Ready to learn some fun and interesting facts about Peru? Whether you’re planning a trip to Peru or you’re just enjoying some armchair traveling, prepare to be awed by these amazing Peru facts.
Did you know there’s a canyon that’s over 10,000 feet deep (twice the depth of Arizona’s Grand Canyon)? Did you know there’s a mass grave of 400 oblong skulls that some people believe are ancient aliens? Did you know you can go boarding down sand dunes that are over 1,000 feet high? Not only are these places real, but they’re all located in Peru. This gem in South America is one of the most biodiverse and culturally fascinating places on the planet.
Interesting Facts About Peru that You Never knew
1. The Mystery of the Nazca Lines
Is it ancient religious artwork? A constellation chart to track the stars? Or a long-lost alien landing strip? The Nazca Lines remain one of the world’s greatest mysteries.
Archaeologists now know how the Nazca people made these famous geoglyphs, but no one has yet figured out why. Located on a coastal plain 250 miles south of Lima, this is one site you simply have to see to believe.
There are over 800 straight lines that stretch across the plain, some of which are over 30 miles in length. There are also 300 geometric patterns including triangles, zig-zags, spirals, and arrows. Finally, there are over 70 depictions of plants and animals, some of which are over 1,200 feet long.
Researchers have been studying them for decades, but they’re no closer to an answer for what they are (or why there were built) than when they started. Book an aerial tour of the Nazca Lines during your trip to Peru and come up with your own theory!
2. Coca Leaves Are Great for Your Health
Peru’s native coca plant often gets a bad rep because it can be used to make cocaine. However, in its natural, non-concentrated form, it offers users a host of health benefits. When trekking high in the Andes Mountains, coco leaves can help calm altitude sickness. We drank coco tea when we first landed in Cusco to acclimate to the altitude and it really did help to alleviate our headaches.
The leaves of the coca plant are full of Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and iron. Locals use it to relieve pain and hunger, while visitors can experience relief from altitude sickness. In the past, Incans used the plant in religious rituals and even buried coca leaves with the dead.
Coca leaf tea is safe to drink and widely available across the country. You can also do as the locals do and simply chew on the leaves to enjoy the benefits.
3. Peru Gave Us Potatoes & Tomatoes
It’s hard to imagine a world without tomatoes and potatoes, but these native species were unknown outside of South American countries until the 1500s.
Peru is home to over 3,000 varieties of potatoes in an array of sizes, colors, and textures. In fact, it’s such an integral part of the Peruvian diet that proud locals often say, “Soy mas Peruano que la papa” (I’m more Peruvian than the potato).
While potatoes immediately became popular throughout the rest of the world, tomatoes were actually feared for centuries. Europeans mistakenly believed this native Peruvian fruit was poisonous. It wasn’t until pizza was invented in Naples, Italy, in the 1880s that tomatoes became a trusted and beloved food item.
The wild tomatoes that grow throughout the region are smaller than what you find at your local grocery store. Interestingly, though, this plant is the wild ancestor of every type of tomato we eat today.
4. Peru Geography Is Astoundingly Diverse
If you love superlatives, Peru belongs at the top of your travel bucket list. This country is home to some of the biggest, tallest, deepest, driest, and wettest places on the planet. It is one of the most most biologically diverse countries in the world with a variety of landscapes and climates.
5. The Atacama Desert
Forget the Sahara Desert. The driest place on earth is the Atacama Desert of Peru and Chile, where it’s impossible for anything to grow. In fact, the only thing that lives there is a microscopic organism that gets moisture from minerals instead of water.
Just how dry is the Atacama? Some parts of it have received less than an inch of rain in the past 30 years!
6. Cotahuasi Canyon
Remember that deep canyon we mentioned at the outset? You’ll find it in a remote region of southern Peru, over 12 hours by bus from the nearest city of Arequipa.
The top of Cotahuasi Canyon sits as high as 16,400 feet above sea level, while the canyon floor plummets to a base elevation of around 4,000 feet. It’s difficult to reach because of its remote location, but it offers great hiking and rafting opportunities for those who make the trek.
7. The Amazon Rainforest
In fact, two-thirds of Peru is covered in thick, lush, tropical rainforest. Peru is also home to the five rivers and tributaries that serve as the headwaters for the mighty Amazon River.
Although the majority of the Amazon rainforest lies in Brazil, the gateway to the Amazon lies in the heart of Peru.
More than half of the world’s species of plants, animals, and birds live in this spectacular rainforest. It also produces 6% of the world’s oxygen. You can learn all these facts about Peru (and much more) when you take an Amazon River cruise from Iquitos.
8. Lake Titicaca
Straddling the border of Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca holds the honor of the world’s highest lake. It sits at a dizzying 12,507 feet above sea level and covers an area 120 miles long and 50 miles wide.
These numbers aren’t the only fascinating facts, though. In the 1970s, researchers discovered an entire city hidden beneath the waters of the lake. On the surface, the native Quechua people thrive, living on 120 man-made floating islands.
9. Rainbow Mountain
Almost undiscovered until 2015, Rainbow Mountain quickly became famous for its jaw-dropping and Instagram-worthy beauty. Layers of clay and sedimentary rock transform the otherwise bleak landscape into a literal rainbow of color.
An expedition to this natural wonder isn’t for the faint of heart, though. At over 17,000 feet above sea level, it’s certain to be one of the highest altitudes you’ve ever trekked. Make sure you’re well-adjusted to the elevation before you sign up for a tour!
10. Cerro Blanco Sand Dune
Rounding out our list of interesting facts about Peru’s geography, how would you like to visit the world’s tallest sand dune? Cerro Blanco holds the title of the highest sand dune in the world, standing at an astounding height of over 3,800 feet. To put that in perspective, that’s taller than the highest mountain in England!
Located near the famous Nazca Lines, this sand dune is the premier destination for sandboarding, dune buggies, and other outdoor adventures.
11. Cotahuasi Canyon
Cotahuasi Canyon is the deepest canyon in the America’s. To give you an idea it is nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon at 3,354 metres 11,00-4 feet deep! Located near Arequipa it is second only to Yarlung Tsangpo canyon in China.
12. Machu Picchu Is a Wonder of the World
You can’t hear the word “Peru” without conjuring a mental image of the lost city of Macchu Picchu. A hike along the Inca Trail to this man-made marvel is a must for anyone who visits Peru. Follow the footsteps of the mighty Inca Empire through the Sacred Valley to the city in the sky.
Located high in the mountains outside Cusco, Macchu Picchu was lost to the outside world until 1911. Archaeologists believe the city was built at the height of the Inca Empire during the 15th and 16th centuries. Their best guess is that it served as a royal estate for Incan nobles, but no one knows for sure why it was built.
The once-lost city spans five miles and includes 150 buildings and 3,000 stone steps. It’s little wonder (pun intended) that it was designated one of the New Seven Wonders of the World back in 2007. Read: How to Plan a Trip to Machu Picchu
13. The Quechua People Have Interesting Marriage Customs
The native Quechua people are known for their warm smiles and colorful patterned clothing. But there’s a lot more to this beautiful culture than first meets the eye.
For example, you can easily tell the marital status of any Quechua woman you meet. How? Easy: Single women wear knitted caps, while married women wear straw hats.
Even more interesting, the Quechua practice “trial marriage,” a custom dating back thousands of years. Men and women are free to choose their partners, end the relationship, and remarry at any time. Any children born in the interim are viewed as belonging to the community, not a specific couple.
14. The Bizarre Elongated Skulls of Paracas
Let’s finish our discussion of fun facts about Peru by returning to the mass grave mentioned at the outset.
When archaeologists first uncovered the strange cone-shaped skulls in the Paracas region, rumors quickly spread that they were once aliens. Although it’s a fascinating theory, science has confirmed that the skulls are human in origin.
The unusual shape is due to the ancient practice of head binding. During the first few years of a baby’s life, parents would wrap the head in specific ways to alter the shape of the growing bones. This may have been done as a rite of passage or to distinguish different classes amongst society.
15. Guinea Pigs are not Pets in Peru
One of the strangest foods we encountered in Peru was the deep-fried guinea pigs. Peruvian cuisine is quite diverse with a blend of seafood, meats with corn and potatoes being its base. But a delicacy in Peru is Cuy, aka guinea pig. The don’t look at these furry critters as pets, no, these are
Quick Peru Facts
- Peru is the third-largest country in South America behind Brazil and Argentina.
- Peru’s official name is the Republic of Peru or Republica del Peru
- Peru has two official languages – Quechua
- Peru is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, and five countries – Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, Chile, and Bolivia
What Will You Do With These Fun Facts About Peru?
So, which of these facts about Peru was most interesting to you? Was it the mysterious Nazca Lines? The recently discovered Rainbow Mountain? The unique cultural traditions of the Quechua people? Or the incredible biodiversity in a country that’s home to the world’s driest desert and thickest jungles?
Whichever Peru facts jumped out at you, one thing is certain: There’s no shortage of things to learn about this amazing country.
Is Peru at the top of your travel bucket list? Would you like to learn more interesting facts about Peru, including how to plan your trip to South America? Click here for our in-depth Peru travel guide and keep learning about this incredible travel destination.
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Read More About Peru
- Paracas: Paracas Peru – Adventures In The California Desert
- Rainbow Mountain: What To Expect When Hiking Rainbow Mountain Peru
- Things to do: 21 Of The Best Things To Do In Peru In 2021
- Cusco: Top Three Little Known Hiking Day Trips In Cusco, Peru
- Iquitos: Things To Do In Iquitos, Peru – A Gateway To The Amazon
- Machu Picchu: How To Plan A Trip To Machu Picchu
- Amazon: What To Expect On An Amazon River Cruise – Life On The River