location overlooking the seafront and public gardens in Miraflores. Views don't come much better than from the rooftop pool and breakfast is also served sky high in the poolside Observatory Restaurant. An additional restaurant, swanky bar, an on-site gym and spa add further appeal to the luxurious experience. 

Hotel B

One of the newest additions to the luxury hotel scene, art-boutique Hotel B in Barranco has quickly earned a sparking reputation for its elegant suites and seamless service. Set in a stunning white mansion enlivened by well-curated artwork, rooms are individually decorated and come with plush linens. The intimate dining room is served by celebrated Peruvian chef Oscar Velarde.

Casa Andina Private Collection

Part of the Preferred Hotels collection, Casa Andina is everything you'd hope for in a night's stay. Set in a high-rise the heart of Miraflores, it offers its own restaurant, bar, gym and sauna. Contemporary rooms are outfitted with cutting-edge mod-cons and boast impressive views across the cityscape. Breakfast is plentiful and the obliging staff go out of their way to ensure visitors enjoy their stay.

Inka Frog

Young and old enjoy this funky bed and breakfast where rooms are kitted out with TVs, hairdryers and walk-in wardrobes. Books and DVDs are offered in the lounge area, internet is free and a travel desk that can help arrange transport and tours. Clean and welcoming, its location in Miraflores means restaurants, shops and amenities are all close at hand. 

Lima Wari Suites

This little-known gem of a budget stay feels like a real home-from-home. The attractive colonial house is kitted out with mosaic-tiled floors and Andean-patterned upholstery and there's plenty of opportunity to relax in the various tucked-away seating areas, draped in pot plants. Venture out and you're a short walk from the picturesque main square of Barranco.