Peru is the third largest country in South America, following Brazil and Argentina. It is located in the western part of South America, its neighbouring countries being Ecuador and Colombia (in the north), Chile (in the south) and Brazil and Bolivia (in the east). To the west of this country flows the vast Pacific Ocean.
Peru boasts an extremely diverse geography, with 11 ecological regions and 84 different types of life zone. It comprises coastal, mountainous and jungle areas. The climate differs according to region. The Amazon rainforest is tropical, with hot, rainy days holding sway. In the highlands, the weather is dry and there are dramatic differences in temperature in the same day. The coast is sunny throughout the year; it is humid yet never rainy and is covered by a cooling layer of cloud. In Peru’s capital, Lima, the hottest days are in February, with an average temperature of 24ºC; the coolest are in August, with temperatures of around 17ºC.
Peru is peppered with amazing historical buildings and archaeological sites. Take Machu Picchu, with its beautiful constructions and treasures from a lost Inca city. Huascarán National Park, meanwhile, boasts the largest biosphere in the country, with its paradisiacal valleys, glaciers and lakes. Peru is known for the Nazca Lines, produced thousands of years ago and featuring giant shapes of animals and geometric shapes; these etchings are best viewed from up in the air. The Colca Canyon, meanwhile, majestic and serene, was formed by a massive geological fault between the Coropuna and Ampato volcanoes. It is one of the most visited destinations in this country.
Native Indian tribes first settled in Peru in approximately 1,250 B.C. In 1100 A.D., the Chimú people built an impressive city made of adobe in Chan Chan, the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. In the early 15th century, the Inca Empire began to assert its dominance; the Incas built a sizeable empire until they were defeated in 1533 by Francisco Pizarro and his army. In 1824, Peru became the last Latin American colony to obtain its independence from Spain. It was not until 1911 that American archaeologist, Hiram Bingham, would find the lost city of the Incas: Machu Picchu.
Peru’s large number of ecosystems mean it is home to an amazingly wide variety of plants and animals. Just 100 hectares of rainforest contains over 6,000 different types of plants! The Peruvian Amazon is filled with medicinal herbs and trees, as well as grasses, shrubs, lianas and vertiginous trees. The high forest, meanwhile, is home to orchids, ferns, mosses and various trees. In lower forest zones, expect to find high, leafy trees, epiphytes and elfin zones, where trees are stunted and gnarled.
Peru also boasts an impressive number of animals, including a plethora of unique bird species (such as the Andean cock-of-the-rock, Peru’s national bird), spectacular mammals such as pumas, spectacled bears, river dolphins, and woolly monkeys. Marine mammals such as whales, otters and sea lions, also abound. Peru is also a haven for butterfly lovers: one on every five butterflies in the world resides in this country! Peru has an impressive reptile population which includes lizards, snakes and turtles.
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