Nearly a third of Peru’s nearly 30 million people live in or close to Lima, its capital, making it one of the largest cities in South America. This urban metropolis of Lima is 200 sq. miles large. (The metropolitan area accounts for one-third of the industrial production for the entire country.)

The small center and historic area of the city contains a treasure of colonial buildings and street architecture. The Spanish conquered the city in 1532 and from that point on Lima became their most prized occupation, and they expended considerable effort into creating a capital masterpiece with artisans from Spain. Much of the gold loot taken by the conquistadors is still found on several treasured colonial buildings. Much of the rest ended up in what is now Lima’s precious “Gold Museum”. The city, by the way, has several outstanding museums.

After a booming century of colonial occupation, Lima suffered a series of devastating earthquakes, culminating in the giant earthquake of 1746 that destroyed most of the city. A prolonged period of decay followed. Independence in 1821 led to a prolonged period of political turmoil. (For a period in the late 1800s, Chile actually occupied the city.) Political stability arrived after World War I and the city enjoyed considerable growth through the 1940s, and during this period there was an enormous influx of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Growth continues at an even faster pace, today.

The city proper including the beautiful historic center is generally very congested and often difficult to navigate. Immediately surrounding the historic center are some extensive slums. But outside the city proper in the neighboring suburbs such as Miraflores are some of South America’s most beautiful residences and parks and most of the famous museums. Several of these areas border the sea and are where the more exclusive beaches are located.