Peru, officially Republic of Peru, is located in South America, bordered by Ecuador and Colombia on the North, Brazil on the East, Bolivia on the Southeast, Chile on the South and by the Pacific Ocean on the West. This extremely biodiverse country was home to many ancient cultures from the Norte Chico civilization to the great Inca Empire. Peru was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century, and even though officially it gained independence in 1821, its true independence came only 3 years later.
The country is divided into 25 regions. The main spoken language is Spanish, however there are still many people who speak native languages, like Quechua. This mixture in cultures caused the emergence of diverse expressions in gastronomy, literature, arts and music.
The roots of Peruvian culture go back to Amerindian and Spanish times, though Asian, African and some of the European cultures also had an effect on it. Traditional arts, like pottery, sculptures, textiles and jewelry date back to Pre-Inca cultures. Later, the Incas preserved these art pieces and contributed to the richness of it by creating breath-taking architectural monuments, such as Machu Picchu. During the Inca times, art was mostly focusing religion (churches, paintings). Written art, such as literature, has its roots back in the 16th century, when Spaniards introduced writing. Colonial literature appeared in chronicles and religious literature. After Peru gained its independence, Costumbrism and Romanticism became the main genres.
Peruvian gastronomy mixes Amerindian and Spanish food, however is strongly influenced by African, Italian, Japanese, Arab and Chinese cuisines. Some of the most common dishes are anticuchos, cut stew meat on skews marinated often in vinegar and other spices; ceviches, raw seafood cured in citrus fruits (lime and lemon) and spiced with ají or chili peppers; and pachamanca, baked marinated meat prepared in earthen oven. Peru’s climate and geographical diversity allows the growth of many different kinds of vegetables and spices, making Peruvian cuisine world famous.
The tropical latitude combined with the geographical diversity of Peru (mountain ranges, rainforests) as well as two ocean currents creates a diverse climate in Peru. Climate on the coast is rather moderate with small amounts of rain and high humidity, except for it’s northern part, where it’s warmer and more wet. In the mountains, it rains quite frequently and temperature together with humidity falls as moving towards the peaks. Last but not least, in the Amazon Rainforest heavy rainfalls are frequent, as well as the temperature is rather high. The southern part of the Amazon can surprise us with cold winters and seasonal rainfalls.
Because of the diversity in geography and climate, Peru has an incredible wildlife. It has more than 21.000 species of plants and animals, out of which almost 6.000 is endemic. There are more than 1800 species of birds, 500 species of mammals and over 300 species of reptiles. Some of the mammals are rare species, like pumas, jaguars and spectacled bears. There is a wide range of sea-life as well. Sea bass, anchovies, tuna and shellfish can be found in large quantities, as well as gives home to many sharks and whales.
With regards to flora, Peru presents a huge diversity of plants. Besides the cacti and fog oases on the coastal parts, the highlands showcase the so-called Puna, which gives home to bushes, cactus, as well as the largest species of bromeliad – the Puya Raimondii. The Andean cloud-forests preserve moss, bromeliads and orchids. Also, there is a huge diversity of trees and canopy plants in the Amazon Rainforest just to complete the list.
Peruvian tourism makes up the third largest industry. Because of the diverse geography and climate, the most common types of travels are cultural, gastronomic, adventure and beach centered. According to a study realized by the government, the satisfaction rate of visitors in Peru is 94%.
Traveling to and within Peru is possible by air (LAN Peru, Avianca Peru, Star Peru), on rails (two main routes: central and southern), by car (highways connection with all bordering countries except for Colombia), on river (especially recommended in parts of Peru, where roads are not available).
A list of sites for visitors interested in the cultural highlights of Peru would be Machu Picchu together with other famous Inca ruins; Spanish colonial cities, like Lima, Arequipa and Cusco; the famous Nazca lines and of ‘course the beautiful Titicaca lake.
Peru is one of the most popular destinations for people interested in volunteer programs. The most common types of “voluntourism” are education, medicine, youth empowerment and environmental conservation.
Due to it’s diversity, Peru is a perfect destination of eco tourism. Given, that 60% of Peru is in the Amazon Basin, Peru has a high percentage of protected areas than other South American countries. Many tours are offered with a high emphasis on the protection and conservation of nature and our environment.
Adventure seekers will also surely find what they look for, as surfing, 4x4, alpinism, rafting, rally, downhill, rappelling, skiing and trekking are just some of the activities Peru has to offer.
The country has a 2414 km long coastline, that any kind of traveler will certainly love! The most famous beaches are Máncora, Punta Sal, that you can visit all year long, as well as Asia, which is a rather summertime destination.
Peru also receives an increasing interest in luxury travels. Destinations such as Cusco, Urubamba, Machu Picchu, Puno region, Titicaca lake, Iquitos and the Colca Canyon are the most visited ones by this market.
Majority of people in Peru describe themselves as Catholic believers, although Evangelism and Judaism is also present. Education in primary and secondary schools are mandatory and free in public schools.
Amerindian religious traditions are still important for many Peruvian believers Today. Catholic events often blend with Amerindian traditions. Some pre-Colombian Amerindian festivities are still celebrated, like Inti Raymi, an old Inca festival.
Most of the cities and towns in Peru have their own churches and a patron saint.
The official currency in Peru is the Nuevo Sol, which is divided into 100 centimos. 1 Peruvian Sol equals about ,31 (for updated information, always check currency converters). There are coins for 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimos and for 1, 2 and 5 sols, and bills for 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 soles.
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