Fun Facts About Peru

Over the last two weeks, we've shared our favorite "Fun Facts that you Probably Never Knew about Peru" Parts one and two! Here you will find our final installment of incredible facts about this magical country!

Peru has the ugliest dog in the World

Peruvian Inca Orchid

The Peruvian Inca Orchid is one of those dogs that is so ugly, it’s cute. It’s got a hairless, often spotted body and a tuft of white or grey hair on top of its head, making it look like a funny old man. This breed is often 20 inches in height, weighs about 20 pounds and lives upwards of 10 years. They are quite affordable at a cost of $500 for a puppy and are known to be affectionate and gentle. This is a breed that is more intelligent than most and is often used as an obedience, hunting or sighting dog.

The coca plant has many healthy uses in Peru

coca leaves peru

The coca plant has been getting a bad rap since the 1980’s when people figured out you could make cocaine with it.  In Peru, the coca plant has been used for thousands of years in the Andean world, mainly for its medicinal properties and religious significance. Coca leaves have been used as a stimulant to overcome fatigue, hunger, and thirst and they are particularly effective against altitude sickness. The effects of the coca leaf were discovered in Europe during the 19th century, when a promising German grad student, Albert Niemann, was able to isolate the active ingredient of coca, which he named cocaine.

The Incan Kings may have started the first relay race

incan king relay race

At its peak, the Incan Empire was larger than imperial Rome and boasted 24,855 miles of roads. A network of chasquis, or runners, kept the kingdom connected, relaying fresh-caught fish and food from the coast, hundreds of miles inland and high up into the mountains in Cuzco within 24 hours so the Incan Kings could have fresh seafood on their dinner plates.

The Incas took astronomy seriously

incan astronomy peru

The Incas were the only ancient culture in the world to define constellations of darkness as well as light. Some of Cuzco’s main streets are even designed to align with the stars at certain times of the year.  Somehow, the ancient Incas understood our heavens so intricately that in Machu Picchu each sun temple and ritual stone line up perfectly with the sun for their corresponding solstices even from opposing mountaintops.

Cusco in Peru was the most important city in the whole of the Incan Empire

cusco city peru

The empire used to govern as far north as Quito in Ecuador and as far south as Santiago in Chile.

El Niño was named after Jesus

el nino peru water

The warm-water equatorial current, El Niño, is named after El Niño Jesus, or Baby Jesus, because it arrives on the coast of Peru every year around Christmas

One of the worst years for El Niño was in 1983 when torrential rains began in Peru’s north on January 4th and didn’t stop until the middle of July.

The Andes Mountains are the second-highest mountain range in the world, after the Himalayas

Mt. Huarascán Andes Peru

Mt. Huarascán is the highest point in Peru at 22,204 feet high and is part of the western Andes. It is also the fourth-highest peak in South America.  Peru’s Huascarán National Park has more has 27 snow-capped peaks 19,685 feet above sea level.

Before a Peruvian couple can marry, they must enter a period of Servancy

peruvian couple

The period of "sirvinacuy," meaning to serve one another, sounds nice until you realize that it means the woman works with her mother-in-law and the man with his father-in-law. This is seen as a test of their readiness for marriage. During this time, they may sleep together under the same roof, usually with the man’s family, and the couple usually doesn’t marry until they conceive a child, showing their union is fruitful.

The sacred city of Caral-supe is thought to be the oldest site occupied by humans discovered in the Americas

Caral-supe peru

Just a few hours north of Lima, is the sacred city of Caral-supe. Its 1,546-acre site dates back 5,000 years, 3,000 years before Christ!

You can stay in a Treehouse Hotel in the Peruvian Amazon

treehouse hotel peru

This was one of the most unique hotel experiences I have ever had. 90% of all life in the rain forest is found in the treetops, so literally you are living in the richest plant and animal habitat on Earth when you stay in a private bungalow in the Treehouse Lodge.  Every morning you wake up to the symphony of exotic birds and monkeys while in the comfort of your canopy bed in your gravity-defying tree house home. Each of their bungalows is connected by suspension bridges sometimes as high as 70 feet up in the trees and are each equipped with bathrooms, showers, comfortable beds, and electricity.  I finally got to live out my Swiss Family Robinson fantasy of living and climbing around in a tree house!

Camu-Camu fruit is one of the world’s best superfoods

camu camu fruit peru

The Camu-Camu fruit (Myrciaria dubia) grows in the Amazon rainforest in Peru and has the highest vitamin C concentration of any food, about 60 times that of an orange.

Peru is home to the oldest university in the Americas

oldest university in Peru

The National University of San Marcos is the oldest in the Americas and was founded on the 12th of May of 1551.

The national tree of Peru is the Cinchona

At least six species of the Cinchona grow in Peru. The tree gets its name from the Countess of Cinchon, wife of the Viceroy of Peru. In 1683, she came down with malaria, but she recovered after being treated with a tea made from the bark of the Cinchona tree, which contains quinine. Quinine is an important medicine in treating Malaria.

Ancient Peruvians would often bury food with their dead

sacrifice to Pachamama peru

Ancient Peruvians believed that it would help their dead loved ones sustain them on their journey to the next life. The Aymara, who live around Lake Titicaca, still stuff coca leaves in potatoes and bury them as a sacrifice to Pachamama, or Mother Earth.

By about 3,000 B.C., almost every weaving technique known today had been invented by the Peruvians

Peru Weave

It is estimated that the time it takes to spin, dye, and weave a traditional Peruvian poncho is around 500 to 600 hours over a period of as much as six months. Peruvians are generally given one poncho upon entering adulthood, and it is expected to last a lifetime.

Peruvians still perform an ancient form of masked “Capac Qolla” dance that is a “right of passage” for young boys

Capac Qolla Peru

I happened to come across this dance on the side of the road outside of Cusco and had to stop and take photos.  There was a troop of men and young boys all dressed in masks with woven llamas slung over their shoulders whipping themselves, literally, into a frenzy.  There was music, dancing, drinking, and whipping going on while a clown-like character, called an ukuku, passed out fermented strawberry juice and made sure the crowd was laughing, drunk and happy.  This dance dates back to ancient times when the rich merchants would come down from the highlands to sell their goods.  The dancers are emulating them almost as though they want to graduate from a poor farm boy, into a rich, successful merchant. The young boys have to whip each other over and over on their legs until the ukuku decides to finally break it up!  It gets intense, and some of the older men showed me their scars on their legs from this dance!

You can see the history of Peru in their architecture

peru architecture

During the Spanish conquest of Peru in 1536, the Spaniards literally took over most of the Incan people’s homes and cities (like Cusco) and built their churches directly on top of their temples, their homes directly on top of their Incan stone dwellings, and pillaged and plundered their way across the Sacred Valley stealing treasures and using their thousand year old stone temples as rock quarries to build their new Spanish empire.

peru architecture

So in modern-day Cusco, part of the beauty is this contrast of the Incan architecture with the Spanish Colonial-style architecture.  Usually, the first floor is always stone and the second floor is Spanish colonial with stucco and archways.  You can almost imagine what the Incan city used to look like.

Alien mummy skulls have been discovered off the coast of Paracas, Peru

ancient aliens Paracas

The reason why the TV Show Ancient Aliens thinks these mummy skulls are alien is because they are abnormally long and deformed compared to human skulls.  An entire mass grave of over 400 skulls was found buried near an ancient symbol of a candelabra carved into the cliffside in Paracas and no one knows who they were, why they are there, and what the candelabra symbol means.

candelabra symbol paracas peru

Some historians say that it was the practice of some Inca people to press their newborn’s heads in between wooden boards to create this long skull shape.  They believe they did it for aesthetic reasons and that it symbolized that they were nobility.

You can swim with Pink Dolphins in Peru

pink dolphin peru

Yes, I know that means swimming in the water with many other Amazonian creatures that are not as friendly, but believe it or not, the only animals that seemed curious enough to get close to us were the elusive, yet beautiful pink dolphins. At first, it seemed like an episode of Fear Factor to get in the murky, brown waters of the Amazon river, but once we did it was magical to see these dolphins up close that don’t exist anywhere else on Earth.

swim amazon peru

There is a floating restaurant and swimming pool in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon River

floating restaurant peru

Al Frio y al Fuego is one of the most unique restaurants I have ever been to.  You have to take a small boat to get there and it is like a mini party oasis floating in the middle of the Amazon River.  Once there, you can sip cocktails, eat amazing, fresh, locally sourced cuisine, relax and sunbathe in their poolside cabanas, swim, or dance to the tunes the DJ is spinning.  It was fun just eating lunch and watching all of the activity of the boats and the way locals live passing you by on the river.

For more fun facts, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.