Founded in 1535 by Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro, Lima has a population of 7.7 million people and is one of the main cities in the Americas, with all the modern amenities, but at the same time, with old traditions that give its historic centre an unmistakable profile. Some old mansions with eastern style balconies still remain, as well as real architectonic jewels like the Torre Tagle Palace, churches and convents like San Francisco -the most outstanding colonial monumental complex, San Pedro, which boasts beautiful baroque altarpieces, and Santo Domingo, with its splendid cloisters. Its museums, with collections that cover every period of Peruvian culture, are also one of the city's great attractions. A walk along the top of the cliffs with beautifully landscaped gardens, winding along several kilometers through various districts, is an unforgettable experience, which could conclude in one of the top-notch restaurants that have turned Lima into one of the cities with the best cuisine in the world.
Located in the ancient capital of Tahuantinsuyo, Cusco boasts impressive architectural testimonies that combine the Inca past and Spanish influence. It is traditionally believed that Manco Capac designed the first layout of the city and Pachacutec (1438) built the main buildings that remained until the arrival of the Spaniards. Since then, the city itself became an expression of the blend of both races, as the Spanish conquerors used the imposing Inca walls and foundations of the buildings they tore down to build Renaissance and baroque churches, convents, royal colleges and mansions, all of which visitors find charming and fascinating. UNESCO declared the city's historic center a Cultural Heritage of Mankind.
Situated at the foot of the Misti (5,821 meters), a beautiful extinct volcano that dominates the city, Arequipa is referred to as the White City because of the white lava stone (sillar) used in its constructions. It is undoubtedly one of the Peruvian cities that has best preserved their cultural heritage, comprised of numerous churches, convents and mansions built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which have become great tourist attractions, within the framework of pleasant urban areas and beautiful landscapes that enjoy brilliant sunshine 300 days a year.
Visits to the Santa Catalina convent, probably the most beautiful in the Americas, the La Compañía cloisters, the Cathedral, San Francisco church, La Merced church or any of the beautiful old mansions, usually conclude around a table sampling the famous dishes that have gained the city the reputation of being one of Peru's greatest gastronomical capitals. A visit to the countryside surrounding the city is recommended, as well as to the small mixed baroque churches situated along the impressive route to the Colca Canyon.
Situated in the Moche river valley, this is an attractive city, with lively streets, mild climate, warm and spirited people and a superb cuisine. Its numerous churches prove that it was a great religious center during the Viceroyship and its old mansions with smooth colorful walls, beautiful doorways, carved balconies, wrought iron windows and large carriage entrances are reminders of the fortune of the old Creole aristocracy.
This is an ideal place in which to appreciate the development achieved by Pre-Incan civilizations. In the nearby desert there are monumental testimonies of the Mochica and Chimu eras, such as the Temples of the Sun and Moon and the huge mud-brick citadel of Chan Chan. Trujillo is the capital of the marinera the typical dance performed with a straw hat, a handkerchief and a linen poncho; dancers of all ages participate in the marinera festival in this city, which is held in January every year. At the beginning of spring there is an international spring festival with beauty contests, parades, a song festival and a display of handicrafts; the Peruvian pacer horse competitions in which beautiful horses perform dances with an elegant gait, are among the greatest attractions of this event.
Lying in the bottom of an ochre red valley, Cajamarca is of interest to travelers because of its history. It was the scenario of the execution of Atahualpa which marked the beginning of the downfall of the Incan empire, and of the cultural cross with the West, as proved by its colonial churches - considered amongst the most notorious in Peru - and its archaeological ruins - the most prominent of which is the Cumbemayo canal, a marvel of Pre-Inca engineering, as well as its deep green countryside, bright sunshine and its large forests of eucalyptus trees, pine trees and native species that cover the slopes of the highest mountains.
The Baños del Inca (Inca Baths), the most well-known hot springs in Peru, also have a great appeal for visitors, as their thermal waters have medicinal properties. Outside the city, Las Ventanillas de Otuzco is a Pre-Inca necropolis carved into walls of volcanic rock. Ideal for a day out are the old farm of La Copa, where the cows come to be milked as soon as their names are called out, and the Porcon farm - a farming and cattle-raising cooperative surrounded by immense pine forests, where one can either participate in farming and forestry activities or visit the small zoo on the site and see vicuñas, alpacas, deer, small tigers, monkeys and eagles.