All About Peru: History, Geography, and People
With our Overland Adventure Holiday, experience the amazing geography & diversity of Peru.
Want to learn about Peru? It is the third largest country in South America, at over 798,000 square miles and is about five times larger than the UK. It lies south of the equator and is divided into three very different geographical regions: the Pacific coastal strip, the Andes mountains and the Amazon region.
Deserts of the Coastal Region
The narrow coastal strip consists mainly of desert, merging at its southern end into the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth. The coast includes Lima, the capital, and several major cities that are oases watered by about 40 rivers that cascade from the Andes. These oases have been developed by the use of irrigation for food production.
The Andean Region
The Andes, the world's second highest mountain chain, reach over 20,000 feet just 60 miles inland. Peru's highest peak, Huascaran (22,200ft), is the world's highest tropical peak and the region has year-round glaciers above 16,000 feet. Between 10,000 and 13,000 feet lie agricultural lands supporting half of Peru's population and some of the most impoverished populations. The rugged landscape brims with jagged ranges separated by deep canyons, rewarding travellers with spectacular scenery. The eastern Andean slopes receive much rainfall, and are clothed in green cloud forests as they drop into the Amazon basin.
The Amazon Basin
The Amazon Basin stretches down the eastern side of Peru and represents more than half of the country. This vast tropical forest is fed by countless rivers and streams including the Amazon, Maranon, Hallaga and Ucayali rivers, bordered with rich wildlife and rare species.
On this amazing journey you will be experiencing all three…and you can enjoy a montage of images from our overland Peru tours by clicking onto this U tube link: Sights And Sounds Peru Safari
A brief History of Peru
Peru is best known as the heart of the Inca Empire, but it was home to many diverse indigenous cultures long before the Incas arrived. Find out all about Peru history.
Although there is evidence of human habitation in Peru as long ago as the eighth millennium BC, there is little evidence of organized village life until about 2500 BC. It was at about this time that climatic changes in the coastal regions prompted Peru's early inhabitants to move toward the more fertile interior river valleys. For the next 1500 years, Peruvian civilization developed into a number of organized cultures, including the Chavìn and the Sechìn. The Chavìn are best known for their stylized religious iconography, which included striking depictions of various animals (the jaguar in particular) and which exercised considerable influence over the entire coastal region. The Sechìn are remembered more for their military prowess than for their cultural achievement.
The decline of the Chavìn and Sechìn cultures around the 5th century BC gave rise to a number of distinctive regional cultures. Some of these, including the Saliner and the Paracas, are celebrated for artistic and technological advances such as kiln-fired ceramics and highly sophisticated weaving techniques. From the Paracas arose the Nazca, whose legacy includes the immense and cryptic Nazca Lines. However, the accomplishments of these and other early Peruvian civilizations seem today to pale in comparison to the robust pre-Columbian civilization of the legendary Inca.
The most startling feature of the great Inca empire was its brevity. In 1430, the realm of the Inca consisted of little more than the river valley around Cuzco. Less than a century later, through conquest and a canny policy of incorporating the best features of the societies they subjugated, the Incas controlled a vast territory of almost 1 million square kilometres, a dominion that extended from northwest Argentina to southern Colombia. The Incan capital, at Cusco, was undoubtedly the richest city in all of the Americas, with temples literally sheathed in heavy gold plate. Although Cusco’s architecture remains only in fragments and foundations, the architectural accomplishment of the Inca's has survived intact at the astounding ceremonial centre of Machu Picchu.
In 1532, at the height of its power, the Inca empire was driven by a war of succession between two brothers. In one of the great tragedies of history, it was at precisely this moment that Francisco Pizarro and his band of Spanish conquistadors arrived on the scene.
Showing an uncanny ability to turn circumstances to his own advantage, Pizarro used deception, and guile to gain a personal meeting with Atahualpa, the then Inca ruler, whom he coolly assassinated (along with many thousands of Inca soldiers) who were incapacitated with fear at the hitherto unknown wonders of horses, firearms, and large canon. In the face of fierce resistance, Pizarro and his men seized Cuzco and sacked the city. The deception and brutality the Spanish rulers showed in their dealings with the Inca was a shameful episode in European history.
Although the Incas continued to fight for the next several years, their empire had ended and Spanish rule had begun. The Inca retreated to the Jungle and managed to survive a further 40 years at the citadel of Villcabamba before the Spaniards finally tracked down and annihilated most of the surviving dynasty. Legend has it the survivors retreated to an as yet undiscovered Inca stronghold deep in the jungle, and the search continues to this day for that mythical city.
Since that juncture in history, war, tragedy, and hardship have plagued Peru and its people. From the war with Chile early this century, to the comparatively recent Presidential scandals, Peru seems to have a knack of taking one step forward and two steps back. Only in the last 5-10 years has Peru really started to shake off its past, and emerge as a truly democratic, dynamic, and forward looking nation.
Peru's population of about 23 million is divided almost equally between the highlands and the population centers of the coast, and the division marks a sharp cultural as well as geographic divide. The inland regions are marked by extreme poverty and subsistence agriculture, while the fertile river valleys of the lowlands have produced a wealthier, more cosmopolitan culture. Almost half of Peru's people are Indian, while another one third or so are mestizo. About ten percent are of European descent, and there are significant African and Asian minorities. Although Spanish is Peru's official language, a multitude of indigenous languages continue to hold sway in the highlands. Poverty and illiteracy are major issues that confront Peruvians, although the violence and terrorism that marked the conflict between the Maoist shining path group and the Government throughout the 1980-90’s has thankfully ended.
Peru now has a very healthy economic growth rate, welcomes more and more tourists each year, and enjoys significant foreign investment.
It has a truly fascinating history, and our 15 night overland adventure tours take in many of the most significant historical highlights of this vibrant and diverse country. Reserve your place now and find out all about Peru.
Access the incredibly diverse wildlife of Peru with our 4x4 Adventure
Peru is truly a land of superlatives: From the world's richest oceanic current, to the world's highest and most extensive tropical mountains, to the rainforests of the world's largest river, Peru is a country of unparalleled contrasts.With 87 of the world's 104 climate zones, Peru encompasses both the driest desert and the second wettest locality on the planet.
This all makes for a land of vast biodiversity - of the 104 life zones known in the world, 84 occur in Peru. A complete mosaic comprises almost every type of habitat imaginable. It offers up the deserts and dry forests of the coast, to the Puna grassland and snow-capped mountains of the Andes, and the multitude of types of forests within the Amazonian lowlands. Peru is blessed with an abundance of life forms, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies, trees, cacti, orchids. New species are being found all the time.
The night monkey (pictured) is one of eight new mammals recently found during just one expedition to the Tabaconas Namballe National Sanctuary in 2011.
Our Overland Expedition takes in most of these habitats, and for wildlife and bird watching enthusiasts, its an ideal opportunity to get up close to some of the amazing animals Peru. Peru has over 500 species of mammals, of which about 70 are endemic, and about 100 are threatened or endangered. These include spectacular species like the jaguar, the spectacled bear & rare yellow-tailed woolly monkey.
Imagine a country with over 1700 species of birds…. A country with more bird species than found in all of North America and Europe combined. Home to 300 endemic species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world!
For Bird Watching, Peru is a true paradise. New bird species are continually being discovered every year in its cloud-forests Amazon jungle, as well as in its rugged mountains. At last count, there were 1710 registered species (close to 20% of the world's total), of which more than 300 are endemic. Furthermore, Peru holds the record for the most species in a single place (650 in the area surrounding one jungle lodge) and the record for the highest number of species seen in a single day. It is filled with species dwelling in unique and fragile habitats, with large migratory birds arriving from the most remote parts of the world. It has species that, having disappeared in other countries, flourish in unexplored corners of the country. These giant flocks are a fundamental element in the life cycles of the sea, jungle and Andean lakes.
Visualize waking up in the morning to ear-deafening noise of thousands parrots and macaws - an unforgettable cacophonic experience as they arrive each morning for their daily supplementary diet of mud. Picture yourself seeing a beautiful male Andean Cock of the Rock with the backdrop of the Inca fortress of Machu Picchu or having a close encounter with a huge Andean Condor as it soars above the canyons. Experience the heart-stopping image of a male Spatuletail hauling his coin-sized tail discs or the smart White-bellied Cinclodes, one of only 28 individuals known to exist in the world, and all of them in Peru.
Glimpsing through the shrouds of mist in mountains you may spot the splendid Scarlet-banded Barbet, which avoided detection for years and only recently has been discovered. Peru is "the country to explore", a country in which no fewer than 42 new species of birds have been described to science in the last 30 years.
To ensure the preservation of this natural wealth, the country has set aside 13% of its national territory as protected areas, forming a network of 67 protected natural areas. A recent up-surge in environmental awareness in the country has led to the formation of grass roots conservation initiatives with encouraging results. Coastal lagoons are being reclaimed, and rivers and streams are being cleaned.
It's the ultimate Peru Birding experience with us at Pampa Hermosa
Peru is the “birdiest” country in the world. Peru ties Colombia with over 1700 species of birds, more than 85% of which are permanent residents, 120 of which are found nowhere else in the world. Peru is second only to Brazil in the number of endemic birds and second only to Indonesia in the number of bird species with restricted geographical ranges.
During your stay at our Pampa Hermosa rainforest lodge you will have a chance for some superb birding
You can also check out a little more site information about Pampa Hermosa by clicking on this report from an avid Birdwatcher http://maybank.tripod.com/SouthAmerica/Peru/Peru-10-2004.htm
So, if you’re a keen “twitcher” the Peru Safari Overland Tour has to be one of the best options available.There are exotic hummingbirds (118 species), cotingas (33 species), and antbirds (142 species), and flocks of hundreds Macaws, mixed species flocks of over 60 species, and rare endemics like the White-winged Guan and the flightless Junin Grebe. At least five new species have also been discovered as of this year and are still waiting official scientific description.