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Peru

More Information About Peru

From the Imperial City of Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas to the Nazca Lines and the Lost City of Machu Picchu, Peru abounds in mysterious pre-Inca and Inca archeological wonders; not to mention its colorful folklore and a cuisine gaining international renown, both forged through the converging indigenous, Spanish, African, and Asian influences. Fortify yourself with a Pisco Sour or Coca Tea and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime…

Along Peru´s coastal desert strip you´ll find the oldest city in the Americas, and near the stunning White City of Arequipa, lying at the foot of its sacred volcanoes, you´ll the world´s deepest canyons, Cotahuasi Canyon and Colca Canyon, where you can watch the circling Andean condors, the largest birds of flight in the world. Continuing into the glacial peaks and fertile valleys of the mountainous Andes, you´ll be surprised to discover that it´s home to the most microclimates in Peru, including the cloud forest and high jungle regions along which passes the Inca Trail. Here you´ll also find the world´s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca and be dazzled by the Floating Islands of Uros. From there, journey to the pristine Amazon and observe the traditional way of life of some of its tribes, marvel at the mighty Amazon River, which carries more water than any other river in the world and is home not only to the world´s largest freshwater fish, the massive Arapaima, and the biggest snake, the Anaconda, but also to the infamously voracious piranha.

  • Geography
  • Economy
  • History

Geography of Peru

The country of Peru is found on the central western coast of South America, bordered by Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador. It is home to the world´s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca, which it shares with Bolivia, and the world´s deepest canyons, Cotahuasi and Colca. It´s marked by three different climatic zones: the desert coastal region, central Andean mountain region, and the eastern Amazonian plains.

Amazon Basin

Eastern Peru includes the Amazon Basin, or Low Amazon, which covers around 60% of the country´s territory. This vast tropical forest receives 78.7-157.7in of rain each year, with over 75% humidity and temperatures ranging from the low to mid 80s. Its many rivers include the Amazon, Marañón, Huallaga, and Ucayali. The unrivalled diversity of exotic plants and animals, as well as native tribes upholding traditional ways of life, has inspired a rising popularity with tourists, although much of the region remains untouched and protected.

Andean Mountain Range

The vast Andean mountain range, from fertile valleys to glacial peaks, houses the most microclimates in Peru, and the eastern side by the Amazon basin (the jungle-eyebrow, or high jungle) boasts the world´s highest biodiversity. Some of its imposing peaks exceed 20,000ft above sea level. The most famous icon of the Inca Empire, Machu Picchu, is found here along with a great variety of other Incan relics, from trails, shrines and forts to astronomical observatories and agricultural terraces. The river valleys afford for rafting and kayaking as well as other active adventures. The year is split into two seasons, rainy and dry: dry season spans April to October and is characterized by warm sunny days and cool nights; November to March is the rainy season, when daily temperatures cool and some trails can be affected or closed.

The Coastal Regions

The central and southern coast is subtropical desert, with winters (June-Sept) marked by cloudy skies and morning fog, and sunny summers (Dec-Mar) with extremely scarce rainfall. Temperatures are mild, from lows averaging 57.2 °F to highs around 84 °F, rarely falling below 53.6 °F or exceeding 84 °F. The central coast (La Libertad, Ancash, Lima) is temperate and spring-like almost year-round. The southern coast (Ica, Nazca, Arequipa, Moquegua, Tacna) is drier and

Economy of Peru

Peru´s official currency is Nuevo Sol, which replaced the hyper-inflated Inti in 1991 and throughout 2011 thus far has been exchanging at around S/.2.70-2.79 to the US Dollar and S/.4.00 to the Euro. It divides into 100 céntimos, with the S/.200-note being the highest printed denomination and the 1 céntimo coin the lowest. (Coins under 10 céntimos are rarely used and might be refused by vendors.)

Over the last decade Peru has grown by over 5% a year, and even in the midst of global recession, growth since 2006 has averaged 7% growth. The Peruvian economy was South America´s fastest-growing throughout the last 5 years, and one of the world´s fastest-growing in 2011 thus far. This period of hard-won stable growth has cleared the way for the rapid appearance of new roads, shopping malls and multiplex cinemas throughout the country and new skyscrapers in Lima, where housing prices in ritzy neighborhoods nearly doubled in just two years.

This comes after a turbulent period in the 80´s and 90´s, when Peru was scarred by violent clashes between the state and leftist guerilla groups, astronomical inflation, and occasionally negative growth. Since then, however, favorable conditions have attracted increased foreign investment: The 1st condition has been a boom in prices for minerals of which Peru has rich deposits; the 2nd has been the fiscally rigorous market-oriented policies instated by Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s and improved upon by Alejandro Toledo and Alan García, which sought price stability, open trade, and foreign investment. Current growth is driven by the exploitation of rich copper, silver, lead, zinc, petroleum, and gold deposits and the exportation of coffee, sugar, cotton, fish and fish products. Stability and increased infrastructure investment has also introduced tourism as a new growth industry in Peru.

Despite improved social indicators such as a 24-spot climb in the UN Human Development Report, poverty is still crippling for many communities in the southern Andean highlands. The task before recently-elected President Ollanta Humala is to address the problem of income inequality and rural poverty, advancing social policy while maintaining the impressive growth of the last decade.

History of Peru

Pre-Inca Cultures

Remains of nomadic hunting tribes more than 11,000 years old have been unearthed in Peru, and the oldest civilizations arose in Paracas, Chilca, and Huaylas 8,000 years ago. The oldest city on the continent with remains surviving to this day was Caral, built around 2500BC north of Lima. Over the last 3000 years plants such as corn and cotton were cultivated and animals such as the llama, alpaca and guinea pig were domesticated. Practices such as spinning, knitting, basketry, and pottery were developed. Some of the most powerful civilizations include the Paracas (300BC), famous for their technicolor ceramics and textiles, the Moche and Nazca (100BC-700AD, the former known for their metalwork and the latter for the mysterious Nazca lines. Floods and droughts weakened these coastal nations, allowing for the rise of the inland Huari and Tiwanaku cultures, which themselves were succeeded by city-states and the Chimor and Chachapoyas empires. Over time social organization and agricultural techniques advanced, but peacefully or violently, all would find themselves incorporated in the great Inca Empire.

The Inca Empire

The Inca Empire was pre-Columbian America´s largest, uniting Ecuador, part of Colombia, northern Chile, northwest Argentina, Bolivia and Peru in a territory known as Tahuantinsuyo (the four corners). It was organized in dominions with a hierarchical society, with Cusco as the political, administrative, and military center and the Inca ruler as the representation on Earth of the supreme deity, the sun, Inti. The Inca Empire was connected by a massive system of roads known as the Inca Trail, parts of which survive to this day. Thanks to their admirable stonemasonry skills, Peru retains many examples of Inca as well as pre-Inca architecture, city planning, and agricultural and hydraulic engineering.

Spanish Conquest and the Viceroyalty

Francisco Pizarro and the other Spanish Conquistadores arrived in 1531 in search of riches and quickly conquered the Inca, aided by smallpox, horses, and a devastating civil war between Inca princes Atahualpa and Huáscar. Huáscar was captured by Atahualpa´s troops the year the Spanish arrived and Atahualpa was captured by the Spanish the following year, effectively ceasing the organized Inca resistance. Both would b

Main Touristic Destinations in Peru

Cusco

Striking Cusco (Qosqo: Navel of the World) enchants visitors with its ornate colonial structures resting atop Inca bases and sites like the massive Fortress of Sacsayhuaman and Qorikancha, the Temple of the Sun, which testify to the rise and fall of an Empire. The nearby Sacred Valley of the Incas offers picturesque Quechua villages still maintaining pre-Columbian traditions and equally stunning sites such as the circular terraces of Moray and the Salt Mines of Maras. Ever-popular Cusco is one of the most important tourist destinations of Peru, due in great part to the enduring mystery of the legendary Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. You´ll be surprised that a city so steeped in history also has a lively nightclub scene and restaurants featuring modern Novo Andean fusion fare, as well as a nearby extreme sports park and good rafting rapids.

Arequipa

Sprawling along the mountainous desert leading into the western Andean slopes, at the foot of El Misit Volcano, is the Peru’s second most populous and second most industrialized city, Arequipa. It is famously known as the “White City of Arequipa” thanks to its distinctive buildings of pearly sillar volcanic rock. Abounding throughout the Historic Center of Arequipa (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), their ornate “mestizo-baroque” façades have been described as intricate stone tapestries interweaving Spanish and indigenous design elements. By far the most striking example of the distinct architectural wealth of Arequipa is the massive neo-Renaissance Cathedral which takes up an entire side of the city’s main square. One strong architectural contrast is the vibrant blue and orange of the the 16th century Moorish-style Santa Catalina Convent, a “city within a city”.

Aside from its singular architecture, the city is also famous for geological and cultural wonders including the Cotahuasi and Colca Canyons, whose trails reveal waterfalls, pre-Inca and Inca ruins and trails, and picturesque villages and whose rivers offer an exciting challenge for rafting enthusiasts. In contrast to the city’s bustling modern nightlife of bars and clubs in the city center, there’s the bucolic green countryside with natural springs, Inca terraces, and a 400 year old stone mill, Sabandia Mill.

Puno

As the capital of the Puno Province, it is the largest city in the southern altiplano and the 3rd most popular tourist destination in Peru, with many tourists stopping by after visiting Lima and Cusco and before continuing on towards Bolivia. Its wealth of natural and cultural treasures includes Lake Titicaca and the Floating Islands of Uros, the Burial Towers of Sillustani and other pre-Inca cemeteries, and various colonial-era churches.

Its several hundred distinct folk dances and songs, most of them with costumed dancers representing characters from century-old legends, have earned it renown as the “Folkloric Capital of Peru”. You can experience this wealth of artistic and cultural expression yourself during the Feast of the Virgen of Candelaria in February, which in 2011 attracted more than 19,000 visitors

The region is predominantly rural, dedicating itself to agriculture and livestock, most notably of the llamas and alpacas which graze its plateaus and plains. Other activities include fishing and the production and sale of artisan works.

Lima

The Peruvian capital of Lima is the country’s largest city, with a population of nearly 9 million one third of the population of Peru. Its history spans millennia, with its pre-Columbian pyramids, Spanish colonial churches and palaces, and the rising skyscrapers of the financial district. Lima’s beaches are popular during the summer, and resort towns consisting of clubs, bars, restaurants and hotels have sprung up to serve beachgoers. Museums like the Larco Museum, with its famous Gallery of Erotic Pottery, and Gold Museum, with its vast collection of pre-Columbian gold and precious stone masterpieces, are also must-see stops for with tourists and nationals alike. Popular neighborhoods include the ocean-side districts of ritzy and relaxed Miraflores and bohemian Barranco, with its seaside cliffs and Bridge of Sighs, have some of the liveliest nightlife and best restaurants in Lima.

In the historical center of Lima, the Plaza de Armas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll find the baroque 16th century Cathedral, where city founder Francisco Pizarro laid the first stone and carried the first log. The French-style Government Palace, built upon the site of the house of Taulichusco, Chief of the Rímac Valley, is also found here. Once a viceroyal palace, San Martín declared Peru’s independence here and it is now the president’s residence. One unmissable stop is the monumental 16th-18th century baroque San Francisco Monastery, the largest of its type in the New World, with its thousands of rare volumes and scrolls and subterranean crypt with artfully arranged skulls and bones from 25,000-75,000 bodies.

Throughout its history Lima has seen various influential immigration waves: African influence has given the city its lively peñas and one of its most important religious festivals, the Lord of Miracles, whose miraculous image painted by a freed slave is venerated in the Sanctuary of Las Nazarenas. The Chinese left their mark with thousands of chifas, Peruvian-Chinese restaurants, the best of which are in Lima’s Chinatown, Calle Capón. The Japanese left their sophisticated techniques on various dishes, most notably the sashimi-ceviche fusion known as tiradito. With the influence of its indigenous, Spanish, African, Chinese, and Japanese populations, Lima has earned a reputation as the “Gastronomical Capital of the Americas”.

Nazca

Sunny Nazca city is the perfect stop for those looking for a respite from the chilly air of Cusco or Puno. Travelers make a point of visiting in order to view the Nazca Lines, but Nazca has more to offer than this. Its arid climate has allowed for the preservation of artifacts from two of the most important civilizations to arise in pre-Columbian Peru: the Paracas and the Nazca, famed for the artistry of their intricate textiles and surrealistic ceramics. One can gain priceless insight into the Nazca Culture at sites such as Chauchillas Cemetery, where the dry environment and a resin used during burial rites so well-preserved mummies of the Nazca culture that the bodies still retain hair and skin despite their thousand-year-age.

Ica

The city of Ica in the central south of Peru, is the capital of the department of the same name, situated in the narrow valley formed by the Ica River. Bordered on one side by the Pacific Ocean and on the other by the western slopes of the Andean Cordillera, it was the cradle of important pre-Columbian civilizations whose footprints were left behind in the form of pyramids, mummies, and other artifacts. The vineyards and extensive orchards and groves of asparagus, date palms, cotton, mango, and avocado make it an especially scenic area to visit and its coastal waters is one of the richest seas in the world, with an astounding diversity of marine birds, penguins, sealions and more.

Iquitos

Iquitos in northeastern Peru, on the left bank of the Amazon River, is one of the most important cities of the Amazon and Peru’s principal river port. It can be accessed by river or air, with the exception of a road that connects it with Nauta city to the south. The main square, or Plaza de Armas, is a mix of modern buildings as well as the eccentric and luxurious constructions from the exuberant boomtime of the lost rubber age.

The major attractions of Iquitos and the Amazon Rain Forest is the unparalleled natural diversity of the region and the indigenous tribes. It is a popular base for tours of the Amazon Rainforest and Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve the most extensive national protected area in Peru and one of the best places to see animals in the wild. Travelers embark on boat rides and day and night hikes to view monkeys, alligators, giant lily-pads, caimans, anacondas, boas, tarantulas, and more. One popular stop is Monkey Island (technically Timicurillo Island on the Amazon River), which is overrun by different monkey specias as well as sloths, coatis, and tropical birds. While in Iquitos, you can visit facilities such as the Manatee Orphanage, Alligator Farm, or Butterfly house- the possibilities are endless.

The Floating Market of Belén unites over 150 native communities who gather here to sell their produce, the San Juan Market focuses on crafts and artisan products, the Anaconda Center is another large crafts market under the waterfront walk, and Pasaje Paquito is the place to go for exotic drinks or medicines made from native plants and animals. (While shopping please keep in mind that many ornamental items are manufactured from endangered species and are illegal to own, export from Peru, and import into the US and EU!)

Puerto Maldonado

The city of Puerto Maldonado is the capital of the Madre de Dios Department in southeastern Peru, 34 mi west of the Bolivian border, where the Tambopata and Madre de Dios rivers meet. Often referred to as the Biodiversity Capital of Peru, it showcased a dizzying array of the endangered and exotic plant and animal life of the Amazon jungle. Its three national parks represent some of the most pristine primary rain forests in the world.

In recent years, the growing popularity of ecological tourism has attracted visitors hoping to experience the astounding biodiversity of the jungles of Manú National Park, the Tambopata National Reserve, and the Bahuaja Sonene National Park, so that now the long-forgotten city of Puerto Maldonado bustles with travelers and researchers.The largest, Manú National Park is one of the world’s most important national parks, protecting over 800 bird species, 200 mammal species, gigantic trees, and indigenous tribes. Holding the world record for number of species seen in one day at one spot (324). The smaller Tambopata-Candamo National Park houses the greatest diversity of mammal, tree, insect, and bird species in the world and holds the world record for butterfly species. Especially popular are the clay licks, which attract hundreds of bright macaws and other birds at a time. Finally, the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park is unique for its tropical savannas, and protects endangered animals such as the maned wolf, marsh deer, giant river otter, bush dog, black caiman, giant anteater, and harpy eagle.

If you have some extra time in the city of Puerto Maldonado, there are some local sites you can visit. One unique establisment you can visit if you have some extra time in the city is the Jaguar Zoo & Disco- zoological park by day, nightclub by night. At the Snake Rescue House you can visit rescued snakes and reptiles, or climb to the top of the Obelisk for a view of the city and surrounding rivers and check out the sculptures outside of the obelisk, which narrate traditional jungle lore. Visit Monkey Island to see hundreds of monkeys of different species, the Guacamayo Collpas, salt licks which come to life with hundreds of feeding birds, pristine Sandoval Lake with its wild orchids, giant kapok and caoba trees, otters, caimans and more.

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