Peru is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. It’s full of interesting sites, like Machu Picchu, the Amazon Jungle, the mysterious Nazca Lines, and even a rainbow mountain. It’s also where the ancient Inca civilization flourished for thousands of years.
It’s a beautiful South American country with many unique features. It has diverse landscapes, unique cultures, uncommon dishes, and so much more. What better way to appreciate it than by reading about the most interesting facts about Peru?
53 Interesting Facts About Peru
Let’s get into all of the things that make Peru interesting and unique. From Inca times to the modern-day, this list has it all.
In 1532 this South American country became a Spanish colony. It was known as the Viceroyalty of Peru and was the heart of the Spanish Empire, with Lima being the most important city.
It wasn’t until 1821 that Peru became independent from Spain.
José de San Martín officially declared independence stating “From this moment on, Peru is free and independent, by the general will of the people and the justice of its cause that God defends. Long live the homeland! Long live freedom! Long live our independence!”
However, Spain didn’t recognize this Independence until 1879.
Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara are the three official languages of Peru. About 84% of Peruvians speak Spanish, followed by Quechua at 13% and Aymara at 2%.
The National University of San Marcos was established in Lima in 1551. It holds the title as the oldest continuously operating university in the Americas.
Following Brazil and Argentina, Peru is the third-largest South American country.
Following behind Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Sao Paulo, Brazil, Lima is the third most populated city in South America.
Lima has a subtropical desert climate, which means it hardly ever rains. The sky does get overcast, and there might be a light mist, but raindrops are very uncommon. After Cairo in Egypt, Lima is the second driest capital in the world.
Peru’s population is around 33.5 million, and 9.7 million people live in Lima.
Machu Picchu was chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 via a worldwide internet poll.
Machu Picchu is composed of many heavy stones, some of which weigh more than 50 pounds. It’s believed that no wheels were used to convey these heavy rocks up the steep mountainside. Instead, it’s thought that hundreds of men transported the rocks.
Research suggests that Machu Picchu was deliberately built on the intersections of tectonic fault lines. It’s believed that the fault lines provided the Incas with naturally occurring rock fragments ideal for moving around and construction of the site.
Many archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was a royal estate for Inca rulers. The expansive complex is made up of over 150 buildings; they range from sanctuaries and temples to baths and houses.
In Quechua (the language of the Incas) Machu Picchu translates to ‘Old Mountain’ or ‘Old Peak’.
Each stone in Machu Picchu was cut very precisely. They fit together so well that no mortar was needed to keep them in place. They’re so sturdy that the foundation can withstand an earthquake.
The Norte Chico was a complex pre-Columbian civilization that emerged around 3,000 BCE. They were based in the Andean Plateau and thrived for 1,200 years.
They had no system of writing and never developed pottery. However, archeologists have been able to piece bits of their past together by studying their architecture.
Do you want to know what else was happening in the world during the height of the Inca empire? Leonardo de Vinci was busy painting the Mona Lisa. He started in 1503 and it’s believed it took him three years to complete. This is the same time that the Inca Empire was thriving in South America.
Both the Inca Religion and Christianity believe in a similar concept of Heaven and Hell.
In Inca culture, Hanan Pacha was the Upper World, it was also known as the Land of the Sun. The Middle World was known as Kay Pacha, it’s where humans, animals, and vegetation lived.
The Underworld was known as Uku Pacha, it was ruled by the god of death, Supay.
The Inca were polytheistic, meaning they worshiped more than one god. The primary god in the Inca Empire was called Inti, who was the god of the sun.
The Incas didn’t have an alphabetic writing system, instead, they used knot-tying. Referred to as khipu, this ancient system was used for things like keeping records and communicating information. It relied on different colored strings and knots tied in various ways.
If a deceased person held an important role in society before passing on, they could occasionally be removed from their tombs. They would sit in on ceremonies such as weddings, sowing, and harvest. They would be offered food and drink as if they were still living.
In the town of Maras in the Sacred Valley of southeastern Peru, salt is still collected using the same techniques that the Incas used.
The Maras Salt Mines consists of thousands of salt pools on a hillside. It flows up from an underground stream through an intricate system of tiny channels. As water evaporates, the salt crystallizes along the pond’s edges.
Today, families that live in the area each manage their own salt pond, which has been passed down to them from generation to generation, since Inca times.
The mysterious Nazca Lines are located in southern Peru. These pre-Columbian geoglyphs were created between 500 BC and AD 500. About 300 different figures are etched into the desert sand, covering an area of nearly 800 miles (1,000 kilometers).
Pisco sour is the national drink of Peru. This alcoholic cocktail consists of Peruvian pisco, Angostura bitters, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg whites.
Ceviche is a popular South American seafood dish that’s made from raw fish that has been cured in citrus juice, usually lemon or lime. It’s mixed with veggies and spices, like onions, capsicum, cilantro, chili peppers, and salt.
It originated in Peru about 2,000 years ago by a civilization known as the Moche. Today, it’s the national dish of the country.
Guinea Pig, known as Cuy Peruana, is considered a delicacy in Peru. This small rodent is usually grilled whole, or deep-fried. It’s typically served with potatoes and salsa.
The potato was cultivated in Peru by the Incas sometime between 8,000 BC and 5,000 B.C. Today, over 3,000 variations of this versatile vegetable are grown across the country.
Peru is crazy about corn. More than 55 varieties are found in the country. They’re not just yellow either, they come in all sorts of colors, from white to black and pink to purple.
The Camu-Camu fruit is native to the Amazon rainforest in Peru. It’s rich in nutrients and antioxidants and is especially known for its high Vitamin C content.
Peruvian Coati Dung Coffee is made from the poop of Coatis. These animals look like long-nosed Raccoons. They love to eat the cherries off of coffee trees, as well as other jungle fruit. They’re very selective, and only eat the ripest fruit they can find.
Coatis are unable to fully digest the coffee cherry, so it’s only partially broken down. Farmers carefully pick their dung apart and roast the beans they find. The high temperatures from roasting kill the bacteria.
The end result is a cup of coffee with a full-bodied taste and notes of jungle fruit.
Peru is one of the most diverse countries in the world. From desert to mountains to tropical rainforests, this South American country is made up of 90 micro-climates. It even includes 30 of the 32 different world climates.
The Amazon River is widely regarded as the longest river in the world. The river begins in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It then continues through Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil, before finally emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
The small port town of Malabrigo, (also called Puerto Chicama) is home to the Chicama wave. It’s the world’s first and only legally protected wave. It’s the longest left-breaking wave in the world. This record-breaking surge of water measures 2.5 miles long!
How is it legally protected you may ask? Nothing is allowed to be built within one kilometer (0.62 miles) of the wave. High buildings could affect their shape by altering the way the wind hits the water.
Most people consider Hawaii the birthplace of surfing, but it might have actually been Peru. Pottery created by Peru’s ancient Viru culture dating back to 1000 BC depicts people riding waves. This was hundreds of years before people inhabited Hawaii.
Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake, and one of the largest lakes in the world. It rests 3,800 meters above sea level in the Andes Mountains, between the border of Peru and Bolivia.
Lake Titicaca provides a unique housing situation for about 4,000 Peruvians. Known as the Uros people, they have inhabited the area since the Incas. They reside on a man-made island that’s made by weaving together the lake’s reeds.
Cotahuasi Canyon is located in the South of Peru. It’s one of the deepest canyons in the world. With a depth of approximately 3,354 meters (11,004 ft), it’s more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States.
A whopping 60% of Peru is covered by the Amazon Rainforest. However, only about 5% of Peruvians inhabit this area.
The Andes Mountains are the world’s longest continental mountain range. They run along the west side of South America. In Peru, they stretch through the county, almost parallel to the Pacific Ocean.
Cerro Blanco, also known as Duna Grande, is one of the largest sand dunes in the world. It’s located southeast of the city of Nazca
It stands roughly 3,860 feet (1,176 meters) tall. From the peak, you can see the Nazca Valley, and on a clear day, the Pacific Ocean.
Vinicunca is a colorful mountain in the Andes of Peru. The name means “Seven Color Mountain.” It’s striped with different shades of pink, white, red, green, brown, and yellow. The unique coloration is caused by its mineralogical composition.
Puya raimondii, also known as the queen of the Andes, is native to the high Andes of Peru and Bolivia. It’s the largest bromeliad species (a family of flowering plants) in the world. It can grow to be up to 15 meters (50 ft) in height.
The Giant Andean Condor is the world’s largest flying bird. Their maximum wingspan is 3.3 meters (10 ft 10 in), and they can weigh up to 15 kilograms (33 lb).
They’re found in the Andes Mountains. Wild condors can live up to 50 years, or even longer in captivity. This fascinating bird was sacred to the Incas. It was part of their trilogy, along with the snake and puma.
Peru is home to over 1,800 species of birds. It contains the second-highest number of bird species in the world (in first place is Columbia). New bird species are still being discovered by scientists.
Believe it or not, penguins are found in Peru. Humboldt penguins inhabit the country’s cold Pacific coast. They mostly feed on anchovies, herring, and smelt.
There are roughly 10 million alpacas in the world, and about three-quarters of them are found in Peru. They’re indigenous to the Peruvian Andes.
Llamas were the most important domestic animal to the Incas. They provided them with food, clothing, fertilizer, and transportation. The Incas believed that they were sacred animals, and would regularly sacrifice them to the gods.
Llamas are still used for these purposes in the Peruvian Andes – minus the sacrifices.
The pink river dolphin, also known as the Amazon river dolphin, lives in freshwater. They’re found throughout the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in several South American countries, including Peru.
The Peruvian Inca Orchid was named the national dog of Peru in 2001. It’s characterized by a bald body, but it may have some hair on top of its head, on its feet, and on its tail. Their bodies radiate heat and Peruvians commonly use them as living hot-water bottles.
They’re an ancient breed that can be traced back as far as 750 CE. Illustrations of them can be seen on Chimu, Chancay, and Incan pottery. If you’ve never heard of them before, it’s because they are quite rare. Only about 1,000 of this unique breed are thought to exist in the entire world.
A fun fact about this bear species is that they’re the third heaviest land mammal in South America, after two species of tapir.
The cinchona is the national tree of Peru. Historically, it’s been sought after for its medicinal value. The bark is used to produce a drug that can help treat falciparum malaria.
The cinchona is also the national tree of Ecuador.
Guano is a term used to refer to bird droppings. It’s a natural fertilizer made from the excrement of seabirds and bats. It’s natural, organic, and highly effective at improving the yield of crops. The high content of potassium, nitrogen, and phosphate are key nutrients for plant growth.
Other countries also export bird droppings to be used as fertilizer, but Peru was a world leader in guano production and export at one point in the 1800s.
Skylodge Adventure Suites is located 1,312 feet (400 meters) above Peru’s Sacred Valley. It’s the world’s first and only hanging lodge. It opened in 2013 and invites travelers to sleep in transparent capsules high in the sky.
The suites measure 24 feet (7.31 meters) in length and 8 feet (2.43 meters) in height and width. They include four beds, a dining area, and a private bathroom. Curtains are also provided. Talk about a room with a view!
The only catch is adventurous guests need to climb, hike, or zipline to reach their cliffside hotel room.
Peru has it all; a broad history, captivating cultures, a diverse landscape, and wonderfully unique cuisine. It’s the kind of place everyone should visit if they get the chance to. It’s a fun destination that caters to all types of travelers.
If you’re eager to eat guinea pig, have a cocktail made with egg whites, and sleep in a sky lodge, Peru is for you. But if you’d rather go with the flow of regular tourists and visit Machu Picchu and try one of the 3,000 varieties of potatoes, Peru is for you too!
If you’re looking for more South American facts, check out these fascinating facts about Chile next.
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