With an area of 1,285,215 square km, Peru is the third-largest country in South America after Brazil and Argentina, ranking it amongst the world's 20 largest nations.
Peru also holds sway over the sea up to 200 miles from the Peruvian coast and has territorial rights to an area of 60 million hectares in the Antarctic. Peru is divided into 25 departments. Lima is the capital of Peru.
- Urban: 72,3%
- Rural: 27,7%
Peru - Population
Peru is a nation of mixed ethnic origins. Throughout its history, Peru has been the meeting ground for different nations and cultures. The indigenous population was joined 500 years ago by the Spaniards.
As a result of this encounter, and later enriched by the migration of African blacks, Asians and Europeans, Peruvian man emerged as the representative of a nation whose rich ethnic mix is one of its leading characteristics.
- Spanish: 80,3%
- Quechua: 16,2%
- Other languages: 3,0%
- Foreign languages: 0,2%
Peru - Language
As part of its rich cultural tradition, Peru features many different languages. Although Spanish is commonly spoken across the country, Quechua is a major legacy of the Inca empire, and is still spoken with regional dialects in many parts of Peru.
In addition, other languages are spoken such as Aymara (in Puno) and a startling variety of dialects in the Amazon jungle, which are divided up into 15 linguistic families and 43 different languages.
The official currency in Peru is the Nuevo Sol (S/.), which is divided into 100 centimos. The currency includes coins for 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimos and 1, 2 and 5 sol coins. There are bills in the denomination of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Nuevos Soles.
Peru is a democratic republic. The president and members of Congress are elected every five years by universal suffrage. The current constitutional president of Peru is Ollanta Humala (2011-2016).
Roman Catholic: 89,03%
Other religions: 2,56%
Any Religion: 1.65%
Peru is a naturally religious country: a diversity of beliefs and freedom of worship can be seen from the wide range of festivals and rituals that feature both Catholic fervor and the mysticism of age-old pre-Hispanic cultures.
Comission for the Promotion of Peru - PromPerú
Peru is divided into three regions.
Although this simple division is a fair portrait of Peru's geography, the reality is much richer and far more complex: in Peru, nature appears to have taken on particular characteristics which have turned its mountains, plains, jungles and valleys into unique habitats.
An extraordinary variety of eco-systems shelters a wide diversity of animals and plants.
which features deserts, beautiful beaches and fertile valleys..
The Peruvian coastline is formed by a long snaking desert hemmed in between the sea and the mountains. The Andes to the east and the cold Humboldt sea current that runs along the coast are what make this area so arid. From the Sechura desert to the Nazca plains and the Atacama desert, the dry coastal terrain is occasionally split by valleys covered by a thick layer of cloud and drizzle in the winter.
Humidity in these areas produces a sensation of cold, although temperatures rarely dip below 12°C. During the summer, meanwhile, the sun beats down and temperatures often top 30°C. The central and southern sections of the coast feature two well-defined seasons: winter from April to October, and summer from November to March. The north coast, meanwhile, is not touched by the effects of the cold current, which means it enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year and warm temperatures all year-long (as much as 35°C in the summer). The rain season runs from November to March
a mountainous area dominated by the Andes, where Mount Huascaran soars to 6,768 meters.
In the Peruvian highlands, there are two well-defined seasons: the dry season (from April to October), marked by sunny days, cold nights and the lack of rain (the ideal time for visiting); and the rainy season (November to March), when there are frequent rain showers (generally more than 1000 mm). A characteristic of the mountain region is the drop in temperature during the day: temperatures commonly range around 24°C at midday before plunging to -3°C at night.
The steep slopes of the Andes means temperatures gradually drop in the highest region, known as the puna, the highland plain.
The dry and pleasant climate in the highlands makes it possible to grow a wide variety of crops there.
a vast region of tropical vegetation in the Amazon River Basin, home to Peru's largest natural reserves.
The vast Peruvian jungle, which surrounds the wide and winding Amazon river, is divided into two differentiated areas: the cloud forest (above 700 masl), which features a subtropical, balmy climate, with heavy rain showers (around 3000 mm a year) between November and March, and sunny days from April to October; and the lowland jungle (below 700 masl), where the dry season runs from April to October and is ideal for tourism, with sunshine and high temperatures often topping 35°C.
During this season, the river levels dip and roads are easy to drive. The rainy season, meanwhile, which runs from November to March, features frequent rain showers (at least once a day) which can damage roads in the area.
The jungle features high humidity all year long. In the southern jungle, there are sometimes cold spells known locally as friajes or surazos, cold fronts which drift up from the far south of the continent between May and August, where temperatures can drop to 8-12°C.
Note: To calculate Fahrenheit temperatures: 9/5 (ºC) + 32
The First Settlers
The first settlers reached Peru some 20,000 years ago. They brought stone tools and were hunter-gatherers, living off game and fruit. Some of them settled in Paccaicasa, Ayacucho. The most ancient Peruvian skeletal remains found to date (7000 BC) show the ancient settlers had broad faces, pointed heads and stood 1.60 meters tall. The early Peruvians left examples of cave paintings at Toquepala (Tacna, 7600 BC) and houses in Chilca (Lima, 5800 BC).
The process of domesticating plants was to lay the foundations for organized agriculture and the construction of villages and ceremonial sites. As the regional cultures gradually integrated, new techniques surfaced such as textile weaving, metallurgy and jewelsmithy, giving rise to advanced cultures.
The Pre-Incas Cultures
Over the course of 1400 years, pre-Inca cultures settled along the Peruvian coast and highlands. The power and influence of some civilizations was to hold sway over large swaths of territory, which during their decline, gave way to minor regional centers. Many of them stood out for their ritual pottery, their ability to adapt and superb management of their natural resources; a vast knowledge from which later the Inca empire was to draw.
The first Peruvian civilization settled in Huantar (Ancash) in around (1200 - 1000 BC). The power of the civilization, based on a theocracy, was centered in the Chavin de Huantar, temple, whose walls and galleries were filled with sculptures of ferocious deities with feline features.
The Paracas culture (200 AD - 600 BC) rose to power along the south coast, and was to craft superb skills in textile weaving.
The north coast was dominated by the Moche civilization (200 AD - 600 BC). The culture was led by military authorities in the coastal valleys, such as the Lord of Sipan. The Moche pots which featured portraits, and their iconography in general were surprisingly detailed and showed great skill in design.
The highlands saw the rise of the Tiahuanaco culture (200 AD) based in the Collao region (which covered parts of modern-day Bolivia and Chile). The Tiahuanaco were to bequeath a legacy of agricultural terracing and the management of a variety of ecological zones.The Nasca culture (300 AD - 900 BC) were able to tame the coastal desert by bringing water through underground aqueducts. They carved out vast geometric and animal figures on the desert floor, a series of symbols believed to form part of an agricultural calendar which even today baffles researchers.
The Wari culture (600 AD) introduced urban settlements in the Ayacucho area and expanded its influence across the Andes.The refined Chimu culture (1100 - 1500) crafted gold and other metals into relics and built the mud-brick citadel of Chan Chan, near the northern coastal city of Trujillo.The Chachapoyas culture (800 AD) made the best possible use of arable land and built their constructions on top of the highest mountains in the northern cloud forest. The vast Kuelap fortress is a fine example of how they adapted to their environment.
The Inca empire (1200 - 1500 BC) was possibly the most organized civilization in South America. Their economic system, distribution of wealth, artistic manifestations and architecture impressed the first of the Spanish chroniclers.
The Incas worshipped the earth goddess Pachamama and the sun god, the Inti. The Inca sovereign, lord of the Tahuantinsuyo, the Inca empire, was held to be sacred and to be the descendant of the sun god. Thus, the legend of the origin of the Incas tells how the sun god sent his children Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo (and in another version the four Ayar brothers and their wives) to found Cuzco, the sacred city and capital of the Inca empire.
The rapid expansion of the Inca empire stemmed from their extraordinary organizational skills. Communities were grouped, both as families and territorially, around the ayllu, their corner of the empire, and even if villagers had to move away for work reasons, they did not lose their bond to the ayllu. The Inca moved around large populations, either as a reward or punishment, and thus consolidated the expansion while drawing heavily from the knowledge of the cultures that had flourished prior to the Incas.
The Inca's clan was the panaca, made up of relatives and descendants, except for the one who was the Inca's successor, who would then form his own panaca. Sixteenth-century Spanish chroniclers recorded a dynasty of 13 rulers, running from the legendary Manco Capac down to the controversial Atahualpa, who was to suffer death at the hands of the Spanish conquerors.
The Tahuantinsuyo expanded to cover part of what is modern-day Colombia to the north, Chile and Argentina to the south and all of Ecuador and Bolivia.
The members of the panaca clans were Inca nobles, headed by the Inca sovereign. The power of the clans and the Inca was tangible in every corner of the empire, but the might of the Incas reached its peak in the architecture of Cuzco: the Koricancha or Temple of the Sun, the fortresses of Ollantaytambo and Sacsayhuaman, and above all the citadel of Machu Picchu.