With a population exceeding 8 million residents, the coastal capital of Peru is a bustling mix of people, culture, ancient architecture and contemporary style. Sure it may have some unsavory neighborhoods, including peripheral shantytowns (dubbed pueblos jóvenes) that serve as a stark and sometimes depressing reminder of the difference between the haves and the have-nots in much of contemporary South America. Still, there are plenty of redeeming elements to be found in this crowded, sprawling mega-city; you just have to know where to look.
History buffs will find that amid Lima's 30-some districts stand testaments to the pre-Hispanic cultures that thrived here long ago. Most notable in this number are the Huacas like Pucllana and Huallamarca - adobe monuments that once served as centers of civilization long before the country was colonized by Europeans. There are also a host of museums (indigenous, art, natural history, etc.) and religious buildings at your disposal, including the massive and beautiful Catedral de Lima.
But far from being a city defined by its past, Lima is steeped in modernity, with an impressive financial district and plenty of fine dining and wild nightlife to keep 21st century travelers feeling right at home. Wealthier neighborhoods such as Barranco and Miraflores are a choice destination for the young and outgoing, while beautiful public spaces like the seaside Parque del Amor and the luminescent Circuito Mágico Del Agua provide unique ways to get out and enjoy the cityscape.
And, lest we forget all you fellow adventure seekers, the Peruvian capital just may raise some eyebrows when it comes to accessing the great outdoors. Though they may not be as well touted as some of the city's domestic neighbors, adventures here run the gamut from surfing chilly Pacific waves to ascending the 21,000 ft massifs or Cordillera Huayhuash, with plenty in between. It may just be enough to make you rethink the duration of your shot stopover in this massive South American capital city.