Lima is full of surprises within its layers upon layers of rich history. Situated on the coast of the Pacific and being one of the largest desert towns in the world, the contrasts of the city are striking. Near the shantytowns that resemble a third world country are modern skyscrapers and shopping malls, beautifully restored colonial mansions dating back to the 17th century, and pre-Inca pyramids that survived the Spanish conquest and modern civilization. The city has a lot to offer the visitor, who usually only stays a short time en route to other excursions in Peru. Either way, Lima, the longtime capital of empires of long ago, has its own identity that can be felt on every stone and building constructed.