I traveled around Peru (Lima, the north, and the Amazon) in fall 2013. Stories from my travels can be found on my blog posts about Peru.
Machu Piccu. The Inca. The Andes. Fried guinea pig.
Beyond the Stereotypes
Machu Piccu and the Cusco get the majority of the tourists, but Peruvian culture is much more than the Inca Empire. Older civilization thrived throughout what is today Peru, and the ruins of these different cultures are in many ways more impressive (and less crowded) than Machu Piccu. Peru also has deep canyons, dry deserts, a thriving surf culture, and many regional differences in food, music, and language.
Ten things you might not know about Peru (and that might surprise you):
- While the Quechua are perhaps the most famous ethnic group, there are 150 languages spoken throughout Peru. The three official languages are Spanish, Quechua and Aymara.
- The oldest known civilization in Peru dates back to 6000 BC. Other ancient and complex civilizations included the Sechìn, Chimu, Nazca, Moche, and Chavín.
- The highest peak in the tropics, snow-covered Huascarán, rises 22,205 feet above sea level (6,768 m).
- Peru has the second-highest annual catch of fish every year (China is first).
- The world’s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca is in Peruvian and Bolivan territory.
- The potato has its origin in the Peruvian highlands and there are over 3,000 varieties.
- Quechua, the native language of the descendents of the Incas, is still spoken by 3.5 million people today.
- Though more slope than cliff, Cotahuasi Canyon in southern Peru is considered one of the world’s deepest canyons. It is at 11,597 feet deep (3,535 meters), twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the southwest United States.
- The highest sand dune in the world, Cerro Blanco is 3,860 feet (1,176 meters) from the base to the summit and is located along the central coast.
- Peru has dozens of microclimates and habitats, but consists mainly of extremely dry deserts on the coast, the towering snow-capped Andes in the middle, and large swaths of the Amazon rainforest in the north and east.
My favorite city
Huaraz, with a beautiful backdrop of mountains, mix of cultures, and a bustling market. (Admittedly I hear great things about Cusco but haven’t yet been.)
My favorite destination
The Cordillera Blanca, part of the Andes. Amazing scenery, hiking, ancient ruins, and living cultures.
Favorite foods (or meal) that defines Peru for me
Causa Rellena: mashed yellow potatoes (so flavorful), layered with mashed avocado, shredded chicken, a touch of mayonnaise, yellow chiles, and lime juice. In the Amazon, I enjoyed the sweet camu-camu fruit (best in ice cream!) and the deep-fried pork and green plantain balls known as tacacho.
Song that defines Peru for me
Though there are some great Peruvian artists and styles (Andean lute music and coastal Afro-Peruvian are some of the best in my opinion), while I was there (in fall 2013), I kept hearing Marc Antony’s “Vivir Mi Vida.” So perhaps while not too traditional, that song will always remind me of Peru.
Click about to see some of the gorgeous mountain and coastal scenery and many of the faces that make up the country of Peru.