Peru is a fascinating country located in western South America. It is known for its stunning landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. Here are some 30 fun and interesting facts about this amazing country
1. Machu Picchu is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World
Machu Picchu is Peru’s most famous attraction and was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007. This 15th century Incan citadel sits 7,970 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains. It was built in the 15th century but abandoned just over 100 years later. The site went largely unknown until it was rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. Machu Picchu’s origins and purpose still remain a mystery today.
2. Peru has over 3000 varieties of potato
The potato originated in Peru between 8000 and 5000 BC. There are now over 3000 varieties grown in the Andean regions of the country. Popular local varieties include the bitter purple potato and the sweet yellow potato. Potatoes have been an essential crop and staple food in Peruvian cuisine for thousands of years.
3. The Amazon rainforest covers 60% of Peru
Around 60% of Peru is located within the Amazon rainforest, making it the 4th largest section of the Amazon in the world. The Peruvian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and is home to exotic wildlife like macaws, toucans, jaguars, and giant river otters. Peru has established many protected areas and reserves within the Amazon to help conserve this vital ecosystem.
4. Peru has a national cat day
Peru celebrates National Cat Day every February 17th. The holiday was established in 2007 to promote the adoption of stray cats across the country. On this day, Peruvians post pictures of their cats online, donate to animal shelters, and host festivals and parades in honor of their feline friends. Cats are a beloved part of many Peruvian households.
5. The National drink is Pisco Sour
The pisco sour is Peru’s national drink and one of its most popular cocktails. It’s made from pisco, a clear brandy produced in Peru and Chile, plus lemon juice, sugar syrup, egg white, and Angostura bitters. The drink was invented in the early 1920s by chef Victor Vaughen Morris in Lima. Pisco sours are often served with a dash of bitters on top creating a foamy froth. The cocktail has a smooth yet tart flavor.
6. Peru is home to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world
At an elevation of 12,507 feet in the Andes Mountains, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake on the planet. It extends from Peru into Bolivia and is the largest lake in South America. Ancient peoples like the Incas believed the lake was the birthplace of the sun. Today, visitors can take boat trips on Lake Titicaca to visit the famous floating reed islands constructed by the Uros people.
7. Peru has the second highest population of alpacas in the world
Peru has a population of over 3.5 million alpacas, second only to neighboring Bolivia. Alpacas are a domesticated species of South American camelid that live high in the Andes Mountains. Valued for their soft wool, alpacas are central to the textile traditions of Quechua-speaking indigenous cultures in Peru. Peruvian alpaca wool is famous worldwide for its high quality and is exported around the globe.
8. Peru is one of the world’s top producers of silver
Peru ranks third in the world for silver production, behind only Mexico and China. The country produced over 3,800 tons of silver in 2020. Major silver mines are located in the Andean regions of Peru like the Caylloma mine in Arequipa and the Uchucchacua mine in Lima. Silver mining has been integral to Peru’s economy since the colonial era in the 16th century.
9. The country is very biodiverse
Peru is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Even though it covers less than 1% of the Earth’s surface, Peru contains around 10% of all known plant, mammal, bird, and fish species. New plant and animal species are still being discovered in Peru every year. Its diverse geography including the Andes Mountains, Amazon jungle, and Pacific coastline contribute to this rich biodiversity.
10. Peru has over 5000 archaeological sites
With a long history of indigenous cultures like the Incas, Peru is filled with archaeological treasures. There are over 5,000 recognized archaeological sites spanning pre-Columbian times to the colonial era and beyond. Top sites include the citadel Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines geoglyphs, and the mud city Chan Chan. New discoveries continue to be made as only a fraction of Peru’s archaeological sites have been excavated.
11. Ceviche is the national dish
Ceviche is considered Peru’s national dish. This appetizer pairs raw fish cured in citrus juices like lime or lemon with spices. Some popular additions are red onion, chilies, sweet potato, and corn. The citric acid “cooks” the fish without using heat. Ceviche recipes vary dramatically by region with over 3000 different types found in Peru. The refreshing dish has a distinctive tangy and spicy flavor profile.
12. Peru has hundreds of indigenous languages
While Spanish is the official language, indigenous languages are widely spoken across Peru. There are 47 officially recognized native languages belonging to 11 linguistic families. Quechua and Aymara are the most common with over 4 million speakers each. Many other indigenous Peruvian languages like Urarina and Yagua have only a few hundred speakers remaining. This diversity reflects Peru’s rich mix of native cultures.
13. The last Incan emperor was executed in Peru
The Spanish executed Emperor Atahualpa in 1533, marking the end of the once mighty Incan Empire. When Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro arrived in Peru, Atahualpa’s army vastly outnumbered the Europeans. Yet the Spanish managed to capture the emperor and hold him for ransom. After filling a room with gold and silver, the Spanish strangled Atahualpa anyways, allowing the Spanish conquest of Peru to proceed.
14. Peru is the original home of quinoa
Quinoa is now grown around the world as a nutritious gluten-free grain. But this superfood originated in the Andean highlands of Peru and Bolivia where it has been cultivated for over 5,000 years. Hundreds of varieties still grow across Peru and the grain remains an important staple food. UNESCO added the Peruvian cocina and its traditional use of quinoa to its Cultural Heritage List in 2018.
15. Peru has a famous painting that glows in the dark
The Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci has a fascinating glowing copy at the Basilica Cathedral in Lima. Marcos Zapata painted his role version of The Last Supper in the 17th century using a unique mixture of oil paint and crushed seashells. This allows the painting to glow in the dark when illuminated by the surrounding candles. The lime-based paint mixture creates an eerie effect not found in the original.
16. Peru is the birthplace of the Amazon River
The mighty Amazon River officially starts in the Acancocha mountain lake of the Aconquija Mountains in southern Peru. The Amazon River then flows over 4,000 miles east across South America to the Atlantic Ocean. At approximately 4,000 miles long, it is the second longest river in the world after the Nile River. The Amazon has over 1,100 tributaries and contains 20% of the world’s freshwater supply.
17. The country is home to fantastic wildlife
Exotic and rare wildlife inhabits Peru’s disparate ecosystems. Jaguars, llamas, macaws, giant otters, and endangered black beaked dolphins are just a few amazing species found in Peru. One famous animal is the Andean Condor which has a 10 foot wingspan. Peru’s diverse animal life reflects its biodiversity and conservation efforts. Spotting wildlife is a top draw for visitors.
18. Peru has a 9,900-year-old mummy
Archaeologists discovered the mummified remains of a 9,900-year-old person in Peru in 2022. The well-preserved body was wrapped in cloth with its internal organs intact. Nicknamed the “Lauricocha Mummy”, it is now the oldest known mummy in the Americas. The ancient mummy was found near Lima at a site over two miles above sea level. The find demonstrates early mummification practices in the region.
19. Peruvian cotton is world famous
Peru produces some of the highest quality cotton in the world. Pima cotton grows in the northern coastal valleys of Peru. The extra long staple fiber is exceptionally soft, smooth, strong, and luxurious. Luxury clothing brands like Brooks Brothers, Thomas Pink, and Ermenegildo Zegna all source Peruvian pima cotton for their fabrics. Peru is one of the top exporters of high-end cotton.
20. Peru has a major festival called Inti
Inti Raymi is a huge Incan religious celebration that takes places in Cusco every June 24th. The “Festival of the Sun” was used to observe the winter solstice on the shortest day of the year in the Southern Hemisphere. Tens of thousands gather at the ruins of Sacsayhuamán to reenact Incan rituals honoring their sun god Inti. Modern day celebrations involve costumes, music, dancing, and mock sacrifices to guarantee the sun’s return. Inti Raymi showcases Peru’s lively indigenous traditions.
21. The national sport is bull fighting
Peru’s national sport is bullfighting or la corrida de toros. Bullfighting has a long tradition in Peru dating back to the colonial era. The sport sees a matador skillfully dancing with and provoking the bull before deliver the final sword thrust. Major bullrings are found in Lima and provincial cities like Arequipa and Cajamarca. However, increasing controversy surrounds the sport today.
22. Peru has thousands of ancient geoglyphs called Nazca Lines
The mysterious Nazca Lines are a collection of thousands of geoglyphs etched into the desert plains in southern Peru. These UNESCO protected drawings depict animals, plants, imaginary beings, and geometric shapes up to 1,200 feet long. Scholars believe they were created by the Nazca culture between 500 BCE to 500 CE. The Nazca Lines purpose and meaning remains unknown today.
23. Peru is one of the world’s biggest cocaine producers
Unfortunately, Peru is one of the top three producers of cocaine worldwide along with Colombia and Bolivia. Coca plants have had cultural significance in Peru for millennia. However, illegal cocaine production has brought violence, environmental damage, and political corruption. Efforts are underway between the Peruvian government and other nations to curb trafficking and reduce production of this illicit drug.
24. Peru celebrates the largest Corpus Christi festival in the world
The city of Cusco hosts Peru’s enormous Corpus Christi celebration every year. The origins of the event date back to the 16th century and Spanish Colonial times. It features a week of elaborate religious processions, indigenous dances, fireworks, and multiple patron saints like the Virgin of Carmen and Christ of the Earthquakes. Upwards of 100,000 pilgrims and tourists come to observe Cusco’s remarkable festival.
25. Over 3000 varieties of potatoes grow in Peru
As mentioned before, Peru is the birthplace of the potato with over 3,000 types growing across the Andean highlands. Oca, olluco, mashua, and papalisa are a few other tubers cultivated by indigenous farmers. Potatoes come in a striking array of colors from yellow and blue to red and black. Peruvian potato varieties have intriguing local names like Peruanita, Puma Makin, and Andean Sunrise.
26. The Lord of Miracles mural is the world’s biggest religious painting
A mural depicting the Lord of Miracles in Lima is certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest religious painting. The colorful image shows Jesus Christ emerging from an oval with a wooden cross. It was first painted in 1651 and has undergone several restorations. Measuring over 10,000 square feet, the crowdsourced mural takes over a month to complete.
27. Sandboarding is popular on Peru’s desert dunes
Adventure seekers can try sandboarding down the enormous sand dunes along Peru’s desert coastline. Miles of golden sand dunes rise up to heights of over 1,600 feet tall at places like Huacachina and Nazca. Sandboards resemble snowboards but with soft “fins” underneath instead of edges. Riders cruise, carve, and even jump these monstrous dunes. It’s an exhilarating outdoor activity you can only find in Peru.
28. The national bird is the Andean cock-of-the-rock
The vibrant Andean cock-of-the-rock is Peru’s dazzling national bird. Males have a distinctive orange-red plumage and prominent disk-shaped crests on their heads. These unique birds make their homes along rocky Andean riverbanks and feed on fruits and insects. Hikers can spot the Andean cock-of-the-rock during treks in cloud forests like Manu National Park. Seeing Peru’s national bird in the wild is a special treat.
29. Peru has a popular chicken and rice dish called Arroz con pollo
No list of Peru facts is complete without mentioning the iconic national dish arroz con pollo. This meal of chicken and rice stewed with vegetables is popular comfort food. Recipes vary across the regions from using beer in Lima style to spicy aji peppers in Arequipa. Other ingredients like green olives, cilantro, peas, and Parmesan cheese add complementary flavors. Arroz con pollo reflects Peru’s diverse cuisine.
30. The Amazon River has pink dolphins
An endangered species of freshwater dolphin called the Amazon River dolphin lives in Peru’s Amazon. These beautiful pink dolphins inhabit river channels and lakes in the lush rainforest. They have a distinctive bubblegum color due to blood capillaries near their skin and can turn themselves upside down when hunting prey. Seeing Peru’s exotic pink dolphins swimming alongside your boat is a magical experience.