Peru is home to a traveller’s delight of landscapes, records of culture and history dating back thousands of years, and tons of opportunities to learn more about local cultures. Ready to learn more about this South American destination?
Then let’s go!
Did you know that if you travel to Peru you could see some of the world’s most well-known historical architectural features, like Machu Picchu, as well as plant and wildlife species found nowhere else on earth – like the Peruvian sundew?
All of this combined makes Peru one of the most interesting places to volunteer in South America.
And here are some of the most interesting facts about Peru!
General facts about Peru
1) There are three official languages
Spanish is the most widely spoken of the three, with over 80% of Peruvians speaking this language.
But these languages are only the tip of the linguistic iceberg in this South American country.
Once you travel towards the Amazon Jungle, the people local to this region speak an additional 13 languages. Impressive, right?
2) The capital city of Peru is Lima
Francisco Pizarro – a sixteenth-century Spanish coloniser – founded the city of Lima in 1535 to serve as the seat of power for the Spanish colonists.
Today, Lima is the only city in Peru with more than one million inhabitants.
Most visitors to Peru will skip Lima in their excitement to get to Cusco and Machu Picchu.
But, with so much on offer to travellers, visiting Lima is one of the best things to do in Peru.
Further reading: Four reasons to visit Lima when volunteering in Peru
3) The population of Peru is over 33 million
There are more than 33 million people currently living in Peru.
This population is made up of groups from different cultures and backgrounds – like the Andes mountain communities, and tribes living in the Amazon Rainforest.
These communities have inhabited the land for over five centuries.
Machu Picchu facts
Erected in the fourteenth century, Machu Picchu – a fortress built by the Incas – lies more than 2,000 metres above sea level.
The weathered Inca city was “lost” for over 400 years when Peru was taken over by westerners.
But, today, Machu Picchu is a designated United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
1) Machu Picchu is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World
Intrepid travellers flock to Peru every year to tackle the Inca Trail – a well-known four-day hiking trail on the Andes mountain range that leads to Machu Picchu.
And why is Machu Picchu so popular? Well, it’s one of the places where you can see tons of Inca architecture and learn heaps about Peruvian history.
In 2007, the site – often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas” – was voted in as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
This decision was made during a campaign by the New7Wonders foundation, and it only added to Machu Picchu’s appeal and attracted more tourists than ever before.
2) Machu Picchu is an astronomical observatory
Archaeologists have learned that the fourteenth century Incas had an excellent understanding of the alignment of the stars.
The civilization even built each sun temple, and the sacred Intihuatana stone, to line up with the sun for each solstice.
3) No wheels were used to build Machu Picchu
It’s believed that hundreds of men pushed rocks up the steep mountainside to build this wonder of the world.
This feat is made even more impressive considering that some stones weighed more than 55,000 kilograms.
Peru natural wonders facts
1) Peru has the highest sand dune in the world
The Cerro Blanco sand dune is the highest in the world, towering over the Sechura Desert at 1,176 metres.
The sand dune is located 14 kilometres east of Nazca, so excursions to see it are usually organised from there.
When you arrive at the dunes, you can hire a dune buggy or sandboard, and spend hours sliding down one of the largest natural wonders in the world.
2) Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest lake
Located between Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca has an elevation of 3,810 metres above sea level.
But that’s not the only thing that makes this natural wonder stand out.
In the 1970s Jacques Cousteau, a French conservationist, found ruins of a city beneath the surface of Lake Titicaca.
Today, the descendants of the Quechua people who called this lost city home, live on 120 self-made floating islands on the lake.
3) The deepest canyon in the world is in Peru
The Cotahuasi Canyon has a depth of 3,232 metres.
To put that in perspective, that’s twice the depth of the United States’ Grand Canyon.
If you want to visit this natural attraction after your volunteering program in Peru, all you need to do is head to the nearby city of Arequipa.
4) Peru is home to the mysterious Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are a display of more than 70 giant human and animal geoglyphs – works of art made by rearranging objects within a landscape.
These images are scrawled across the Peruvian terrain near the city of Lima.
They were first brought to the public’s attention by a Peruvian archaeologist in 1927.
Today, these lines in the desert plateau between Nazca and Palpa are considered one of the world’s greatest archaeological mysteries.
Some people believe that the Nazca Lines are an ancient alien landing strip, while others think it forms part of a sophisticated astronomical calendar.
Interesting facts about Peru’s food
Did you know that Peru is considered one of the top foodie destinations in the world?
Michelin-star chefs from many different countries fly to Lima and Cusco to learn how to master their trade.
Need more proof about Peru’s gastronomic clout?
Well, every year since 2012, the country has been named the World’s Leading Culinary Destination by the World Travel Awards.
1) You can eat over 3,000 varieties of potato in Peru
The potato is a superfood, containing almost every kind of vitamin you need. It’s birthplace? Peru.
2) Peru is home to one of the best superfoods in the world
Ever heard of the camu camu fruit?
It grows in the Amazon rainforest and has a higher concentration of vitamin C than any other food.
If you’re feeling a little jet lagged after arriving in Peru, stop by the local supermarket and give your immune system a much-needed boost!
3) Guinea pigs are food, not pets
If you’re volunteering in Peru during an important cultural festival, keep a lookout for cuy.
Cuy is a traditional dish that’s made from roasted guinea pig. The animal is served crispy and complete with head, legs, and eyes.
For the adventurous eaters that try this delicacy, it’s a healthier choice than llama meat, and it contains a great deal more protein.
4) Pisco sour is Peru’s national drink
Pisco sour is a Peruvian brandy that is mixed with lemons, sugar, water, egg whites, ice, and bitters.
Invented in the early 1920s by an American bartender, you can also try a version of the drink (called chilcano) that’s made without the egg whites.
Peru wildlife and flora facts
1) Peru has the world’s largest bird
The Andean condor is native to the Andes mountain range in Peru.
It weighs 12 kilograms, stands 1,2 metres high and has a wingspan of up to 4 metres long.
Despite its massive size, it’s able to fly for hours without flapping its wings.
These birds were considered sacred by the Incas, and were protected by this community.
But, these creatures have recently appeared on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
This is because farmers in Peru hunt the condors to prevent them from killing their livestock.
Another factor that affects their survival is pesticide poisoning in the food chain.
2) Peru is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world
One of the most interesting facts about Peru is that it has 90 different microclimates – climates that are restricted to a small area, and different from surrounding climates.
So it’s no wonder that the country is home to a wide variety of wildlife and plant species.
The best place to go to grasp the sheer range of its diversity is the Manu National Park.
This park holds a biodiversity record after recording more than 1,000 species of birds, 1,200 species of butterflies, and 287 species of reptiles in 2016.
3) The tallest flowering plant grows in Peru
The Puya raimondii stands at a height of five metres. It can take between 80 and 150 years to flower. Once it does, it can produce over 30 thousand white blooms.
The plant is only found in the high Andes, growing at an elevation of 3,000 to 4,800 metres above sea level.
4) Peru’s national tree is the Cinchona
The tree gets its name from the Countess of Chinchon.
The story goes that the wife of the Viceroy of Peru came down with malaria in 1683. She was given tea made from the bark of the Cinchona tree, and made a full recovery.
The bark of Cinchona trees contain an ingredient called quinine, and it’s still used today as a medicine for treating malaria.
Travel to Peru and make an impact
If you’re excited about seeing Peru’s attractions first-hand, you can easily turn this dream into a reality.
By volunteering in Peru, you’ll get to experience all that this country has to offer for yourself while participating in meaningful activities abroad.
Take a look at our award-winning volunteering programs in Peru, plan your trip to explore South America, and make a meaningful impact at the same time.