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Geography of Peru

Peru geography is full of contrasts, from coastal deserts to the Andes mountains

At just over 798,000 square miles, Peru is the third largest country in South America, about five times larger than the UK and five times smaller than Australia. It lies in the tropics south of the equator and is divided into three very different geographical regions: the Pacific coastal strip, the Andes mountains and the Amazonian lowlands.

Deserts of the Coastal Region

The narrow coastal strip consists mainly of desert, merging at its southern end into the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth. The coast includes Lima, the capital, and several major cities that are oases watered by about 40 rivers that cascade from the Andes. These oases have been developed as agricultural centers where the creation of irrigation channels over the centuries has utilized the fertile soil deposited as silt by the rivers. It's a strange sight to see the green fields morph into sandy or rocky desert at the point where irrigation ends.

The Andean Region

The Andes, the world's second highest mountain chain, reach over 20,000 feet just 60 miles inland. Peru's highest peak, Huascaran (22,200 ft), is the world's highest tropical peak and the sixth highest in the Americas. Tropical they may be, but the Andes have year-round glaciers above 16,000 feet. Between 10,000 and 13,000 feet lie agricultural lands supporting half of Peru's population. The rugged landscape brims with jagged ranges separated by deep canyons, rewarding travellers with spectacular scenery. The eastern Andean slopes receive much rainfall and are clothed in green cloud forests as they drop into the Amazon basin.

Andean region of Peru

The Amazon Basin

The Amazon Basin stretches down the eastern side of Peru and represents more than half of the country. This vast tropical forest is fed by countless rivers and streams including the Amazon, Maranon, Hallaga and Ucayali rivers.

Here's a video of the Tambopata Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon, shot during our 'Jaguar' trip:

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