Once a quick stopover on the way to Machu Picchu, Lima has become the gateway to another popular South American destination, the Galápagos Islands. But don’t rush to see blue-footed boobies when you can visit this tantalizing coastal capital. Spend a few days touring UNESCO World Heritage colonial architecture and pre-Columbian treasures housed in an 18th-century mansion. Then it’s on to ceviche and pisco sours in a world-class culinary scene, followed by live Afro-Peruvian music at one of many peñas (clubs) in the hillside neighborhood of Barranco or near the sea in Miraflores.
The city took its name from Athena, goddess of wisdom, strategy and war, and protector of the city. The financial, political and administrative center of the country and an all-powerful city-state in antiquity, Athens is a major center of culture. A visit to the first-ever museum dedicated to Byzantium, a stroll around the National Garden and a trip to the Olympeion archaeological site will take you back through time.
Wildlife viewing in the Galápagos Islands reaches its prime from June through December, but realize the water is cold for snorkeling and scuba diving in the summer months. The temperature increases as you get closer to January, the reason many locals think Christmas break is the best time of year to visit.