About Peru: Maps, Facts and More
Study up on the map of Peru, flag and interesting Peru facts before you go.
Peru Inca heritage: past meets present
In the 15th century, the Inca state conquered and assimilated several other cultures to become the most powerful empire in the New World, stretching from what is now southern Colombia down through Peru to central Chile at its peak. Although they didn't have the wheel or iron tools, the Incas were expert stonemasons and their work including the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman still puzzle modern archaeologists. But the Inca emperors ruled for only about a century before the violent arrival of Pizarro and other Spanish conquistadors.
It's the multiple layers of great civilisations, literally built upon the ruins of the last, which makes Peru so fascinating. Today you can wander through colonial cities such as the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco, where you can see architecturally as well as culturally, how the Spanish conquistadors built on top of old Inca foundations. For example, a colonial church sits on the walls of the Inca temple Koricancha (Temple of the Sun). Luckily, the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu was spared any remodelling due its remote location high in the mountains and remains a dramatically powerful glimpse at this ancient civilisation.
Land rich not only in history but natural beauty
All of this exists in a country with some of the most spectacular and varied scenery in South America. The Peruvian Andes are arguably the most beautiful on the continent and the mountains are home to millions of highland Indians who still speak the ancient tongue of Quechua and maintain a traditional way of life. The verdant Amazon Basin, which occupies half of Peru, is one of the world's top ten biodiversity 'hot spots' - a species-rich area of tropical rain forest that will make your head spin when you start to learn about its ecology. And the coastal deserts, with their huge rolling dunes, farmland oases and fishing villages offer the opportunity to get off the beaten trail in a big way. But you don't have to be a zoologist, an anthropologist or a mountain climber to enjoy Peru, all you need is a keen eye, a love of landscape and an interest in history.
The main staples of traditional Peruvian food are rice, potatoes, chicken, pork, lamb and aji (Peruvian hot pepper). Peruvian food also features all kinds of seafood, especially fish. The Spanish introduced chicken, pork and lamb to Peru 500 years ago and took potatoes, which have been grown in the Peruvian Andes for centuries, back to Europe. Today over 200 varieties of potatoes are grown in Peru, ranging in size and even color.
Interesting Peru facts and stats
Full country name: Republic of Peru
Area: 1,285,215 sq km (501,234 sq mi)
Capital city: Lima (pop. 7,600,000)
People: 54% Indian, 32% Mestizo (mixed European and Indian descent), 12% Spanish descent, 2% Black, Asian minority
Language: Spanish, Quechua (Inca language), Aymara
Religion: Over 90% Roman Catholic, small Protestant population