Looking for some facts about Peru? Then you’ve come to the right place, as we share some awesome Peru facts. We’ve fallen in love with the country and after our first trip to the country, we’ve been itching to return.
After planning our next trip to Peru we decided to share some of our favorite facts about the South American country. It’s one of our favorites in the world and it’s easy to see why it fascinates travelers from all over the world.
30 Facts About Peru
1.) Peru became a Spanish colony in 1572.
To be precise, this South American country was called the Viceroyalty of Peru. It was one of the more successful colonies, with gold, potatoes, and other goodies there for the taking; it also allowed for trade with Spain’s other colony in the Philippines.
2.) The Spanish conquered the once powerful Inca Empire.
Starting to gain a foothold in the region in the 13th century, the Inca began to grow a vast empire (called Tawantinsuyu) that stretched from modern-day southwest Colombia to south-central Chile. The unification wasn’t all bloodshed: it was a mix of conquest and peaceful assimilation. They had an official language (Quechua), comprehensive laws, amazing, almost-inaccessible cities, as well as an emperor – or Sapa Inca. The capital was Cusco.
3.) Lake Titicaca isn’t the highest lake in the world…
… But it is super famous, and the largest in South America. Set high in the Andes at 12,507 feet above sea level, straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is a huge, deep lake. In 2000, an underwater temple was discovered, estimated to be between 1,000 and 1,500 years old. It was built, they think, by the pre-Inca Tiwanaku people.
4.) Peru is a megadiverse country.
That’s because there are a whole load of different regions – and a plethora of different species that inhabit and live in those regions. Parts of these include the Andes, the Pacific Coast, the tropical rainforest of the Amazon, and the Amazon River itself. It’s one of the 17 most megadiverse countries, home to a massive portion of all species on Earth.
5.) Peru became independent in 1821
On July 28, 1821, Peru was declared to be independent when independence leader José de San Martín captured Lima and made the declaration himself. But it wasn’t as easy as that. Beginning around 1811 and finishing in 1826, the Peruvian War of Independence involved battleships, marches through the Andes, rebel armies, and a whole lot of fighting. Bolivia (then part of Peru) didn’t get independence till three years after, thanks to Simon Bolivar.
6.) Four percent of the world’s fresh water is in Peru.
Not only is there the Amazon, but there are a lot of other rivers besides. Loads of them begin their courses in the Andes and empty into the Pacific Ocean. Then there are mountain lakes… The result? A lot of fresh water, guys – a lot of fresh water.
7.) The source of the Amazon River is actually in Peru.
A little known fact about Peru is that it’s home to where the mighty Amazon River starts making its way across South America. It doesn’t just spring up out of nowhere; it’s actually four rivers that result in what becomes the Amazon. These are the Apurímac, the Marañón, and the Mantaro. In fact, the Amazon in Peru is referred to as Marañón.
8.) Thirteen percent of the Amazon Rainforest is found in Peru.
The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world. It’s vast, and it’s ancient – we’re talking about 55 million years old! And quite a large part of that rainforest (13%) is found within Peru’s borders. Biodiversity levels are high.
9.) A large portion of the Andes lies in Peru.
The Andes is the longest mountain range in the world. It stretches through seven countries in South America. The Central Andes are located in Peru. Even though they’re mountains, around 32% of Peru’s population lives in this area.
10.) Peruvians speak Spanish and a whole lot of other languages.
Though a lot of people in urban areas will probably only speak Spanish, head out into the countryside (or those mountainous areas we just mentioned), and you’ll find a multilingual nation. Quechua – actually another official language of the country – is spoken quite a lot, as are other languages like Aymara. As per the constitution, Amazon languages and even Peruvian Sign Language are official, too!
11.) Though officially Catholic, many Amerindian traditions continue.
Interesting fact about Peru: though it was conquered and cathedrals were built on top of Inca religious sites and all sorts of other oppression, somehow, many indigenous and definitely pagan rituals are mixed with Catholicism. Corpus Christi, Holy Week, Christmas – all of these are variously combined with religious traditions of the Amerindian people. The widely celebrated Inti Raymi celebrated the sun god on the summer solstice.
12.) Machu Picchu was actually a private estate for the Inca emperor.
It’s often seen as a “Lost City,” but really, a fun fact about Peru’s most visited historic site – Machu Picchu – is that it was built as a summer retreat for the Inca emperor. You can see why. Set on a 7,970ft mountain ridge in the south of Peru, this 15th-century wonder takes “Cribs” to a whole new level. It’s thought 750 people would have lived there, many of who would have been staff. When the Spanish invaded, they had to abandon this life of luxury, and it remained unknown to the Western world until 1911.
13.) Salt farming is still practiced the same way as the Incas.
What happens is subterranean salty water is let out into a patchwork of pools, where it then evaporates, leaving salt behind. It’s a cool sight, like a yellow version of rice paddies, in a way. Each family has their own pool!
14. Peru had to change its currency twice in the 1980s and ‘90s.
A financial fact about Peru now… The South American nation had used the Sol, but due to crazy inflation, this was replaced with the Inti in 1985. This didn’t exactly solve matters; in 1990, the Inti then suffered high inflation. They even introduced the Inti Million – one of which equaled a million Inti. That didn’t work. So the Nuevo Sol came back into being in 1991 (one Nuevo Sol = 1 billion old Sols). Today it has one of the lowest inflation rates in South America.
15.) Ancient Peruvians used to talk with knots.
Well, not “talk” exactly, but do a whole lot of things just by tying knots. This fantastic fact about Peru refers to an ancient system of color-coded knot-tying called quipu. It was used for just about everything, from tax obligation and military organization to recording census data, and as a sort of calendar. When the Spanish arrived, so did writing, so the quipu gradually fell out of use.
16.) Ceviche originated in Peru.
A mix of lightly “cooked” (i.e., cured with lime or lemon) otherwise raw fish mixed with onions, cilantro, salt, chili peppers, and capsicum, cerviche is thought to have originated around 2,000 years ago in the pre-Inca coastal civilization of Moche. Today, it’s considered a national dish of the country.
17.) Peru boasts over 3,000 varieties of potato.
You might have a few of these in your supermarkets at home, but wow, Peru definitely takes first place. There are over 3,000 types found in Peru alone, so fans of the potato rejoice – this is the place for you. The potato was first grown domestically from around 8000 to 5000 BC. Today, they’re still mainly farmed using old techniques.
18.) Peru is home to the oldest continuously working university in the Americas.
Established in 1551 in Lima, the capital city, the National University of San Marcos is actually one of the oldest universities in the “New World.” The university was founded by royal decree, and today is a center of scientific research and a base for influential thinkers and future geniuses of the world.
19.) Lima is the third-biggest city in the Americas.
Yeah, it’s not a small city at all. It’s the third-biggest in all of the Americas, following Sao Paulo and the megalopolis of Mexico City. Lima was founded in 1535 in an already-existing Incan agricultural region, but most of the city was destroyed by a 1940 earthquake; much had to be rebuilt. And rebuilt it was; today, Lima’s urban area covers more than 800 square kilometers.
20.) There’s a lot of corn in Peru.
It’s not just the yellow kind that you know and love. There’s pink, black, purple, white, orange – a multicolored spectrum of corn. This is one of our favorite food facts about Peru because it makes for such a pretty sight!
21.) Peru is home to the Nazca Lines.
These massive drawings – otherwise known as geoglyphs – in the Nazca Desert are thought to have been created between 500 BC and 500 AD. They depict animals, patterns, and humans, all with varying complexity. When first “discovered” in 1553, they were thought to be roads. All sorts of theories abound – ancient astronauts, early hot air balloons – but the fact you can see them from the surrounding hills makes these ideas seem kind of silly.
22. Peruvians eat guinea pigs.
While guinea pigs are cute pets for much of the western world, in Peru, they’re a great snack. They may not look all that appealing, but guinea pig is a very common dish. Called cuy, these critters didn’t become pets until the Spanish brought them home for everyone to fall in love with. They’re still very much a traditional (pretty crispy) dish in Peru.
23. Panpipes aren’t from Peru, but the siku is from the country.
Panpipes, or syrinx, refer to the ones that the half-deer half-human Roman god Pan used to play. All sorts of merry-making folk in the ancient world were depicted playing them. In fact, in Peru, notably around the Titicaca region, panpipes are also popular, but they originated independently and are called siku.
24. Ancient Peruvians used to surf.
Yes, you may have thought that surfing originated in Hawaii, but it’s a very cool fact about Peru that its ancient inhabitants used to hit the waves. We’re talking pre-Inca here, so that’s before 1000 AD. There’s even pottery that depicts a man surfing on what looks like a log. Evidence suggests there was contact between ancient Polynesians and Peruvians. Today, Peru is still a great surf spot, with huge point breaks and international competitions.
25. People live on Lake Titicaca on floating islands made of grass.
Yeah, fun fact about Peru: the people living on the floating islands in Lake Titicaca have been a feature of the area since the Incas. The Uru people harvest grass and use it in bundles for their islands. They’re defensive since you can just paddle out to the middle of the lake! One of the islands still has a watchtower on it.
26.) One of the deepest canyons in the world is in Peru.
More than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Cotahuasi Canyon is crazy. It’s over 11,000 ft deep! Colca Canyon, also in Peru, is also one of the deepest in the world at 10,730 ft.
27.) The highest sand dune in the world is in Peru.
In the Sechura Desert, you’ll find Cerro Blanco – the highest dune in the world at 3,680 feet tall. That may not seem that high, but it’s loftier than the tallest peak in the United Kingdom! Not bad for a dune. It’s situated close to the desert town of Huacachina and has become a popular spot for sandboarding, of course. It takes about three hot hours to get to the top, but obviously, getting down is a lot quicker.
28.) An ancient alcoholic beverage is still a popular drink in Peru
Chicha is made from different things across South America, but in Peru, it’s made from corn. Chicha has ancient roots; corn was considered sacred; thus, an alcoholic drink made from corn was even more so. The most popular type of corn to use is purple hued variety, which grows in abundance in the Andes. Sales of Chicha in Peru (as a soft drink) rival those of Coca Cola.
29. There’s a rainbow mountain in Peru.
We kid you not – Vinicunca is a mountain that’s striped with a load of different colors. It’s pretty awesome. The name means “Seven Color Mountain,” which makes sense.
30.) Peru is home to the most ancient city in all of the Americas.
Older than the Maya, the Aztec, Inca, Tiwanaku, or any other ancient peoples, the Norte Chico culture is known for some truly ancient ruins – Caral. This elaborate complex is spread over 370 acres and has all the things you’d want in a city – plazas, buildings, streets, temples, and an amphitheater. It was a busy metropolis of 3,000 people that was inhabited around the same time as the Great Pyramids in Egypt, 2600-2000 BC (roughly). It’s thought to be the basis of Andean civilization.
When is the Best Season to Travel Peru?
High season (May-September): You may be surprised to hear that winter in Peru is actually the best time to travel there. Between May and September is the driest time to visit Peru, it’s a bit cold but it’s certainly better than rain!
Shoulder Season (April and October, November): Tourism is lower during this time, and temperatures are mild and a little unpredictable. Still it’s not going to be raining all the time!
Low Season (December to March): This is the Peruvian Summer and while you may like the sound of warmer weather Peru experiences heavy rainfall during these months.
When is the Best Time to Travel to Peru?
As mentioned the best time to travel Peru is during the winter. It’s during this time that the air is dryest and you stand less of a chance of rain. We traveled to Peru in June and had a fantastic time. Just note that it is winter so you’ll want to bring a packable down jacket and other warm gear.
When is the Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu?
The Andes have two very distinct seasons – wet and dry. December to March is the wet season and despite getting rained on a bit it’s still a fantastic time to travel to Machu Picchu. Bring a packable rain jacket.
To avoid the rain you should visit Machu Picchu during the dry season (May-November). We visited Machu Picchu in June and were met with fantastic weather, great for hiking!
When is the Best Time to Hike the Inca Trail?
The Inca Trail is good to go during the dry and wet season, although it does close during the heaviest of rainfall in February. If you can I would recommend hiking the Inca Trail in the dry season!
When is the Cheapest Time to go to Peru?
Peru is a pretty affordable country to travel through and prices don’t change that drastically depending on season. However, for more of a deal you should travel during the offseason. Though many establishments may be shut. Although you’ll be saving a buck you’ll be sacrificing it for unpredictable weather.
When is Best Time to Visit the Amazon in Peru?
The Peruvian Amazon has the same climate as most tropical rainforests. Temperatures average around 25 °C year round and humidity is always high.
June to October is the dry season and is the best time to visit the Peruvian rainforest for trekking. If you want to cruise down the Amazon the best time to visit is actually the wet season as the rains cause the river to swell.
What to Pack for Peru?
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around the world. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak. You can see all our other backpack recommendations below:
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun when you’re traveling. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
If you’re wondering what travel necessities to bring to around the world then good walking shoes should be your top concern.
I love my Merrell Moab Ventilators and Allbirds for hiking and travel, I’ve been going strong in them for two years! Check out my other recommendations on women’s shoes, and the best men’s travel shoes.
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside. Honestly a down jacket is essential to traveling in Peru any time – especially during the winter.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
Goretex Rain Jacket
We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy many times. Weather around the world can be iffy in Peru during the rainy season, so it’s best to be prepared. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof and really a great travel rain jacket. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.
Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
I love real books, but for traveling it can be easier to carry a lighter and more compact item like a Kindle. Plus, then you can download new books on the go!
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
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