Peru is a South American country. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean.
Visiting the beautiful and mysterious Machu Picchu is in the bucket-list of most of the people. But what else do you know about Peru? The country has beauty, a fascinating history, adventure, dramatic and diverse landscapes, wildlife, bright vibrant people and amazing food. Yes, you should visit Machu Picchu but there are so many interesting things about the country which you should explore as well.
Interesting facts about Peru
1. Peru is famously known as the Land of the Incas. The Incan Empire was larger than imperial Rome at its peak covering modern-day Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. But the thing they are best known for is building one of the most stunning man-made structures in the world, Machu Picchu. Today Machu Picchu is in the list of New Seven Wonders of the World and people from all over the world come to see it.
2. The Incan civilization is credited for a lot of things. One of them is the creation of census. The Incas had no formal system of writing, and so developed a system of record-keeping using knots called “quipus”. These quipus, each different from the other in size and colour were made out of wool or cotton strings and were fastened at one end to a cross cord. Each represent details like crop measures, thefts, debts, and other events.
3. The Incas understood and studied the sky. It is the only ancient culture in the world to define constellations. At Machu Picchu, each sun temple and ritual stone lines up perfectly with the sun for their assigned solstice.
4. The Incan empire became quite large at its peak, and a network of runners helped in keeping the kingdom connected. Fresh fish was relayed from the coast to high up in the mountains within 24 hours so that the king could have fresh seafood on their dinner plates. Relay race at its best!
5. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world with an elevation of 12500 feet. The lake is located between Bolivia and Peru. What makes this lake more interesting is that Jacques Cousteau, a French conservationist, found ruins of an ancient city underneath its surface. The descendants of this civilization still live on self-made floating islands in the lake. These people are called Quechua.
6. There are so many mysteries in the world which continue to fascinate us. The Nazca Lines in Peru are one of these mysteries. The Nazca Lines are a collection of more than 70 giant human and animal figures which are created in terms of lines and located in a desert plateau between Nazca and Palpa. The question on who made them is still around. Few people believe it to be an alien landing strip while others think it forms part of a sophisticated astronomical calendar used by the native people as a way to commune with the gods. Whatever the case be, these lines are out there for us to see.
7. Peru is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world. Almost 60% of the country is covered by rainforest. And the fact that there are 90 different micro-climates in Peru makes the country the best home for flora and fauna.
Manu National Park in Peru holds a biodiversity record after recording more than 1,000 species of birds, 1,200 species of butterfly and 287 species of reptiles in 2016.
8. The Giant Andean Condor is the largest flying bird in the world and is native to the Andes mountain range in Peru. It stands up to 4 feet in height with a wingspan of up to 14 feet. This huge bird was once considered sacred by the Incas but is now listed as “vulnerable” by the World Conservation Union. The farmers in the region hunt it as they believe the birds will kill their livestock.
9. Three-quarters of the world’s alpaca population lives in Peru. Just look at the picture below. Don’t you want to hug this furry guy?
10. We all need to thank Peru for giving us a food which is used in almost every cuisine today. Potato! There are over 3,000 different varieties of Potato grown in Peru.The Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes. When the Spanish conquered in the 1500s and discovered the flavours of the potatoes, they shipped them back to Europe, thus causing the evolution of this universal favourite food. There is a saying in Peru “Soy mas Peruano que la papa” which means “I am more Peruvian than the potato.” Ummm okay, if you say so.
11. Peruvians love eating guinea pigs. Yes, these cute fuzzy creatures are considered a delicacy in the country. Roasted guinea pig or Cuy is the national dish of Peru.
It is said that when the Spanish arrived in Peru, they brought a few guinea pigs back. And instead of eating them, they fell in love with them so much that they have since been domesticated as pets. Well who wouldn’t fall in love with this adorable little creature.
12. Peru is home to the Puya Raimondii, the world’s tallest flowering plant. Puya raimondii stands at a height of up to 15 metres. It can take between 80 and 150 years to flower. Once it does, it can produce up to 20 thousand white blooms. It blooms only once in its lifetime and then dies. The saying “Sabr ka fal metha hota hai” fits perfectly in this case.
13. Today everyone wants to eat healthy. So let me tell you about one of the world’s best superfoods which is found in Peru. The Camu-Camu fruit grows in the Amazon rainforest and has a higher concentration of vitamin C than any other food. It contains 60 times more Vitamin C than regular oranges.
14. They have a unique tradition for marriage. Before a Peruvian couple can marry, they must enter a period of servancy. During this time, the woman works with her mother-in-law and the man with his father-in-law. They live together and the couple usually gets married after they conceive a child, showing their union is fruitful.
15. Peruvians celebrate New Year’s by gifting one another yellow underpants on New Year’s Eve. Yellow colour signifies good luck in the country. But why underpants though? And the tradition doesn’t ends here. People wear these yellow underpants inside out (underneath clothing) until midnight, and then flip them around at the stroke of midnight.
One more interesting New Year tradition is where people run around the street with their suitcases. This ensures that you will travel to someplace interesting in the next year. Will the rucksack count?
16. The Amazon River starts in Peru. The largest river in the world starts up high in the Peruvian Andes near Machu Picchu and ends in the Atlantic Ocean covering 6575 km.
17. There’s a rainbow mountain in Peru. The Vinicunca Mountain gets the colors from sedimentary mineral layers that have been exposed to erosion and makes for one of the most beautiful rainbows on earth.
18. Cerro Blanco sand dune, located in the Sechura Desert in the south of Peru is one of the highest sand dunes in the world. At a height of 6800 ft above sea level, it measures 3,860 feet from the base to the summit. You can hike to the top and from there slide down on a sandboard. Sounds so much fun!
19. The country is home to some of the deepest canyons in the world. Canon Del Coca (11,488 ft) and Cotahuasi Canyon (11000 ft) are second and third deepest canyons in the world respectively.
20. The sacred city of Caral-supe, is thought to be the oldest site occupied by humans in the Americas. Just a few hours north of Lima it dates back 5,000 years.
21. Peru has the second largest amount of Shamans in the world, second only to India. Shamanism has been popular in Peru for over 3,000 years. Since most of the Peruvian population cannot afford or don’t have access to doctors or Western medical care, many people, especially natives, turn to a shaman’s healing art.
22. Most of the weaving techniques used today were invented by Peruvians. The country is famous for its colourful ponchos which take an estimated time of around 500 to 600 hours to get ready. Peruvians generally receive one poncho upon becoming an adult and it is expected to last a lifetime.
Trip leader Sakshi’s Recommendations if you are visiting Peru:
Check off Machu Picchu from your bucket list. Both a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the 7 Wonders of the World, its beauty is unparalleled. The cloud forest that surrounds the city gives it even more mystical flare, and is a dream for hikes to Machu Picchu. The most famous and sacred of hikes is of course the Inca Trail, which follows an original network of transportation trails used by the Incas as their main route of passage.
Stroll down the cobblestone streets of Cusco. Cusco was the most important city in the whole of the Inca Empire and walking here is like wandering through a museum. Wander down the cute cobbled streets featuring a mixture of Incan and Spanish colonial architecture. Hike up the hill out of Cusco to the stone wall ‘Saqsayhuaman’, discover the many cathedrals historical center and finally have a sunset view at one of the many viewpoints overlooking the city.
Explore the Amazon Basin. Peru is the one of the best places to experience different forms of the rainforest and the wildlife it contains. Go on a boat tour in the Amazon River. And the adventurous souls can even swim with the famous pink dolphins found in the river.
Visit Ballestas Islands. These islands are an absolute treat for all the nature lovers. You will see penguins living alongside with dolphins, sea lions, and pelicans. The bird filled skies with rugged cliffs serve as a perfect backdrop to this spectacular place.
Hike the Rainbow mountain.