Peru former land of the ancients in South America

Peru is a country located on the western side of South America and is a region of great diversity.  It has coastal communities bordering the Pacific Ocean, the world’s driest desert, high Andean peaks, and Amazonian forests on the eastern side of the Andes.

It is a country with a long human history.  Once the centre of the Incan civilization, and there is evidence of human occupation going back at least 12,000 years.  The Norte Chico civilization flourished 5,000 years ago, and the Incans, at their peak, formed the largest empire in pre-Columbian history. Sadly, the Conquistadors put paid to the elegant Incans by lying, cheating and killing the Incans into submission in the name of Christianity.

Lima is the Capital of Peru and also, with a population of almost 9 million, its largest city. It is the fifth largest city in Latin America and about 30% of Peru’s population lives within its metropolitan area.  Lima has an eclectic mix of architectural styles, ranging from old Spanish-style colonial buildings to Art Nouveau and contemporary office buildings.  Lima also feature a large number of pedestrian-friendly plazas.  The city features a heritage listed historic centre, many museums and art galleries, and is home to a bustling nightlife.  There are many beaches close by, and Lima has a reputation for having some of the best food in South America because the local cuisine has been influenced by Chinese, Japanese and Amerindian styles of cooking.  It is fair to say that Lima has a somewhat chaotic public transport system that is sustained by hundreds of buses which run without any formal central structure.    

Although most visitors to Peru use Lima as a hub, the real tourist interest is centered on the Andes, and particularly the area that used to com under Incan influence.  To experience the relics of the Incan area, most people base themselves in Cuzco which was once the capital of the Incan Empire.  Remains of the Incan Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Virgins of the Sun still remain and ceremonies are still re-enacted there.  The Spanish Conquistador Pizarro sacked the city in 1535, and then took over and changed the city by buildings churches and cathedrals.

The main reason for people to visit Cuzco is because it is the place to begin the journey to the lost Incan city of Machu Picchu.  Some people set out to walk the Inca Trail, which is also known as the Camino Inca.  It takes three or four days to complete the trail, depending on your level of fitness, and during peak season there are limits put on the number of people that can walk the trail on any one day.  Although the trail is paved, it is arduous, and walkers traverse heights above 12,000 feet in section.

Soroche, or altitude sickness, is a real hazard for people visiting Cuzco and Machu Picchu.  This is caused by the lack of oxygen in the air at such high altitudes and can result in difficult breathing, headaches and severe nausea.

Machu Picchu in an Incan site located on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley.  It was discovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham, and has now become one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.  Most people reach the site by train from Cuzco.  It is believed that it was built in about 1450 at the height of the Incan Empire, and was never discovered by the Spanish invaders.

One area of Peru that many travelers miss out on visiting is the Loreto Region of which Iquitos is the Capital.  This city is located on the Amazon River, more than 3,000 miles upstream from the Atlantic Ocean.  Iquitos is a major port in the Amazon system and is the perfect place to start that Amazon River adventure and exploration of the world’s largest rainforest.

The Nazca Desert adds to Peru’s mystique due to the ancient Nazca Lines that are sculptured into the desert.  It is believed that these lines were made between 400-650AD, and were created by removing rocks to reveal the lighter coloured sands underneath.  The designs of the lines are representations of various animals, which include hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish and llamas, with some being over 200 metres (600 feet) across.  The real mystery of these lines is that they can only be seen clearly from the air, and it is believed that the Nazca people may have created them so as to be seen from their gods in the air.

If you are planning to visit South America, then Peru should definitely be on your list of countries to visit.  It is a very diverse country which offers opportunities for adventure, beach activities, great nightlife and restaurants, mountain trekking and climbing, river cruises and jungle walks and some of the best sightseeing available anywhere plus the opportunity to learn about some of the most fascinating civilizations to have graced our planet.

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