The Cerro San Cristobal in Lima
The Cerro San Cristóbal is one of the symbols of the city of Lima. It is the closest and highest hill in the city. Its importance dates from the same time of the Incas. Its current name was named by Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Today it offers one of the best panoramic views of the city. The route there can be hired in the Main Square. There are tours and rides in the popular ‘mirabuses’. Learn more about this tourist attraction, one of the most symbolic of Lima.
All about the Cerro San Cristobal
The highest hill in Lima
Cerro San Cristóbal is part of the Andean foothills located in the heart of the city of Lima. It is the highest hill in this area of the city, located at a height of 400 meters above sea level. From there you have an incredible view of the whole place, you can even appreciate the famous islands of the port of Callao.
It is currently one of the most representative tourist attractions in Lima. At the top, a ‘Monumental Cross’ was built in 1928 with 48 embedded lights that guard the entire city of Lima. At that time the road that leads to the top of the hill was also built.
The cross is very visited by people during Holy Week and the first Sunday in May (when the so-called ‘Fiesta de las Cruces’ is celebrated). Also in the place there is a site museum that exhibits photographs of Lima at the beginning of the 20th century.
Cerro San Cristóbal is part of the main tourist attractions in the center of Lima where they also stand out: the Main Square and the Cathedral.
A cable car is currently being planned to attract more tourists. Most visitors access the hill through a trip in ‘mirabus’ or within a tour organized by a tourism agency.
Where is it located?
Cerro San Cristóbal is located in the heart of Lima. It can be seen clearly from the Main Square, from where you must travel 10 kilometers by road. It is located on the border of the Rímac and San Juan de Lurigancho districts. Its altitude is only 400 meters above sea level
How to get?
There are several ways to get to Cerro San Cristóbal. The most used by visitors is through a tourist bus trip that departs from the vicinity of the Main Square in Lima.
Another way to go is on foot through the ‘thousand steps’ route. The walk begins at the ‘Walk of the Waters’ in the Rímac district. From there you must begin the ascent by stairs with graffiti and murals until reaching the top of the hill.
Map of the route
History of Cerro San Cristóbal
The history of Cerro San Cristóbal dates back to pre-Inca times. For the families or ayllus that inhabited the Rímac valley, this hill was sacred. This belief was also taken up by the Incas during their expansion along the Peruvian coast in the late 15th century.
During the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, a wooden cross was placed on top of the hill as a symbol of imposition on the new western religion. In 1536 the Incas besieged Lima from this hill, destroying the cross. From Cusco, the rebel Manco Inca ordered the attack that caused numerous deaths on both sides.
Finally, with the arrival of the Huayla tribes, the balance tipped in favor of the Spanish, who bathed the waters of the Rímac River in blood. The battles continued in Pachacamac and Rumichaca. However, Francisco Pizarro had already ordered to rebuild the wooden cross and baptize the hill as San Cristóbal, because that day the arduous conflict was won.
With the establishment of the viceroyalty of Peru, the Spanish supplanted aboriginal beliefs with new Christian religious practices. This is how they established the practice of the Via Crucis there. At the beginning of the 20th century, the project to build a monorail that leads easily to the top of the hill failed.
In those early days, an asphalt road was built as well as a huge metal cross inaugurated in 1928. Likewise, in 1929, the parish priest Francisco Aramburú established the pilgrimage of the cross on the first Sunday in May.
At the end of the 20th century, the area that leads to the hill was recovered, which was taken over by crime. This is how the idea of creating a historical tourist area of Lima was materialized. Currently it is planned to build a cable car that increases the number of visitors.
The monumental cross of San Cristóbal
The monumental cross is a work devised at the beginning of the 20th century by the Franciscan priest Francisco Aramburú. The idea was to build a huge cross that guards the city and can be seen from all over the city, even at night.
The work was inaugurated in 1928 during the government of President Augusto B. Leguía. The architect was the Peruvian Oscar Zagazeta Valderrama. The cross is 20 meters high and 48 embedded luminaires that illuminate the Lima night.
From the cross you have a privileged view of the city. It is made of concrete so strong that it has withstood the strong earthquakes of 1940, 1966, 1974 and beyond.
The cross has become a symbol of the city. Thousands of faithful arrive there during Holy Week and the Fiesta de las Cruces (first Sunday in May).
The site museum
On the esplanade of Cerro San Cristóbal, and a few steps from the monumental cross, there is a site museum that offers a photographic gallery on the customs and culture of the city of Lima.
The museum is open every day from 8 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon. The entrance ticket costs only 1 sol for adults. Children enter free.
How much does the visit cost?
Cerro San Cristóbal is in a free space of the city, so admission is free.
The ‘mirabus’ tour from Lima’s Main Square has a cost of 20 Peruvian soles. In addition to the San Cristóbal hill, it includes a walk through the main historic streets of the city. The tour lasts approximately 2 hours 30 minutes.
Photos of Cerro San Cristóbal
Cerro San Cristóbal is located in the populous district of Rímac, an area with high rates of crime and robbery. For this reason, the most advisable thing is to visit it with a tour or mirabus service. If you want to get there on foot, it is best to go in a group of several people.
During your visit to Cerro San Cristóbal do not miss the opportunity to visit other tourist attractions in the historic center such as the Jirón de la Unión, the Main Square, the Cathedral or the mysterious church of San Francisco de Lima (the Catacombs).
Before the founding of Lima in 1535, the area that comprises the historic center of Lima belonged to the chief Taulichusco. Even the space occupied by the Cathedral was a sacred temple called ‘Puma Inti’, located next to the palace of the Inca ruler ‘Sinchi Puma’.
A good date to visit Cerro San Cristóbal is during Holy Week, when the Via Crucis is staged with dozens of actors. During this staging, the actor who represents Jesus ascends to the top of the hill carrying a heavy cross with him. That day hundreds of faithful and curious gather along the slopes of the hill.