Peru is the third largest country in South America, roughly twice the size of France.
62% of Peru’s landmass is actually in the Amazon basin. The relatively narrow desertified coastal strip is home to 40% of the population.
Between the two lies the sierra taking up 26% of the landmass of Peru. The sierra is basically the Andes or Andean pleateau so is very high – the average altitude is 3,000m.
This diversity means that Peru is home to 84 of earth’s 104 ‘life zones’.
Peru has converted 13% of its territory into Protected Natural Areas in which live 20% of the world’s birds and 10% of the world’s reptiles.
There are nine national parks, seven national reserves, three national and historical sanctuaries, two reserve zones and an increasing number of forest reserves.
Weather in Peru
This applies to Cusco, Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. The driest months are May to September, although even in these months it can rain. It can get hot during the day in the strong sunlight with temperatures of 20°c -25°c.
Conversely the altitude means very cold nights, sometimes below zero. November to April is the wet season with temperatures being on average 18°c.
Summertime is from December to April when the temperature is from 25°-35°c on the coast. The rest of the year the temperature drops and it is usually overcast and misty – not usually very lovely weather.
November to April is the wetter season with frequent heavy rain, humid with temperatures of around 25°-30°c.
From May to October it is a little dryer with clearer skies and less humidity but it gets very hot.
The weather in Puno and Lake Titicaca is mostly dry and quite cold year-round as it is inland and at high altitude (around 3,800m).
The average temperature is around 8ºc, with a maximum of 15ºc and a minimum of 1ºc in winter.
Arequipa and Colca
Arequipa has a famously pleasant and stable climate.
From January to March you have a mild rainy season but other than that clear sunny days are the norm with temperatures ranging from 10°c to 25°c.
Colca has more in common with climate in the Andes.
The dry season runs from April to November during which time temperatures usually fall to below zero at night and reach 15°c – 20°c during the daytime.
The rainy season runs from December to March and temperatures are more moderate, varying between 5°c and 15°c.
The terrain of Peru is challenging today, let alone in the distant past. Navigating between the three main zones of the country has always been difficult which has limited information exchange and spoken history between peoples.
Add to this impentrable jungle, intense seismic activity and flash flooding and you have an environment in which much of archaeological interest simply doesn’t last.
And then there are the conquistadors…
The lack of written language means that the first detailed written accounts of Peru come from the Spanish chroniclers who were not necessarily terribly subjective.
The Spaniards in turn got most of their information from the previous dominant culture – the Inca. The Inca were an agressively expansionist lot at that time so their oral histories were not terribly kind about their predecessors.
And then there are the looters – a vertiable industry grew up in the 19th and 20th centuries looting archaeological sites to feed the insatiable appetite of European and north American collectors and institutions.
Despite all of this, Peru retains some of the richest precolombian sites in the Americas, including the most
famous of them all, Machu Picchu.
It isn’t just about the Inca though. Peru has been inhabited for around 20,000 years with the earliest evidence of settlements being around 5,000 years old.
Around 2,000 years ago the Paracas-Nazca people were producing the Nazca lines in the desert to the south of modern day Lima.
These 32 giant outlines of animals and abstract geometric designs in the open desert range in size from 40m to over 180m and can only be properly viewed from the air.
To this day nobody knows how or why they were made.
At the same time, some 1,000km to the north, the Moche people were building the great adboe pyramids of the Sun and the Moon in the Valley of Chicama.
Somewhat later the Chimu people built the enormous adobe city of Chan Chan. Around 2 of the original 23 square kilometre expanse of the city still stand.
Peruvian food is famously good, not just within Latin America but increasingly worldwide.
The three distinct zones (coast, plains, Amazon) produce a profusion of top quality ingredients. The wonderfully varied ethnic mixture brings them all to life.
It is in Lima that you will find the greatest profusion of high quality restaurants but in fact it is hard to get a bad meal in Peru nowadays.
Even when walking the Inca Trail, Pura Aventura’s chefs produce some remarkably good food!