I think as a country, Peru literally has it all; beauty, a deep rich history, mystery, adventure, dramatic and diverse landscapes, unimaginable architectural feats, wildlife, bright vibrant people and clothing, and amazing food, quite arguably the best food in the world! Chefs from Paris and across the globe fly to Lima and Cusco, Peru to learn tips from the masters about cooking and growing their own ingredients. The best part about it all is that a lot of their agricultural practices haven’t changed in 2,000 years, but that is also part of the charm of Peru.
The Peruvians pride themselves in their diversity and they work hard to sustain their cultural practices, some which date back 1,000 years before the Incas. What I learned from my many trips to the far corners of Peru is how quickly the people adapt to their surroundings. This country is so diverse and magical with plants and creatures not found anywhere else on Earth, and people living on floating grass islands and in trees houses, shamans and medicine men still using the energy of Mother Earth as their guide, Women living in high altitude farming in amazing traditional costumes and top hats with pet llamas, incomprehensible ancient ruins and desert glyphs in far remote places, the largest sand dunes in the world that used to be the bottom of a vast ocean, beautiful coastal towns with the best seafood you have ever tasted, beautiful European-style cities like Cusco, and the list goes on!
So I thought it would be fun to compile a list of 50 fun facts about my favorite country that you probably don’t know and I guarantee after reading it you will want to hop on the next plane down to South America to see Peru for yourself!
Here are the first 10 to get you started!
1. Forget the Sahara Desert, Peru actually has the highest sand dune in the World!
Cerro Blanco sand dune, located in the Sechura Desert in the south of Peru, measures 3,860 feet from the base to the summit. It towers over the quaint desert oasis town, Huacachina, and the best part of all is that you can ride dune buggies for hours and up to the top of the dunes and then strap a board to your feet and sand board down it all the way to the town below!
2. There are over 3,000 different varieties of Potato grown in Peru
The potato is originally from Peru, and there are over 3,000 different varieties. Proud Peruvians use the phrase “Soy mas Peruano que la papa” (I am more Peruvian than the potato). Modern scientists are even reverting back to Ancient Peruvian planting methods in order to prevent strains of genetically modified potatoes from losing their resistance to famine.
3. Spanish is not the only language spoken in Peru
There are 3 official languages in Peru: Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara, but east of the Andes in Amazon jungle regions it is thought that natives speak 13 different indigenous languages.
4. Machu Picchu is of the New Seven Wonders of the World
The lost city of Machu Picchu, one of the most famous landmarks in Peru, was voted in 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Rediscovered in 1911 by explorer, professor, and archaeologist Hiram Bingham, the site of the historic Incan civilization rests on a mountain ridge almost 8,000 feet above sea level in the Sacred Valley. You can only hike in or take a train and then a bus, but there is no easy way to get there which makes it even more impossible to believe that the whole site was built by hand over a mile up in the mountains when most people struggle to merely walk up the stairs carrying only a camera and a water bottle. This may be the most magical place on Earth, forget Disneyland. It takes your breath away to be in the presence of such an unbelievable testament to human capability.
5. The Largest Flying Bird on Earth can be found in Peru, The Giant Andean Condor
If you really want to see landscapes that look like the moon, take a quick jumper flight to Arequipa and then a bus ride over the towering Andes Mountains to Colca Canyon. You will see huge volcanoes, wild llamas grazing, and the largest bird on Earth, the Giant Andean condor. Colca Canyon is home to the largest bird in the world, standing up to 4 feet high with a wingspan of up to 14 feet! Despite weighing up to 27 pounds, the bird can fly for hours without using its wings. Native to the Andes, it was considered a sacred bird by the Incas, but is now listed as “vulnerable” by the World Conservation Union.
6. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world with an elevation of 11,436 feet
Straddling the border of Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest lake, but not the largest. Lake Titicaca is significantly smaller than the lakes in Great Lakes in North America, but what makes it so unique is that underneath the surface, Jacques Cousteau discovered ruins of an ancient city, and descendants of the Quechua People still live on islands in the lake today!
7. The Mysterious Nasca Lines can be seen from the air over Peru
Peru’s Nazca Lines, a collection of more than 70 giant human and animal geoglyphs, were first noticed from the air in 1927. Strung along the high desert plateau between Nazca and Palpa, this collection of lines comprising more than 70 human figures and animals and 10,000 lines (with some lines running up to 30 miles long!), remain one of the world’s greatest archaeological mysteries. The TV show, Ancient Aliens, seems to think it was an alien landing strip, where German mathematician and astronomer Maria Reiche believed they were sophisticated astral charts and part of a huge astronomical calendar used by the native people as a way to commune with the gods.
8. Peru holds the world records for the maximum number of birds sighted in one place and the greatest number seen in a single day!
Peru ranks as second in the world for hosting the most bird species (over 1,800) and over 50% of the migrating birds in the Americas fly over Peru at some point each year. This world record was recorded in the Reserva Nacional de Tambopata and Parque Nacional del Manú, in the Amazon.
9. Peru has the longest left-handed wave in the world!
The Northern coast of Peru is a surfer’s paradise, thanks to the twin towns of Chicama and Mancora near Trujillo city. Chicama boasts the world’s longest left-handed wave measuring 4km, while Mancora lays claim to hosting the largest left-handed point break. Peru’s tradition of surfing goes back 2,000 years, according to friezes found in sites along the Peruvian coasts that depict humans seeming to surf.
10. The Pisco Sour is Peru’s national drink
Pisco is made from Peruvian grape brandy and is mixed with lemons, sugar water, egg whites, ice and finished with bitters to make a Pisco Sour. This cocktail is said to have been invented by an American bartender, Victor Vaughn Morris, in the early 1920s in Lima, and now a “lighter, healthier” version can be ordered without the egg whites and with a little bit of soda water called a Chilcano.
Stay tuned for Part 2 & 3!