Last week we shared our first installment of Fun Facts that you Probably Never Knew about Peru. We learned that Peru is home to the largest sand dune and the longest left-handed wave in the world, but that's not all! We've gathered up some other incredible facts about this must-see country!
People still mine Salt in the Way of the Incas
Since pre-Inca times, salt has been collected in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream. The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds.
As water evaporates from the sun-warmed ponds, the salt crystallizes around the edges of the ponds. Even today, you will see different families dressed in traditional clothing and some in top hats sifting the water for salt. Each family has their own salt pond that is managed by them and has been passed down to them for generations since the Incan times.
The Ancient Incas created the first census
The Incas had no formal system of writing. Instead, they developed a system of record-keeping using a complicated system of knots called quipus. Made out of wool or cotton strings fastened at one end to a cross cord, each quipu was different from the other in size or color. Each simple or compound knot and its size and color represented details of crop measures, thefts, debt, and even events.
There are 90 different micro-climates in Peru
Peru has the most diverse landscapes of any country I have ever been to making it one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet and my favorite EVER to visit and photograph. Thanks to the abundant rainforests and 90 distinct microclimates, Peru counts among the 10 most biologically diverse countries in the world. It is home to 25,000 plant species (10% of the world’s total) and close to 5,000 species of fish and animals. It ranks first in the world in terms of distinct fish species, second for birds, and third place for both amphibians and mammals. In fact, the Manu National Park in southeastern Peru recently set a biodiversity record after more than 1,000 species of birds, 1,200 species of butterflies and 287 species of reptiles were found in the park.
Guinea Pigs are a delicacy to Eat in Peru
The Cuy, or Guinea Pig, is a traditional dish eaten in Peru during important festivals and is served crispy complete with head, legs, and eyes. It is healthier and has a lot more protein and less fat than llama meat.
You can hike up a Rainbow Mountain in Peru
Vinicunca Mountain (Rainbow Mountain) in Peru is one of these places where travelers have yet to discover. It is a secret that has been kept so well there is no information about it. The journey to get there will take you a minimum of 6 days to complete. It is a high-altitude adventure from snow-capped peaks, to neon red desert mountains, to marshy meadows. The real reward, however, is when you arrive at the painted hills hidden deep in the Andes, resembling a rainbow. The best part is at the end of the hike you are rewarded with a soak in natural hot springs. This is a destination not to be missed for any adventure seeker.
The Amazon River is the longest river in the world and it starts in Peru!
The Amazon river starts up high in the Peruvian Andes near Machu Picchu and ends in the Atlantic Ocean over 3,278 miles from its source. At its mouth, it is a massive 186 miles wide. It has two seasons; the wet and the dry, and water levels can fluctuate 30 feet between the two seasons. This mighty river was named by Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana during his epic voyage in 1542.
You can tell the relationship status of a Native Quechua woman by their hat
Married women wear straw hats, where single women wear knitted caps. Simple right? The Quechua people still practice trial marriage in Peru, where women and men choose partners and can end their relationship whenever they so wish. The woman is free to marry again at any time, and the children resulting from the union are regarded as belonging to the community instead of the couple.
Peru used to be the world leader in exporting bird droppings
At one point in the mid-1800s, Peru was the world leader in terms of guano (bird droppings) production and export. Just like France and England, Peru saw the value of the guano as a natural fertilizer.
Peru grows more than 55 varieties of corn
When you go to a market in Peru, you can just about find corn in any color including yellow, purple, white and black. Famous for their giant kernels, most restaurants and bars served roasted corn to munch on at the table when you first sit down.
Peru is home to the Puya Raimondii, the world’s tallest flowering plant
Towering over humans, a bromeliad, (a relative of the pineapple) can take up to a century or more to bloom. In full bloom, each plant flaunts up to 8,000 white flowers resembling lilies. It blooms only once in its lifetime and then dies.
You can rock climb up to and sleep in the World’s First Hanging Lodge
Thrill-seeking travelers can now stay in Skylodge Adventure Suites, a trio of transparent pods that have been housing intrepid travelers since 2013.
Only accessible by climbing, or zip-lining, the trip to get up to your cliffside hotel room take 3 to 4 hours each way! Each hanging bedroom is suspended on a rock face 1,312 feet above the Sacred Valley in Cusco, Peru.
Peru has the second largest amount of Shamans in the world, second only to India
Shamanism has been popular in Peru for over 3,000 years. Since most of the Peruvian population cannot afford or don’t have access to doctors or Western medical care, many people, especially natives, turn to a shaman’s healing art, or curandero, a rural spiritual healer. Most shamans use hallucinogenic drugs, such as ayahuasca in their healing.
Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru is actually the deepest canyon in the world
Near the city of Arequipa, Cotahuasi Canyon has a depth of nearly 10,605 feet, which is twice the depth of the Grand Canyon!
Quechua people live on floating grass islands in the middle of Lake Titicaca
On Lake Titicaca high in the Andes mountains, there are 50 floating man-made grass islands that make up Uros where the Quechua people have lived in peace and solitude for centuries. The people we call Incas called themselves Quechua, which is also the name given to the language they spoke. The Quechua people originally created these islands by bringing local mud that floats and stacking layers of reeds on top of the mud. They spend their days cutting grass to layer on the islands so they won’t sink, making things out of grass, weaving vibrant colorful skirts and clothing, and fishing to feed their families. Their only contact with the outside world is a small floating “convenience store” stocked with snacks and sodas and the tourists that stop by to visit. It is fascinating to see how these people live and you can even do a homestay with a family and immerse yourself completely in their floating way of life.
Peru is the 6th largest producer of gold
Peru produces over 162 tons of gold a year, worth over 7 trillion dollars!
Two-thirds of Peru is covered in prime Amazon Rain Forest
The Amazon Rainforest to me has always been sort of a mythical, exotic place I had heard about first as a young child. I had always been told stories about the rare species of plants and animals that can only be found there and have magical healing properties. With all of its beauty, power, and wonder, the Amazon also has its dark side. No one has escaped the tales of what lives within its dark waters like piranhas, electric eels, anacondas, giant river otters and so many more creatures you would never think to swim with. Since there are no roads to get to most of their villages, the only way to get around is by boat or on foot. When the rivers rise, people have adapted to migrating to the second story of their stilted wooden homes just like how the animals retreat higher into the canopy of the trees.
There are Penguins in Peru!
Yep, Peru and South Africa are two places I never thought I would see Penguins chillin’ on the beach, but here they are! If you take a boat out to the marine reserve in Paracas, Peru, you will see tons of adorable penguins who must have gotten lost years ago from Antarctica and decided that Peru was definitely the best place to be!
Peruvian Coati Dung Coffee is the most expensive in the world
Peru is now making one of the most expensive coffees in the world by picking arabica beans out of the dung of a long-nosed jungle critter called the coati, a tropical cousin of the raccoon. Chanchamayo Highland Coffee is the second Peruvian venture to copy a rare technique that harnesses a mammal's digestive tract to strip bitter-tasting proteins from coffee beans. After the creatures eat ripe coffee cherries, the growers wash, roast and export the beans that emerge partially fermented, but whole, in the animals' scat.
In doing so, the Peruvians are catering to the whims of global coffee consumers willing to pay anywhere from $20 to $65 for a cup of the odd treat!
Some places in the Atacama coastal desert of Peru are incredibly dry
So dry, in fact, that they have received just 1 inch of rain in the past 30 years.
The oldest mummy of a human was found here in this desert.
The majority of the word's alpaca population live in Peru
There are 10 million alpacas in the world, and three-quarters of them live in Peru!
Stay tuned for Part 3 of our favorite fun facts about Peru!
If you missed Part 1, catch up here!