Delve into the world of the Incas and Spanish conquistadors in Lima

Discover colonial architecture and pre-Columbian art in Peru’s coastal capital.

Lima is often passed over for its more glamorous South American cousins such as Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro. But visitors to this coastal metropolis will find a sprawling city with a thriving art scene, well preserved colonial buildings and rich Inca history.

View pre-Columbian ceramics thousands of years old, visit Baroque colonial buildings, and descend into spooky catacombs. There’s even the Circuito Mágico del Agua, an over-the-top display of illuminated fountains set to music.

Discover colonial architecture and pre-Columbian art in Peru’s coastal capital.

Pre-Columbian treasures

Lima is home to the world’s largest private collection of pre-Columbian art, housed in the Museo Larco. The oldest pieces date back several thousand years, including 50,000 pots and thousands of ceramic busts. Stay for lunch or dinner at the Cafe del Museo, overlooking a bougainvillea-filled garden.

Discover colonial architecture and pre-Columbian art in Peru’s coastal capital.

Although not as spectacular as Machu Picchu, Pachacamac, about 31km outside the city centre, was a major city when the Spanish arrived in South America. Settled as early as 100 AD, it’s worth spending a few hours wandering the complex of palaces and pyramids.

The colonial heart of the city

Discover colonial architecture and pre-Columbian art in Peru’s coastal capital.

The centre of Lima is the old colonial heart of the city, overflowing with Spanish colonial buildings. Start in the Plaza de Armas, the centre of the city since 1535. Great for people watching, it’s witnessed plenty of action over the years, from bullfights to burning people sentenced to death during the Spanish Inquisition.

Wander north of the plaza to the official Presidential Palace (Palacio de Gobierno). The baroque building was completed in 1938. The best time to visit is at noon, to watch elaborately-uniformed soldiers conduct a flamboyant changing of the guard ceremony.

Ornate Spanish churches

The Iglesia de Santo Domingo offers an overview of different architectural styles in colonial Lima, as the pink church and surrounding compound have been rebuilt and remodelled multiple times. Be sure to visit between 11am and 4pm to climb the bell tower for views of the old centre.

At the Convento de San Francisco, thousands of human skulls are piled in the catacombs underneath the convent. You can take a tour through the underground tunnels that served as the city’s first cemetery. Although the main attraction is the catacombs, the church is a perfect example of the Lima Baroque architectural style and has beautifully painted ceilings.

The city’s cathedral is located on the same plot of land designated for the city’s first church in 1535. Although the building has been rebuilt numerous times, with some of its elaborate baroque decor stripped away over the years, there are still plenty of ornate touches.

Visit some of South America’s most iconic locations including Lima, Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu and more on a 21-day South America Circle Holiday from $7120pp twin share. Visit RACQ Travel or contact one of our friendly travel consultants on 1300 096 166.