Lima is a sprawling desert city, the capital of Peru, which clings to dusty cliffs in the valleys of three rivers - the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín. The city was founded by explorer Francisco Pizarro in 1535 and was the seat of the Spanish rulers for almost 300 years, taking over as the capital of an independent Peru in 1821. With a population approaching nine million, Lima is one of the biggest cities in Latin America, after Mexico City, São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
The unusual climate of the region, combined with Lima's altitude (1550 metres), means the city is surrounded by fog during much of the year. The architectural and historical beauty of Lima is harder to find than in many other leading South American cities - the impressive architecture is hidden away among more recent developments, as the growth of the city has taken place amongst, rather than around, the older buildings.