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Peru travel guide - Travel S Helper

Peru

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Peru is without a doubt one of South America’s most fascinating nations. Famous for being the location of the legendary lost Inca citadel of Machu Picchu and the mind-boggling Nazca Lines, this country’s unique history ignites the explorer in all travelers. Its breathtaking landscape ranges from untamed Amazon rainforests to huge coastal deserts and the Andes’ snowy peaks. Peru is home to a level of biodiversity that is seldom seen within the confines of a single nation, with an array of magnificent species that extends well beyond the well-known llamas and circling condors. Additionally, Peru’s hospitable, multiethnic people are a cultural gem in and of itself. The captivating fusion of hundreds of different indigenous tribes and mestizos, each with their own vibrant customs and culinary delights, is an experience you will never forget.

In summary, this is a land of unfathomable contrasts, making destination selection a real challenge. Whether you choose to venture off the beaten path, follow in the footsteps of thousands of previous visitors who took the Gringo Trail through some of the country’s best highlights, or immerse yourself in the jungle on a relaxing multiple-day Amazon boat trip, Peru is certain to amaze you in every way.

Geography

Peru covers 1,285,216 km2 (496,225 sq mi) in western South America. It is bordered by Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil to the east, Bolivia to the southeast, Chile to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The Andes Mountains run parallel to the Pacific Ocean, defining the three regions traditionally used to describe the country geographically. The costa (coast) in the west is a narrow plain, largely arid, except for the valleys formed by seasonal rivers. The sierra (highlands) is the region of the Andes; it includes the altiplano plateau and the country’s highest mountain, Huascarán, at 6,768 metres. The third region is the Selva (jungle), a vast flat area covered by the Amazon rainforest that extends eastwards. Almost 60% of the country’s surface area is in this region.

Most Peruvian rivers originate in the peaks of the Andes and flow into one of three basins. Those that drain to the Pacific are steep and short and flow only sporadically. The tributaries of the Amazon have a much larger flow and are longer and less steep when they leave the Sierra. The rivers that flow into Lake Titicaca are generally short and have a large flow. The longest rivers in Peru are the Ucayali, Marañón, Putumayo, Yavarí, Huallaga, Urubamba, Mantaro and Amazon.

Peru’s largest lake, Lake Titicaca, located between Peru and Bolivia at the top of the Andes, is also the largest in South America. The largest reservoirs, all located in the coastal region of Peru, are the Poechos, Tinajones, San Lorenzo and El Fraile reservoirs.

Wildlife

Due to its diverse geography and climate, Peru has a high biodiversity with 21,462 recorded plant and animal species (in 2003), of which 5,855 are endemic. Peru has more than 1,800 species of birds (120 of which are endemic), 500 species of mammals and over 300 species of reptiles. Among the hundreds of mammals are rare species such as the puma, jaguar and spectacled bear. Peru’s birds produce large quantities of guano, an economically important export product. The Pacific Ocean is home to large quantities of sea bass, flounder, anchovies, tuna, crustaceans and shellfish and is home to many sharks, sperm whales and whales.

Peru has an equally diverse flora. The coastal deserts produce little more than cacti, with the exception of the rolling misty oases and river valleys, which are home to unique flora. The uplands above the tree line, known as puna, are home to shrubs, cacti, drought-resistant plants such as ichu, and the largest species of bromeliad – the spectacular Puya raimondii. The slopes of the Andean cloud forest are home to mosses, orchids and bromeliads, and the Amazon rainforest is known for its diversity of trees and canopy plants.

Demographics

Ethnic groups

Peru is a multi-ethnic nation formed by the combination of different groups over five centuries. The Indians inhabited the Peruvian territory for several millennia before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. According to historian Noble David Cook, their population dropped from nearly 5 to 9 million in the 1520s to about 600,000 in 1620, largely due to infectious diseases. Under colonial rule, Spaniards and Africans arrived in large numbers, mixing heavily with each other and with the indigenous peoples. After independence, there was gradual immigration from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The Chinese and Japanese arrived in the 1850s to replace slave labourers and have had a major impact on Peruvian society ever since.

Population genetics

According to a 2015 genealogical DNA test, the average Peruvian is 79.1% Amerindian, 19.8% European and 1.1% sub-Saharan African overall.

Population

With approximately 31.2 million inhabitants, Peru is the fifth most populous country in South America. The population growth rate decreased from 2.6% to 1.6% between 1950 and 2000; the population is expected to reach about 42 million in 2050. In 2007, 75.9% lived in urban areas and 24.1% in rural areas. Major cities include Greater Lima (with over 9.8 million inhabitants), Arequipa, Trujillo, Chiclayo, Piura, Iquitos, Cusco, Chimbote and Huancayo, all of which had over 250,000 inhabitants in the 2007 census. 90] There are 15 uncontacted Indian tribes in Peru.

Religion

In the 2007 census, 81.3% of the population over 12 years of age identified themselves as Catholic, 12.5% as Evangelical Protestant, 3.3% as Other Protestant, Judaism, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and 2.9% as non-religious. The literacy rate was estimated at 92.9% in 2007, lower in rural areas (80.3%) than in urban areas (96.3%). Primary and secondary education is compulsory and free in public schools.

Amerindian religious traditions also play an important role in Peruvian beliefs. Catholic holidays such as Corpus Christi, Holy Week and Christmas are sometimes mixed with Amerindian traditions. Amerindian festivals, celebrated in pre-Columbian times, are also common throughout the country. The Inti Raymi, an ancient Inca festival, is still celebrated.

Most towns and villages have their own official church or cathedral and patron saint.

Economy

Peru’s economy is classified as upper middle income by the World Bank and ranks 39th in the world. Since 2011, Peru has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world, thanks to the economic boom of the 2000s. It has a high Human Development Index of 0.752 based on 2011 data. Historically, the country’s economic performance has been linked to exports, which provide hard currency to finance imports and external debt. Although they have provided substantial revenues, self-sustaining growth and a more equitable distribution of income have proved difficult to achieve. According to 2010 data, 31.3% of the total population is poor, with 9.8% living in extreme poverty. Inflation was the lowest in Latin America in 2012, at only 1.8%, but it increased in 2013 with the rise in oil and commodity prices; in 2014 it rose to 2.5%. The unemployment rate has been falling steadily in recent years and has been at 3.6% since 2012.

Peruvian economic policy has been very different in recent decades. The government of Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968-1975) launched radical reforms including land reform, expropriation of foreign companies, introduction of an economic planning system and the creation of a large public sector. These measures failed to achieve their goals of income redistribution and ending economic dependence on industrialised nations.

Despite these achievements, most of the reforms were not reversed until the 1990s, when the liberalising government of Alberto Fujimori ended price controls, protectionism, restrictions on foreign direct investment and most state ownership of enterprises. The reforms have led to sustained economic growth since 1993, except for a dip after the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

Services account for 53% of Peru’s GDP, followed by manufacturing (22.3%), extractive industries (15%) and taxes (9.7%). Recent economic growth has been fuelled by macroeconomic stability, improved terms of trade and increased investment and consumption. Trade is expected to increase further following the implementation of a free trade agreement with the US, signed on 12 April 2006. Peru’s main exports are copper, gold, zinc, textiles and fishmeal; its main trading partners are the US, China, Brazil and Chile.

Water supply and sanitation

The water and sanitation sector in Peru has made significant progress over the past two decades, including an increase in water supply from 30% to 85% between 1980 and 2010. Sanitation coverage also increased from 9% to 37% in rural areas between 1985 and 2010. Progress has also been made in drinking water disinfection and wastewater treatment. However, many challenges remain, such as

  • Inadequate service coverage ;
  • A poor quality service that endangers public health;
  • Lack of sustainability of the systems built ;
  • Tariffs that do not cover the costs of investment, operation and maintenance of services;
  • Institutional and financial weakness; and
  • overstaffing, lack of skills and high staff turnover.

How To Travel To Peru

By airThe capital Lima has the Jorge Chávez International Airport, with frequent flights to/from all over the world. The main airlines operating from Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport are Air Canada, Aeromexico, Aerolineas Argentinas, American Airlines, Avianca Holdings, Copa, Delta, Grupo Latam (formerly Lan & Tam Airlines), Gol, Iberia,...

How To Travel Around Peru

Time and distanceAlmost all cities outside Lima had a flight time of between 1 and 1.5 hours. It is recommended to use the airlines. For example, from Lima to Zorritos in Tumbes (beautiful beach with modern resorts), the bus trip takes 21 hours.Yurimaguas-Iquitos(water): 2.5 daysQuito-Lima(Bus): 27 hoursLima-Cuzco(Bus): 21 hoursLima-Cuzco(plane):...

Visa & Passport Requirements for Peru

Tourists from North America, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the European Union (and many others, check with the nearest Peruvian embassy or foreign ministry for the latest information, albeit in Spanish) will be issued a visa on arrival for up to 180 days.When you enter the country, you must...

Destinations in Peru

RegionsCentral coastSouth coastNorth CoastSouthern SierraCentral SierraNorthern SierraAltiplanoSan MartínPeruvian AmazonMadre de DiosCitiesLimaArequipaAyacuchoCajamarcaChiclayoCuzcoIquitosPunoTrujilloOther destinationsChan Chan - impressive ruins of the ancient earthen city of Chimor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Chavín de Huántar - UNESCO World Heritage Site, originating from the pre-Inca Chavin culture around 900 BC.Huascarán National Park - High mountain...

Weather & Climate in Peru

The combination of tropical latitude, mountain ranges, topographical variations and two ocean currents (Humboldt and El Niño) gives Peru a wide variety of climates. The coastal region has moderate temperatures, low rainfall and high humidity, except for the warmer and more humid northern areas. In the mountainous region, summer...

Accommodation & Hotels in Peru

Hotels in Peru are very common and quite cheap. They range from 1 to 5 stars. The 5 star hotels are usually for package tourism or business travel, and are very common outside Lima for the most visited tourist attractions like Cuzco/Machu Picchu with its stunning scenery, Paracas (to...

Things To See in Peru

Forgotten temples in the dense Amazon jungle, lost Inca cities, fabulous wildlife and extraordinary folklore. Peru has everything that adventure films are made of.Most of the best Inca sites are in the Inca highlands around the beautiful city of Cuzco, once the capital of the Inca empire and now...

Food & Drinks in Peru

Food in PeruPeruvian cuisine is one of the most varied in the world. Not only does the country grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but it does so all year round. Peru's geography offers at least 8 different climates (coastal desert, steep and high mountains, Amazon basin)....

Money & Shopping in Peru

The currency of Peru is the Sol (PEN), symbolised by S/.As of 20 October 2015, 1 USD = 3.25 PEN and 1 € = 3.69 PEN is one of the most stable currencies in South America in recent years.Coins come in five, two and one soles, as well as...

Festivals & Holidays in Peru

Public holidays in PeruDateNameJanuary 1New Years Day(movable)Holy Thursday(movable)Good Friday(movable)Easter DayMay 1International Workers' DayJune 29St. Peter and St. PaulJuly 28 and 29Independence DayAugust 30Santa Rosa de LimaOctober 8Battle of AngamosNovember 1All Saints DayDecember 8Immaculate ConceptionDecember 25Christmas

Internet & Communications in Peru

Except in the tiniest towns and villages, public telephones for national and international calls are available. The majority are in pubs or shops. Some of them take coins, but be wary of stuck coins or suspicious-looking coin receivers, since these may cause you to lose your money. Don't worry...

Traditions & Customs in Peru

Even if it is Spanish, do not use the term indio. Because it was employed by Spanish invaders, it sounds a lot like the English n-word to locals. The politically acceptable phrase is el indgena or la indgena — but, like with the n-word, extremely close pals within a...

Language & Phrasebook in Peru

Peru, like many South American nations, has Spanish as its official language. It's a good idea to learn a few basic Spanish phrases since you'll need them to travel about outside of the major tourist areas. Although English is spoken by a growing number of young people in Lima...

Culture Of Peru

Peruvian culture is mainly based on Amerindian and Spanish traditions, but it has also been affected by ethnic groups from Asia, Africa, and Europe. Peruvian creative traditions may be traced back to Pre-Inca civilizations' exquisite ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and sculpture. These skills were preserved by the Incas, who also...

History of Peru

Prehistory and pre-Columbian periodThe oldest evidence of the human presence in Peruvian land dates back to about 9,000 BC. Agriculture was essential in Andean civilizations, which used methods like irrigation and terracing, as well as camelid husbandry and fishing. Because these civilizations had no concept of market or money,...

Stay Safe & Healthy in Peru

Stay Safe in PeruThere is a kind of local police called "Serenazgo" in Lima and several of the bigger cities: you may ask for assistance, but they do not provide tourist-oriented services.Be alert of your surroundings and avoid dark or unpopulated places, particularly at night. There is a lot...

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