Peru is a country in South America, shown above. In this map, Peru is in purple, on the west coast. The huge lumps in the middle of the country are the Andes Mountains. You can see how those mountains extend along almost the entire coastline of South America.
(Map from Kelly's Travelogue about the Galapagos Islands)
- The name "Peru" means "land of abundance" in the language of the Incas.
- Peru has two national languages: Quechua, which was the language of the Incas, and Spanish. The Incan capital was in Cusco, but the Spaniards made their capital in Lima. Lima remains the capital today.
The Plaza de Armas in Lima.
(Photo by June Robinson)
- And yes, Lima beans are named after Lima (pronounced lee-mah), Peru. Though lima beans probably originated in Brazil, Europeans first discovered them when they were in Lima.
- (Lima beans, by the way, contain a compound that is the source of the poison cyanide. But if you eat Lima beans, you won't get poisoned. Nearly every place that grows Lima beans grows a variety that's low in that compound. If you're eating any kind of commercially-sold Lima beans, they've also been rinsed well, which is enough to lower the compound still further. And I love Lima beans. There, I've admitted it!)
Lima beans, getting rinsed.
(Photo from Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center)
- Peru is a republic as of 1980. In 2001, Peruvians elected their first elected president of Native ancestry. Another guy, Alan Garcia, is president again now, though.
- Peru grows the second-greatest amount of the coca leaf -- the source of cocaine -- in the world. Peru's neighbor Columbia is the world's foremost producer of that dubious crop.
- The trade in cocaine makes some parts of Peru pretty dangerous, especially along its border with Columbia. So watch out for those drug traffickers, and also try to stay out of the way of The Shining Path (Maoist guerrilla fighters), some of whom are still running around out there, too.
- Some of Peru's other primary crops include coffee, sugarcane, rice, potatoes, plantains -- those sorts of staples. Some slightly more exotic products are asparagus, guinea pigs, and fish.
- Peru is also an up-and-coming wine-producing region.
- A densely forested mountain slope in the northeast quadrant of the country is the source of the Amazon River. This entire area, even the region's capital city, is accessible only by air or by boating up the Amazon.
This map of Peru shows the general climate regions within Peru. Places of special interest to travelers are indicated with i's in circles.
(Map from Class Adventure Travel, which has more information about those special-interest spots)
- Other fantastic stuff in Peru:
- The Andes Mountains are the longest mountain range in the world. This range begins in Venezuela and stretches all the way down the western edge of South America through Peru to Argentina. They are the second-highest, behind only the Himalayas. Though they're snowy, they're not great for skiing. Mountain climbing is the much more popular sport.
- Macchu Picchu, the remnants of an Incan city 8,000 feet up in the Andes Mountains. It's one of those ancient structures built from stones so large and from so far away, people today can't figure out how the people then got the stones up there, let alone set them without stones or mortar. Check out the in-the-round photo from Destination 360, and I bet you'll feel the vertigo.
A young llama overseeing things at what appears to be Macchu Picchu
(Photo from Peru Mission Trip)
These llamas are hanging out at what is definitely Macchu Picchu. They look like they're being tourists, except this is the sort of terrain they love best. Elevation here is 6,700 feet.
(Photo from George's Photo Weblog)
- Lago (lake) Titicaca is also in the Andes. It's divided almost in half by the border between Bolivia and Peru. This lake has the highest elevation in the world: 12,500 feet. It's fed by rainwater and snow melting off the mountains, so the water is very cold and calm.
Lake Titicaca, as seen from Bolivia. The Incas called this lake Collasuyu and the island in the middle they called Titicaca which means "rock of lead." They believed that the creator Viracocha emerged from this lake with the first people in the world, and from here he also created the sun and the moon.
(Photo from the Adventure Learning Foundation)
- Colca Canyon, which is cut by the Colca River near Arequipa, was terraced long ago by the Incas to try to prevent additional soil erosion. Even so, the canyon is now twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It's also home to the Andean condor, an enormous bird that was revered by the Incas.
Bottom of the Colca Canyon. Depending on the season, this area might be lush and green.
(Photo by June Robinson, who has many fine photos)
A young girl and her llama, near the Colca Canyon.
(Photo by June Robinson)
The Andean Condor, which lives in Colca Canyon, can have a wing span of 10 to 12 feet.
(Photo by Becky and Don at Planet Red Lodge)
One of those enormous sand-drawings that can only be seen in their entirety from the air, this one is of the Andean condor. It's part of a series of similar mile-long drawings known as the Nazca Lines, made by the Nazca Indians. The most famous of these drawings is probably the spider. It's believed that the Nazcas made small-scale drawings first and reproduced them in the desert at multiple times the scale size.
(Photo from Our Wild Ride Trip to Peru)
- Multiple volcanoes, many of them near Arequipa, which is 7,740 feet above sea level.
- Llots of llamas
Llamas near the ruins at Cusco
(Photo by Annette Solyst)
Native woman with her llama in Cusco. Apparently llamas in Peru like to wear tassels on their ears.
(Photo by Karen Corby, who has tons of great pictures on her blog scorbs)
- Peru has 13 television stations and 54 airports.
- But this country of just over 29 million people owns roughly 8.5 million cell phones -- and that was as of two years ago. 6.1 million Peruvians can surf the internet.
- People in Peru love football (soccer to us Americans) and bullfighting. The oldest bullring in the Americas is still operating in Lima, and seats 14,000 spectators. Peruvians also like to play basketball, volleyball, tennis, and golf.
- Residents and visitors both love the beaches, too, the best of which are north of Lima. Surfing and even more extreme sports like hangliding and paragliding are very popular.
You can paraglide into Cusco, which is a three-hour adventure, for $195 plus tips, with Go South Adventures. Though I'm not sure I'd want to paraglide for an entire three hours.
- The two kinds of Peruvian beer that many people say they like the best are Cusquena and Cristal.
Cusquena, as enjoyed from a pub is Cusco.
(Photo by someone who I think refers to herself as Flaming Raisins, though I'm not certain since she does not identify herself on this page.)
After seeing all these pictures of people hiking up the trail to Macchu Picchu and going everywhere with their llamas and seeing all this dramatic and beautiful scenery, I want to go to Peru. Obviously, the llamas love it there.
(Photo from Venture Out)
CIA World Factbook, Peru
Destination 360, Peru (you have got to check out these 360-degree photos)
National Geographic, People and Places, Peru
Lonely Planet, Peru
Travour, Sports in Peru
Illinois Institute of Technology, Lima Bean
Viracocha and the Coming of the Incas from History of the Incas, 1907.
Omniglot, Quechua -- see an example of the Quechuan alphabet and some sample text.