Peru is a country that is known for its incredible archaeological sites, its great Amazon, its gigantic history, and many traditions that still stand. Penguins that prefer rocks to ice, the oldest American university, and the world climate synthesis among others, facts about Peru have many secrets to be discovered. But this is just a glimpse of all that the Andean country has to offer. And with so much to offer, it’s common for some things to go unnoticed while others stand out. That is why together with Machu Travel Peru we want to tell you about the different Peru facts that you do not know and make this beautiful country renowned.
|Official name||Republic of Peru|
|Location||Peru is in central-western South America, limited by the north with Ecuador and Colombia, by the east with Brazil, by the southeast with Bolivia, by the south with Chile, and west with the Pacific Ocean|
|Area||1,285 246 square kilometers (496 224 square miles)|
|Population||33.7 million inhabitants (2022 census)|
|Capital||Lima (10.8 million inhabitants)|
|Type of government||Presidential republic|
|Language||Spanish, and native languages Quechua and Aymara|
|Religion||76% Catholic, 14.1% Evangelicals, 9.9% other religions|
|Money||S/ Nuevo Sol (New Sun) / $1 USD = 3.80 S/ approx|
|Time zone||5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time|
|Telephone country code||+51|
20 most interesting facts about Peru
- It has Machu Picchu
- The territory of a great empire of the Incas
- Mysterious Nazca Lines
- Caral is the oldest American city
- San Marcos is the oldest American university
- Cradle of Surf
- Punk was born in Peru
- Colca is one of the world’s deepest canyon
- Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world
- The origin of the Amazon River
- It has rainbow mountains
- Renowned gastronomy
- Potato cradle
- Guinea pigs are food, not pets
- Penguins that prefer rocks over ice
- Naked dog, endemic Peruvian breed
- Climate Synthesis of the World
- More than one official language
- Peru is one of the largest gold producers
- Home of the Shamans
1. It has Machu Picchu
Among the different facts about Peru, you have to know that there is an Inca citadel that never was found by the Spanish conquerors when they invaded Tawantinsuyo. Thus, it was never dismantled, remaining intact until rediscovered. The lost city of Machu Picchu is one of the most famous landmarks in Peru and was selected as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. The explorer, professor, and archaeologist Hiram Bingham rediscovered this historical site of the Inca civilization in 1911. It is located on a mountain 8,000 feet above sea level in the jungle eyebrow of Cusco, the capital of the ancient Inca Empire.
But, What is Machu Picchu? Well, according to recent research, Machu Picchu fulfilled 2 important functions, ceremonial quarters and a resting place for the Panaca del Inca Pachacutec (family and relatives up to the second degree of consanguinity). To get there, you can choose to go on a hiking trail or take a train service. It is impressive what the Incas achieved in terms of engineering and architecture. If you plan to visit Machu Picchu, be sure to reserve your entrance tickets at least six months in advance!
2. The territory of a great empire, the Incas
One of the main Peru facts is that it is also recognized as being the land of the Incas. The Incas were one of the largest empires in ancestral America, its first integrants came from the Peruvian plateau (South of the country, today, border with Bolivia) and ruled for more than 300 years in the South American Sierra, having as capital the great city of Cusco, until the arrival of the Spanish. At the height of its domain, they were considered one of the largest empires worldwide, covering modern territories of Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Chile. Even, its extension is compared to the Roman Empire!
The capital of the ancient Empire was Cusco, and Quechua was the language of choice for this Andean civilization. Today, the influence of the Inca Empire is still strong in Peru, with more than 5 million Quechua speakers still living in the surroundings of modern Peruvian cities. In addition, among Machu Picchu facts, the Incas built their citadels and cities over the top of mountains, to stay closest to the gods (sky)
3. Mysterious Nazca lines
Among the different facts about Peru, you can find the mysterious Nazca Line. The Nazca Line in Peru is a collection of more than 70 giant geographic glyphs. They were first observed from the air in 1927. They are located in the desert highlands between Nazca and Palpa (the south region of Lima). This mysterious line collection includes more than 70 human and animal characters and 10,000 lines, even some lines extend to 30 miles long. But the most surprising thing is that these remain one of the largest archaeological mysteries in the world.
But, how were the Nazca Lines made? Theories about its function and origin abound, and some of them can be explained around fantastic themes such as landing strips or road signs for aliens. In the same way, there are many things to do in Nazca besides appreciating its lines. You will find archaeological sites in the surroundings, vineyards, and even some interesting museums.
4. Caral is the oldest American city
The awesome Peru facts only increase in number over the years. And, the discovery of the most ancient city in all of America in 1997 by a Peruvian archaeologist called Ruth Shady, close to Lima (174 km north of the Peruvian capital), did nothing but increase the mysteries that Peru has to offer to the archeology of the world. The city has around 5000 años of built and its authors, the Caral civilization, was developed them around 3000 – 1800 B.C. In other words, Caral is contemporary to the world’s original civilizations (which did not derive from others), such as Egypt, India, Sumeria, and China!
The only difference is that Caral was developed isolated from the world (The original civilizations had contacts and commerce among them). Nowadays, the city can be visited and see the work of many archaeologists trying to show more secrets about this ancestral city, even though there is a local museum close to the zone where you can learn more about this fantastic culture.
5. San Marcos is the oldest American university
Neither Harvard, Yale, nor Stanford, the oldest university in America is located in the Peruvian capital, Lima, and is dedicated to a saint, San Marcos. The university was founded, through a Royal Certificate signed by Spanish king Carlos I of Spain and V of the Holy Roman German Empire, on May 12, 1551. In this way, San Marcos became the oldest functioning university in America. Initially, the university was managed by the Dominican order but today, the university has its own administrative board. It is formed by four schools:
- The Colegio Real y Mayor de San Martín
- The Colegio Real y Mayor de San Felipe y San Marcos
- The Real Colegio de San Carlos (focused on law and letters, derived from the merger of the two previous ones)
- The Real Colegio de San Fernando (focused on medicine and surgery)
6. Cradle of Surf
Among the many mysteries of Peru, you will find that the Andean country is believed to have been the cradle of the water sport known as surfing. In the small coastal town of Huanchaco (north of Peru), local fishermen still fish the traditional way like their ancestors used to. That is to say, the fishers ride on Caballitos de Totora (Artisanal rafts with a pointed prow made from Totora, a reed native to the area), some even stand on them, as if they were surfing (little reed horses) and bring their daily catch. The oldest record of evidence of surfing is in the ceramics of a pre-Inca culture called the Mochica (II AC), in which it can appreciate persons trying to overcome a wave on totora boards.
Therefore, if you are looking for things to do in Peru, surfing is one of its main activities that take place on several beaches. It does not matter if you have never ridden a wave, you will find various surf schools renting boards and suits for those who want them on all Peruvian beaches.
7. Punk was born in Peru
The general knowledge affirms that the Punk movement (This includes clothes, mindsets, and lifestyle) was born in England, in the late 1970s. This statement is largely true, except for one subject: music. Punk music was born in Peru 6 years before the official register, in Lima, the Peruvian capital located 6,356 miles from London. A group of young people gathered in the garage of one of them to make noise. None of them knew how to play, they only had two guitars, a bass, a drum kit, and a great desire to make music.
They started playing their own songs (not covers) in the Lince’s theaters. They only recorded 6 original songs, never recorded an album, and then dissolved (like the Sex Pistols) between 1965 and 1966. Then a Spanish radio program rediscovered them in 1998 and tried to get them together to record an album, a goal achieved in 2006. In this way, Los Saicos were born, died, and resurrected. The pioneer band of punk around the world.
8. Colca is one of the world’s deepest canyon
Another incredible Peru fact is that it has two canyons competing among the deepest in the world. The Cotahuasi Canyon (3535 meters deep) and the Colca Canyon (4160 meters deep). Both are located in the south of Peru and are two of the most incredible and amazing landscapes of the Andean country. Both are twice as deep as the well-known Grand Canyon of the United States (2422 meters deep), making them an essential part of tourism in Peru, specifically in Arequipa. There are numerous tours to enjoy hiking or luxurious hotels in its surroundings, which combined with the dreamy views make it one of the best destinations available in Peru.
9. Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world
Although you can find lakes all over the world, Peru boasts the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest lake in South America. We are talking about the well-known Lake Titicaca which is located over 3812 meters above sea level and has 8562 square kilometers. It is accessible from the route through Cusco and/or Arequipa, the most important Peruvian south cities, besides Puno (where it is located). It has become in recent years a trendy destination due to the Uros islands (floating islands made entirely from totora reeds) that you can explore and visit, making it a great destination to combine on your tour.
But the Floating Islands are not its only attraction, the Lake is home to countless alternative cultures that continue to practice ancient traditions like the inhabitants of the islands of Sillustani and Taquile among others. So if you want to know more about history, traditions, and native lifestyle, we recommend that you visit Peru in June (dry season, with more sun rays, clear skies, and cold breezes), to combine the landscapes with other wonderful festivities.
10. The origin of the Amazon river
Many of Peru’s charms have to do with its Amazonian territory. First of all, did you know that the Amazon River, one of the longest rivers in the world, is born in Peru? As you read it correctly, this renowned river that runs through several South American countries begins high in the Peruvian Andes. It is born very close to Machu Picchu, specifically in the Chila mountain range, in the foothills of the snowy Mismi, south of Peru, to flow to the other side of the continent, on Brazil coasts, into the Atlantic Ocean. Even the Amazon in Peru occupies 60% of the entire Andean territory. Making it a large part of the Andean country. A fact not to be overlooked if you want to visit Peru, the Amazon rainforest is a place that you must not lose.
11. It has rainbow mountains
While it is true that Argentina, China, and even the United States have their rainbow mountains, none of them have colors as sharp as the rainbow mountains in Peru. The highly mineralized soil and the cold and dry climatic factor of the Peruvian highlands have made the colors of these hills clear and well distinguishable. And, if you wanted to guess, well, you are right, the Rainbow Mountains are in the same department as Machu Picchu, Cusco. The first one is called Vinincunca and is located over 5,200 meters above sea level. And the second one is called Palcoyo, with 4,900 meters above sea level. Therefore, rainbows mountains in Peru are the second most visited attractions, just behind Machu Picchu tours.
12. Renowned gastronomy
Peru is not only home to Machu Picchu, but it is also considered one of the best gastronomic capitals of the world. In the 2000s, when Latino America began to revalue its native ingredients and products for its regional cuisines, Lima was the epicenter of the gastronomic revolution in the region. It was not surprising, that Peru, to be the cradle of an ancestral culture, the Incas, with their own cuisine tradition, begin to innovate their gastronomy with Andean ingredients and ancestral techniques of cooking.
Nowadays, Peru, and especially Lima is the city where you can enjoy several internationally distinguished restaurants (Even, many of them are located inside the top ten of the world’s best restaurants, according to the list of The World 50 Best organization). Dishes such as the Peruvian Ceviche, Cuy, or Lomo Saltado are just some of its iconic examples, but you will find other unique variations and distinguished dishes throughout the country. However, the kitchen is not its only strong point, you can also experience numerous traditional Peruvian drinks to accompany your plates, like the Peruvian Pisco. As well as distinguished non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy on a cold night.
13. Potato cradle
Are you a fan of French Fries? Or just from Potatoes? Then you should know that Peru is the birthplace of the Potatoe. It is one of the facts about Peru that tends to go unnoticed among tourists. Peru is home to some 4,000 varieties of potatoes, an inevitable ingredient in most of its traditional dishes. The delicious tubers have dominated in this region of the world for at least 8,000 years old, being the south of Peru, the region in which for the first time this tuber was domesticated and cultivated in the world.
In addition, the potato saved Europe from famine in the 19th century, becoming the basis of the diet in the kitchens of this part of the world. Therefore, it is one of the main ingredients in various Peruvian dishes. But, Why potatoes are called French Potatoes? Because French potatoes receive their name in the form of cooking it. Unfortunately, this appellative became more important than the general name of the tuber. But if we had to give it a general name, this would be Peruvian potatoes.
So it is not surprising to think that there are so many varieties and classes in the Andean country. In any market you step on, they have at least 12 different potatoes for sale, whether it’s for frying, boiling, or cooking. In the wonderful Imperial City (Cusco), you will find many typical dishes where the potato is the protagonist. Be sure to experience the many things to do in the Sacred Valley, including its delicious dishes. Even, in the Andean regions, the potato takes a leading role in traditional dishes.
14. Guinea pigs are food, not pets
If you are traveling alone in Peru, be sure to visit the different important gastronomic festivals. At many of these, you will see a dish served quite often. We refer to Cuy, a traditional dish that is made with a guinea pig. The animal is usually served crisp and complete with its heads, legs, and eyes, accompanied by potato boiled. If you are easy to impress, it may be a bit shocking, but it is an incredibly delicious dish. Among the different Peru facts, you will find that the Cuy is a traditional Peruvian food of great importance in the Andean regions. The dish is rich in protein and is usually quite healthy, besides being consumed since Incas times. A great option to experience something new.
15. Penguins that prefer rocks over ice
Despite general beliefs, you can not only see penguins in Antarctica or the North Pole. One of the most curious facts about Peru is that its coasts, of sand and rocks, are home to a wide variety of birds, including the penguin. If you decide to visit the Paracas National Reserve, close to the Nazca Lines, south of Lima, be sure to enjoy a boat tour of the Ballestas Islands (rock formations that protrude from the sea, about 15 kilometers away from the coast of the Paracas National Reserve)
These rock formations are home to adorable penguins along with a few other birds and mammals, like seals and sea lions. But, How these penguins can appear in this particular zone? Well, the Humboldt Current is an outcrop of deep and cold waters of the Antarctic Sea that runs along the entire coast of Chile, Peru, and Ecuador, from south to north. The further north, these waters get warmer. In this way, the penguins follow this current, rich in nutrients, from Antarctica to this area of Peru. In this sense, seeing the penguins in Ballestas islands is one of the best things to do in Paracas. Without a doubt, it is a fixed point that you cannot miss on your vacation in Peru.
16. Naked dog, endemic Peruvian breed
The naked dog is how the Peruvian dog is known internationally. This hairless dog breed is both cute and ugly, both at the same time. If you have never seen a hairless dog it may surprise you, but they are actually quite cute. His body is completely naked and hairless, often covered in spots. While on the top of their head and back, they have a small tuft of gray or white hair. These characteristics make him look like an elderly dog, but one of the fun ones. It is a breed that usually lives for more than 10 years and weighs approximately 20 pounds.
Recent researches affirm that the warmth of their skin can relieve rheumatic pain in the hands and feet of human beings. The person just has to put his skin in contact with the dog’s for a long time and, well done! Also, they are family dogs, very affectionate, and one of the Heritage of Peru. Besides Machu Picchu facts, without a doubt, it is one of the facts about Peru that you surely did not know.
17. Climate Synthesis of the World
If you take as reference the movies of famous explorers like Indiana Jones, Tin Tin, Tomb Rider, and even the James Bond movies, you must have realized that their stories are developed in different parts of the world. Since humid and hot jungles (Peruvian Amazon), passing by the driest deserts (south coasts of Peru), and the coldest snows (Peruvian mountain range), until arriving in paradisiacal beaches (Peru’s north) and picturesque town (Central Sierra). Well, Peru is cataloged as the climactic synthesis of the world because it has an impressive climatic diversity. In other words, it has all the climates of the world.
Therefore, Hollywood would save a lot of money if they decided to film their movies in Peru. Arid and temperate on the coast and Peru beaches, rainy and cold in the mountains, and very rainy and hot in the jungle, the climate in Peru can be a real surprise for an amateur tourist.
18. More than one official language
As is common knowledge, the Andean country has great cultural diversity, this is reflected in its clothing and food, but the languages in Peru deserve a special mention. Therefore, among the most awesome Peru facts, it is not surprising to know that it is home to 3 official languages. Unfortunately, along with globalization and constant urbanization, speakers of native languages are losing territory in front of Spanish speakers.
83% of the Peruvian population speaks Spanish, but it is not the only language. In the Andes and the Peruvian plateau, you can find speakers of Quechua, the ancestral Incas language, and Aymara, the millennial language spoken by Peru-Bolivia plateau inhabitants. Besides them, there are many other indigenous languages spoken along the Amazon rainforest, each one belonging to different Amazon tribes and communities. For this reason, if you come to Peru, at least learn about courtesy phrases in Spanish, and the same Peruvian will be grateful to you!
19. Peru is one of the largest gold producers
One of the most surprising facts about Peru is that the Andean country is a major producer of gold, the sixth-largest producer in the world, to be exact. Per year, Peru produces more than 162 tons of gold, this is equivalent to a value of more than 7 billion dollars. This is one of the reasons why the economy in Peru is quite stable compared to other Latin American countries. Money in Peru is not usually a problem, especially for foreign tourists. Most lodgings and other stores usually accept dollars and euros.
20. Home of the shamans
In Peru, it is quite common to hear about Shamans. And in reality, shamanism is deeply rooted in the local culture. Since these traditions have been practiced for more than 3000 years both in the Sierra and in the Peruvian Amazon. And shamanism is further reinforced in our modern times when much of the Peruvian population doesn’t have access to free health services and cannot pay for private medical care.
Besides, western medicine is not usually available to everyone in Peruvians, while the healing art of shamans is. Healers or shamans practice the healing art to offer different benefits. They can do it to alleviate physical discomfort or cure heartbreak and the soul. The treatments are diverse and varied. Cleanings, rituals, ceremonies, even to celebrate Andean marriages, and much more. And the use of Ayahuasca has also gained popularity among young backpackers and young tourists. We encourage you to be guided by one of these shamans, the experience will be unique!
“GOING TO PERU IS… WELL, IF YOU EVER HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY IN YOUR LIFE TO GO THERE, YOU SHOULD DO IT BECAUSE IT IS ABSOLUTELY MIND-BOGGLING”
Together with the travel experts at Machu Travel Peru, we wanted to distinguish the many facts about Peru that make the country an emblematic destination. Not everything in this beautiful country consists of exploring the archaeological sites, there is also much more to know and discover. Therefore, if you want to learn a little more about all the beauty that there is to Andean life, you can consult our team of qualified advisers for free. We will be waiting for your soon visit to the beautiful Andean country!