Did you know the Andean Condor found in Peru is the largest flying bird on earth? Or that three-quarters of the world's alpaca population live in Peru. Or even that you can swim with beautiful pink dolphins in the Amazon? Read on to discover more interesting facts...
- Peru is home to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World
Arguably the most famous landmark in Peru, Machu Picchu was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the world in 2007. At an elevation of 2,450 metres it has the most spectacular setting of any ruin in the world – even those who aren’t normally excited by archaeology will be impressed. This Lost City of the Incas is a place everyone must see at least once.
- There are 43 native languages spoken in Peru
While Spanish is the official language of Peru, there are actually as many as 43 native languages spoken in Peru, including Quechua, Aymara, Shipibo, Ashaninka and Agurauna.
- Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world
At an elevation of 3,812 metres Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. Around the shoreline and islands on the lake, primitive indigenous villages and small towns can be seen. The reed boats made by the indigenous people and many of their ceremonies are popular sights for tourists. The Andean people refer to the lake as “The Sacred Lake”, thanks to the legend that states it is the place where the great god Viracocha appeared, walking across the waters.
- The Amazon River begins in Peru!
Arguably the world’s longest river, the Amazon river begins its journey high up in the Peruvian Andes near Machu Picchu. From here, it snakes it’s way across the continent for more than 6,000km before coming to an end in the Atlantic ocean.
- You can swim with pink dolphins in the Amazon
These unique creatures only live in the Amazon River basin! When born, they are actually gray and slowly turn pink as they get older, which results in dolphins in all different shades of pink. Having the opportunity to get up close and personal and swim with these friendly, ‘magical’ animals is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
- The Amazon Rain Forest covers almost two thirds of Peru
The Peruvian Amazon is quite literally Peru’s biggest tourist attraction – taking up a whopping 60% of the country! It is rich in biodiversity, with more than 700 types of ferns and 7,300 different species of flowering plants. And not to mention the rainforest is also home to roughly 180 species of reptiles, 260 amphibians, 290 mammals, 700 fish, 800 birds and 2,500 butterflies. Quite unlike any other place on earth, it’s easy to see why it is a tourist hotspot!
- ‘Alien Skulls’ have been found in Peru
Back in 1928, native archaeologist Julio Tello discovered a mass grave on the desert peninsula of Paracas, of what was thought to be aliens due to their abnormally elongated skull shape compared to normal human skulls. Nowadays, most historians say it was caused by artificial cranial deformation, a practice common to many South American tribes. Believed to have been done for aesthetic reasons and to symbolise nobility, they would press newborn’s heads in between wooden boards to create this long skull shape.
- People still mine salt in the way of the Incas
In the small town of Maras in the Sacred Valley, locals still use an ancient custom of evaporating water from a local subterranean stream to mine salt from pre-Inca salt ponds. Each family has their own salt pond which has been passed down from generation to generation since the Incan times. Known for producing its famous pink salt, these incredible terraced salt ponds are also now a tourist attraction in their own right.
- Three-quarters of the world’s alpaca population live in Peru
With the total global population estimated at 10 million, that means there are more than 7.5 million alpacas in Peru. No wonder there are so many at Machu Picchu!
- The Andean Condor is the largest flying bird on Earth
The Andean condor has a wingspan of up to 3.2 metres and stands at up to 1.2 metres high! Their huge size makes them quite heavy (up to 15kgs), which is why they prefer to live in windy areas, like Peru’s Colca Canyon, where they can glide on the air currents for hours with minimal effort.
- The 'White City' of Arequipa is built from volcanic stone
Surrounded by four imposing volcanoes, Arequipa is known as the ‘white city’ due to it’s unique architecture – consisting mostly of a white volcanic stone called sillar. After a devastating earthquake in the 19th century, the city was rebuilt using plenty of the same white stone to maintain it’s beauty and name of the ‘white city’.
- Guinea pig is a local delicacy
The guinea pig, or cuy as it is known in Peru, is a traditional Peruvian dish which is served crispy complete with head, legs and eyes. While not something you would usually see in Australia, it is something you may want to try at a local chicheria along with a glass of chicha (a popular local drink) when visiting Peru.
- The Uros Islands in Lake Titicaca are made from floating grass
The Uros Islands are an incredibly unique attraction in Peru. What makes them so unique is the material used to create them – reeds that are found in Lake Titicaca are used for the foundation. They are bound and connected by ropes, then anchored by logs which go deep into the bottom of the lake bed. The main activities of the people who live here are fishing, weaving and handicrafts, which are then sold to visitors.
- The Spanish built on top of the Incan buildings
When the Spanish conquistadors came to Peru in the 1530s, the Spaniards took over most of the Inca people’s cities and literally built their churches and homes directly on top of the Inca’s temples and homes. It is for this reason there is such contrast in the Architecture today, with many buildings having a stone bottom floor thanks to the Incas, and then featuring Colonial-style second floors with stucco and archways thanks to the Spaniards.
- It can take up to 600 hours to create a traditional Peruvian poncho
Weaving is one of the oldest traditions in the world, and has been an important part of Peruvian culture for as long as it has been around. It’s estimated to take around 500 to 600 hours to spin, dye and weave a traditional Peruvian poncho, which is generally given to a local when entering adulthood and expected to last a lifetime. The style, colour and woven designs are distinctly different between communities, and can be used to identify where someone is from at just a glance.