OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Peru
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Constitutional republic
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Spanish, Quechua
MONEY: Nuevo Sol
AREA: 1,285,216 square kilometres
MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Andes
MAJOR RIVERS: Amazon, Ucayali, Madre de Dios
Peru is the third largest country in South America, after Brazil and Argentina. It is made up of a variety of landscapes, including mountains, deserts, rainforests and beaches. Most people live along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, where the capital, Lima, is located. Peru shares borders with five countries - Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile.
Along Peru's west coast is a narrow strip of desert 2,500km long. This region only makes up around 10 percent of the country, but it is home to more than half of the country’s population. The coastal desert was first inhabited thousands of years ago by Ancient people called the Chimú and the Nasca.
Nearly half of Peru is covered by the world’s largest rainforest - the Amazon. As well as thousands of fascinating plant and animal species, this huge jungle is home to hundreds of Amerindian tribes, some of which may never have seen the outside world!
The Andes mountains - the world’s second highest mountain range - run through Peru, from north to south. These beautiful snow capped peaks are popular with tourists who enjoy hiking and trekking. Peru’s tallest mountain is Mount Huascarán, measuring a massive 6,768m tall. Wow!
PEOPLE & CULTURE
The people of Peru are a diverse mix of different cultures, including indigenous people, Spaniards and other Europeans, descendants of African slaves and Asians. Until recently, most people lived in the countryside, but now more than 70 percent live in cities. Most Peruvians follow the Catholic religion introduced by the Spanish in the 16th century.
Because it has so many different ecosystems, Peru is home to a wider variety of plants and animals than most other countries on Earth. For many reasons, Peruvians have not had as much of an impact on their natural world as many other countries, and so much of these ecosystems have been undisturbed.
Did you know that in just one square kilometre of Peruvian rainforest, there are more than 6,000 kinds of plants? Amazing, huh? What’s more, the Amazon rainforest - which spans across Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana - is home to hundreds of species that aren’t found anywhere else on Earth!
On the Pacific Coast, many interesting plant and animal species have adapted to the dry desert climate. Off the coast, the waters are cool and have a low salt content due to what’s known as the Peru Current (or Humboldt Current). These waters nourish huge numbers of small fish, which in turn provide food for bigger fish and seabirds.
Peru's mountains support special types of grasses and plants, providing food for mammals like llamas, alpacas and vicuñas. One plant that grows in the Andes, the puya raimondi, grows for a hundred years before blooming!
GOVERNMENT & ECONOMY
Peru has a President and a national government who run the country. Presidents are elected by the people and serve for five-year terms. Peruvians are required to vote by law.
Peru is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. Gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead and iron are found across the country, and there are reserves of oil and natural gas, too. Even so, jobs there can be very hard to find, and Peru remains one of the world's poorest countries.
Peru's earliest inhabitants date back to more than 13,000 years ago. Beginning around 1000BC, several societies developed in different parts of Peru, including the Chavín, Moche and Nazca.
One of the most important Peruvian cultures was the Inca, who lived in Peru around 600 years ago. Their capital, Cusco, is still a major city today. The Incas also built Machu Picchu (above), a famous ancient city in the Andes. Today, Machu Picchu's spectacular ruins are a popular site for tourists. The Incas thrived for centuries before being conquered by the Spanish in 1532.