South America
South America Destination Guide



Peru officially Republic of Peru Country, western South America. Area: 496,225 sq mi (1,285,216 sq km). Population : 26,724,000. Capital: LIMA. Almost half of the people are QUECHUA Indians, and nearly one-third are MESTIZOS (mixed Indian and Spanish ancestry); the remainder are Aymara Indians and persons of Spanish ancestry. Languages: Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara (all official). Religions: Roman Catholicism (official), Protestantism. Currency: new Sol. Peru is the third largest country in South America and may be divided into three geographic regions from west to east: the coast, which consists of a long, narrow belt of desert lowlands; the highlands, which is the Peruvian portion of the ANDES MOUNTAINS; and the vast, forested eastern foothills and plains, consisting mainly of the tropical rainforests of the AMAZON RIVER basin. Peru has a developing mixed economy based largely on services, manufacturing, agriculture, and mining.

Most industries, including the petroleum industry, were nationalized in the late 1960s and early '70s, but many were privatized again in the 1990s. Peru is a republic with one legislative house; its head of state and government is the president. Peru was the centre of the INCA empire, which was established c. 1230 with its capital at Cuzco. In 1533 the region was conquered by Spanish adventurer FRANCISCO PIZARRO and thereafter was dominated by Spain for almost 300 years as the Viceroyalty of Peru. It declared its independence in 1821, and freedom was achieved in 1824. Peru was defeated by Chile in the War of the PACIFIC (1879-83). In 1941 a boundary dispute with Ecuador erupted into war, which gave Peru control over a larger part of the Amazon basin; further disputes ensued until the border was demarcated again in 1998. The government was overthrown by a military junta in 1968, and civilian rule was restored in 1980. The government of ALBERTO FUJIMORI dissolved the legislature in 1992 and promulgated a new constitution the following year. The government later successfully combated the SHINING PATH and TUPAC AMARU rebel movements. Fujimori won a second term in 1995, but charges of fraud accompanied his election to a third term in 2000; his government crumbled later that year. In 2001 Alejandro Toledo became Peru's first democratically elected president of Quechuan ethnicity.

Peru is one of the most fascinating countries in South America and is home to what is is viewed by many as the finest archaeological site on the continent Machu Picchu. It is in Peru that the fabulous Inca Empire flourished over 600 years ago and it is in Peru that pre Columbian inhabitants of the coastal desert near Nazca, drew fantastic geoglyphs and geometric shapes on the desert floor without any apparent or decipherable reason. Peru is also a country of geographic contrasts. Traveling from the dry desert to the lush jungle, the tourist, the anthropologist, the mountain climber and the birdwatcher find a multiplicity of landscapes, peoples, fauna and flora, and archaeological monuments.

Culturally, the country is equally diverse: From the Afro Peruvian music of the coast to the Islas Flotantes (Floating Islands) of the Uros of Lake Titicaca, from the Shipibo pottery of the Amazon, to the fine cuisine of Cusco, from the white colonial buildings of Arequipa, to the adobe architecture of Cajamarca, a journey across Peru constantly stimulates each of the traveler's senses.

National Parks

Peru's vast wealth of wildlife is protected through a system of national parks and reserves with 27 areas covering about 7% of the country. This national park system includes remote and inaccessible places that are rarely visited, but they are there, nonetheless. Protecting these areas is vitally important but difficult because of the lack of finance. Groups like the World Wide Fund For Nature and the Nature Conservancy are active in Peruvian conservation; you can donate money to these organizations and specifically request that your contribution be used in Peru. The Funclacion Peruana para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza (Nature Conservancy v/fax 01 446 9178), Apartado 18 1393, Lima, is a local conservation organization that provides information and accepts donations.

Top Attractions

Machu Picchu
Chan Chan
Islas Ballestas
Colca Canyon


Falkland Islands
French Guiana (Fr.)
Trinidad and Tobago
Amazon Rainforest
Amazon River
Angel Falls
Easter Island
Nazca Lines
Lake Titicaca
Iguazu Falls
Machu Picchu
Petrohue Falls
South America History
Inca Civilization
Travel Warnings
Travel Tips