Peru has it all. Its stunning natural beauty encompasses everything from deserts to lakes to prime Amazon rainforest (covering two-thirds of the nation). Its rich and varied history has left unparalleled archaeological treasures like Machu Picchu. And its food is arguably among the very best in the world, founded in agricultural practices that have gone unchanged for the past 2,000 years.
Want to learn more interesting facts about Peru? Here’s a list of eight amazing things to know before traveling to Peru.
1. A Land of Biodiversity
Peru boasts 90 distinct microclimates and 10 percent of the Earth’s plant species. Home to 5,000 species of animals and fish and 25,000 plant species, it counts among the most bio-diverse countries in the world. In fact, southeastern Peru’s Manu National Park set a record after more than 287 species of reptiles, 1,200 butterfly species, and 1,000 bird species were identified within its territory. In terms of biodiversity, Peru has the world’s second-largest bird population, ranks in the top five for amphibians and mammals, and ranks sixth for plants.
2. A Surfer’s Paradise
Most people associate surfing with the ancient kings of Hawaii, but Peru’s ancestral peoples hold an even older claim to the sport. According to archaeological evidence from Huaca de la Luna and Chan Chan in the Moche Valley, ancient Peruvians have been surfing since 1,000 B.C. They crafted small reed vessels they could ride seated or standing (like modern-day standup paddleboards). Named totora de caballitos by the first Spanish conquistadors, the phrase translates as “little reed ponies.” Today, the towns of Mancora and Chicama, located along Peru’s northern coast, remain a surfer’s paradise. Mancora boasts the largest left-handed point break, and Chicama features the longest left-handed wave measuring two and a half miles long.
3. The Land of Dunes
In Peru’s arid southern region, the Sechura Desert is dominated by the highest sand dune in the world. Known as the Cerro Blanco, it measures 3,860 feet from the summit to the base. Located southeast of the city of Nazca, the dune offers many recreational opportunities from dune buggy driving to sandboarding.
4. The Land of Potatoes
You probably know that the potato originated in Peru. In fact, proud Peruvians will make the claim, “Soy más Peruano que la papa.” (Literally, “I am more Peruvian than the potato.”) But did you know that over 3,000 different varieties of this famous tuber are still cultivated in Peru? Grown using ancient techniques, Peruvian farmers are now drawing international attention. In fact, today’s scientists are studying their age-old planting methods to ensure strains of genetically modified potatoes retain their ability to resist famine.
5. Home to One of the World’s Greatest Wonders
Rediscovered in 1911 by famed explorer and archaeologist, Hiram Bingham, Peru’s Machu Picchu is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. In 2007, it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. A pre-Columbian Inca settlement, Machu Picchu was inhabited from the mid-15th to mid-16th centuries before its residents mysteriously abandoned the site. Why they left remains a mystery, but archaeologists do know that Machu Picchu served as a royal retreat for Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, an Incan emperor.
6. Delectable Cuisine with International Flavors
You may have heard about Peru’s most surprising (depending on your cultural background) dish, cuy, fried guinea pig. But there’s a lot more to Peruvian cuisine than this ancient favorite of the emperors. In fact, chefs from all over Europe and the rest of the world fly to Cuzco and Lima to learn how to cultivate their own ingredients and cook with them based on the traditions of Peruvian master chefs. And Peru’s more than 600,000 descendants of Japanese and Chinese immigrants have ensured that Asian influences on Peruvian cuisine prove both bountiful and delectable.
7. The Land of the Giants
A land of wild llamas and misty volcanoes, Peru’s Colca Canyon also provides habitat for one of the largest birds in the world, the Andean Condor. The Andean Condor stands four feet tall, weighs up to 33 pounds, and boasts a wingspan of up to 10.5 feet. Considered a sacred bird by the Incas, today it faces an onslaught of ecological challenges and has been listed by the World Conservation Union as “vulnerable.”
8. The High Life
Situated on the border between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca rises 12,500 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains. The highest navigable lake in the world, it boasts nearly 70 manmade islands crafted by the Uru or Uros, an indigenous people of Peru and Bolivia. Over the years, underwater expeditions by French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, National Geographic, and a handful of international archaeologists have yielded evidence of settlement beneath the lake, from broken pottery to the ruins of an ancient temple.
Interesting Facts About Peru
Did any of these interesting facts about Peru surprise you? Are you ready for your own adventure to “the Land of the Incas”? Check out our Peru Family Adventure, a well-paced, immersive vacation that brings Peru with kids to life through some of its most enduring and culturally-rich landscapes.
At Our Whole Village, we create transformational trips for curious families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its peoples, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable journeys that we handcraft for curious families just like yours.