Callao, Peru

To the conquistadors, this was the “City of Kings” and its colonial majesty still dominates the heart of Peru’s capital. Dramatic cliffs, golden beaches and varied cuisine are among its other riches.

An undoubted highlight of Lima is the Plaza Mayor in its center. It’s filled with grand colonial buildings, some of which date from the 16th century, such as The Government Palace, which occupies almost the whole north side of the square. Other impressive landmarks include the Archbishop’s Palace and the twin-towered baroque cathedral.

Going back even further, you may visit Huaca Pucllana. This incredible stepped earth brick and clay pyramid in the Miraflores district was created by the pre-Incan Lima culture between 1,300 and 1,800 years ago and its scale remains impressive. If you’re happy to venture slightly out of Lima, you could discover the Fortaleza de Pachacamac around 25 miles to the southeast. This was an ancient fortress devoted to Pachacamac, “he who created the land,” which stood for around 1,300 years before the Incas arrived and added their own imprint.

For all its architectural gems, Lima’s culinary reputation is flourishing and tells its own story of the city. Ceviche is a Pacific Coast staple, the spicy lime marinated seafood, along with chupe de camarones, or shrimp soup. The influences of Spanish, Italian and Japanese cuisine are also widely evident, while Chifa is a popular Peruvian-Chinese fusion.

Lima has a mild, pleasant climate that gives it a sense of eternal spring, and its quirks include several local microclimates. It also virtually never rains here, so, being outdoors is a way of life.

The city of 8.5 million people, almost a third of Peru’s entire population, is divided into 43 districts. One of the most appealing is Miraflores, close to the so-called Costa Verde, where grassy cliff-top areas look down onto ribbons of beach. Indeed there are a number of parks which provide excellent spots to watch the city’s famous paragliders in action. You’ll also find an Indian Market, where you can shop for alpaca products, silverware, wood carvings and trinkets.

Another park worth considering in the City Center district is the Parque de la Reserva, whose series of fountains create dazzling evening light, sound and water displays that are worth seeing if you’re here after sunset.

The Barranco district is a gem of galleries, museums, quirky boutiques and coffee shops. There’s a stone walkway that takes you down towards the Pacific, known as the Bajada de los Baños, which is spanned by the charming Puente de los Suspiros, “the Bridge of Sighs.”

Last but certainly not least, the Museo Larco houses a vast number of ceramics from various cultures including the Chancay, Nazca and Inca civilizations. There are also gold and silver artifacts and a popular display of pre-Columbian erotica.