Destinations

Interesting Facts About Peru

Some of the most intriguing and memorable facts about Peru...

The Nazca Lines is the collective noun for hundreds of geoglyphs marked out in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. Many of the designs depict animals, some of which are over 200 metres across. Scholars believe that the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650AD for ritualistic purposes, although perhaps the most colourful theory of their origin is the one put forward by Erich Von Daniken in his 1968 book Chariots of the Gods. Von Daniken argued that the lines were, in fact, runways for extraterrestrial craft! Perhaps Boris Johnson should take a leaf out of Von Daniken’s crackpot book and propose a runway in the Thames Gateway shaped like a monkey. Go on, BoJo, you know you want to…

During the 15th and early 16th centuries, the Inca dominated many of the areas that later became part of Peru – despite not having wheeled vehicles. This apparently surprising lack of transport makes more sense when you learn that the Inca’s powerbase was the Andes. ‘Inca Trails’ are impressive feats of engineering but the terrain is so challenging that trains of llamas were a much better means of transporting goods around a mountain empire than carts would have been.


The most enduring reminder of the Inca Empire is the architecture in and around Cuzco – the Inca capital – and at ceremonial sites such as Machu Picchu. Here, the virtually earthquake-proof masonry was constructed by slotting irregular, boulder-sized stones together with aesthetically pleasing perfection.

Peru is home to ten Andean peaks of over 6,000 metres in height. The highest of these is Huascaran Sur – at 6,768 metres the fourth-highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere.

Cotahuasi Canyon in south-western Peru is, at a depth of approximately 3,354 metres, almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. However, Colca Canyon is more popular with tourists due to its relative accessibility and the chance to view the Andean condor up close as it corkscrews though the air.

A glacial stream on Mismi, a 5,597-metre-high mountain in the Peruvian Andes, is the most distant source of the Amazon identified to date.

According to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Peru has the second-highest number of bird species in the world, just behind Colombia. Of the 1,781 species to choose from, Peru plumped for the Andean cock-of-the-rock as its national bird – the males of which are topped with an orange head and ‘rockabilly quiff’.

At 1,176 metres from base to crest, Cerro Blanco is the second-highest sand dune in the world – just a few metres shy of Duna Federico Kirbus in Argentina. Cerro Blanco is at the northern end of Peru’s broad, sandy coastal strip.

Lake Titicaca, which spills across the Peru-Bolivia border, is considered to be the highest navigable lake in the world. Its deep blue waters, at an altitude of 3,812 metres, are home to the Uros people who – traditionally – lived on islands made of vast reed mats. Today, visits to the Uros are popular with tourists.

The staple meat of the Andes is cuy – commonly known in English-speaking countries as guinea pig. Often served whole and similar in taste to rabbit (but not in terms of the quantity of meat provided).

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