Peru: Travel/Tourist Information Guide

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Peru is located in the western part of South America. It is surrounded by Ecuador and Colombia towards the north, Chile towards the south, Brazil towards the east and Bolivia towards the southeast. The Pacific Ocean is towards the west of Peru.

Lima is the capital of Peru and is also the largest city in the country. Spanish, Quechua and Aymara are the official languages and Nuevosol is the currency that is used in Peru.

Peru has extreme bio-diversity that ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Amazon Basin and the Amazon river in the east to the peaks of the Andes mountains that extend vertically from the north to the southeast of the country and arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west.

The Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean run parallel to each other. The three regions traditionally used to describe the geographic distribution of the country also define the terrain of the regions. The coast line that is known as costa is towards the west. It is a narrow plain that is largely arid except for the valleys created by the seasonal rivers. The highlands known as sierra is the region which includes the Altiplano plateau as well as Huascarán which is the highest peak of the country in the Andes mountain range. The third region that constitutes about 60 percent of Peru is the jungle terrain that is known as selva. It is a wide expanse of flat terrain that extends towards the east and is covered by the Amazon rainforest.

Most of the rivers in Peru originate in the peaks of the Andes mountain ranges and drain into one of the three basins. Rivers that drain in the Pacific Ocean are steep and short with an intermittent flow whereas tributaries of the Amazon River are longer. They have a much larger flow and their steepness reduces once they exit the sierra. Those rivers that drain into Lake Titicaca are generally short but their flow is quite large. Ucayali, Marañón, Putumayo, Yavarí, Huallaga, Urubamba, Mantaro, and Amazon are among the longest rivers of Peru.

The regional and climatic variation has resulted in high bio-diversity making Peru a location that is rich in flora and fauna.

The territory of Peru housed ancient cultures like the Norte Chico civilization in Caral which was one of the oldest in the world as well as the Inca Empire which was the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. Peru has multi-ethnic cultures that include Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. This unusual mix of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in various fields like art, literature, music and cuisine.

Peru has gone through major upheavals that included periods of political unrest and internal conflict and has emerged into a stable nation with an economic upswing. It is a developing country with a high Human Development Index score. Mining, manufacturing, agriculture and fishing are the main contributors to the economy of Peru.

Peru is one of the founders of the Andean Community of Nations as well as an active member of several regional blocs. It also participates in international organizations such as the Organization of American States and the United Nations. Apart from that, Peru is a standing member of APEC and the World Trade Organization as well as an active participant in the negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Peru is also planning a full integration into the Andean Free Trade Area.

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Climate

Peru has diverse climates due to the combination of its tropical latitude, mountain ranges, topography variations and two ocean currents viz. Humboldt and El Niño. The coastal region has moderate temperatures with low precipitations and high humidity, except for the warmer and wetter parts towards the north. The mountainous region has frequent rains during the summer. However, the temperature and humidity diminish with an increase in the altitude up to the frozen mountain peaks of the Andes. The Amazon region in Peru is characterized by a heavy rainfall and high temperatures, except for the southernmost part which has cold winters and seasonal rainfall.

History

Andean societies depended on fishing, animal husbandry and agriculture. They used developed techniques like irrigation and terracing.

The oldest known complex society in Peru was the Norte Chico civilization that flourished along the coast of the Pacific Ocean followed by archaeological cultures that developed mostly around the coastal and Andean regions throughout Peru. Other cultures include the Cupisnique culture which was an example of early pre-Incan culture the Chavín culture that was inclined towards religion, the civilizations of the Paracas, Nazca, Wari as well as the Mochica and the Chimu. The Mochica were renowned for their sophisticated ceramic pottery, lofty buildings and excellent metal work as well as their irrigation systems which fertilized the arid terrain whereas the Chimu were great builders of the pre-Incan era. The Incan era that followed encompassed a large portion of western South America, southern Colombia to Chile, the area between the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Amazon rainforest in the east and centered on the Andean mountain ranges. There were many local forms of worship in the empire but the Inca leadership encouraged the worship of the sun god Inti. They imposed its sovereignty above other cults as they believed that the Incan leader who was known as the Sapa Inca was the son of the sun god.

Atahualpa was the last Sapa Inca before the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire which was one of the most important campaigns in the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

At the time the vice royalty flourished as an important provider of mineral resources, the Peruvian bullion provided revenue for the Spanish Crown. This helped them develop a complex trade network that extended as far as Europe and Philippines.

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Cuisine

Ceviche is a popular lime marinated seafood dish which originated in Peru.

Peruvian cuisine blends Amerindian and Spanish food with strong influences from Chinese, African, Arab, Italian, and Japanese cuisines. Common dishes include anticuchos, ceviche, and pachamanca. The climatic variations of Peru allow growth of a diverse species of plants and animals that can be used for cooking and this diversity has gained worldwide acclaim for Peru’s cuisine.

Dance and Music

The Peruvian music is also diverse with Andean, Spanish and African roots. The quena and the tinya were two common instruments in the pre-Hispanic times. The guitar, the harp and other new musical instruments that were introduced by the Spaniards led to the development of crossbred instruments like the charango. The African rhythms and the cajón which is a percussion instrument are the African contributions to Peruvian music.

Peruvian folk dances include diablada, huayno, marinera, tondero and zamacueca.