21 Phenomenal Facts About Peru You May Not Know!

Peruvian ladies

Peru is most famous for the ancient Incan site of Machu Picchu. But, when it comes to what this incredible country has to offer, that is just the tip of the iceberg! 

For example, did you know that around 4 million alpacas live in Peru? That’s a lot of cute fluffy faces! This list of facts about Peru will reveal fascinating lesser-known tidbits about this bucket-list destination. Trust us when we tell you, you’ll be booking that flight in no time!

So, without further delay, let’s dive into these fun facts about Peru! 

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21 Amazing Facts About Peru

1. 70% of the entire world’s alpaca population lives in Peru

Time for a Peruvian adventure? Alpaca my bags! 

For most of us, the quintessential image of Peru sees an alpaca looking out wistfully over Machu Picchu. But what has inspired this idealised image of the country? Well, Peru is actually home to 70% of the world’s entire alpaca population. That is nearly a whopping 4 million alpacas! 

People and alpacas in Yanque, close to Colca Canyon
Who wouldn’t love these fluffy guys?!

2. Peru is home to a cliff-hanging hotel

If you have a fear of heights, now is the time to look away! Allow me to introduce Natura Vive’s Skylodge Adventure Suites, Peru’s vertigo-inducing cliff-hanging hotel. Located a one and half hour climb above the Sacred Valley, these glass capsule pods include a communal dining room and three sleeping suites with a dry toilet and sink. 

The adventure isn’t over when you reach your capsule either! After a night spent hanging off the side of the cliff, the following day, you’ll have to descend the mountain. The only way to do this is via a series of safety holds and zip wires. 

This adrenaline-pumping experience won’t suit everyone but for those brave enough to face the journey – you’re sure to be rewarded! 

YouTube video

3. Cotahuasi Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world

Ever seen the Grand Canyon in the USA? If so, imagine that but more than twice as deep. Hard to comprehend, isn’t it? Well, Cotahuasi Canyon actually is this deep, cementing its status as one of the deepest canyons in the world. 

With a depth of 3,354 metres, this epic canyon is truly a sight to behold. For those wanting to visit, you don’t need a permit to enter the reserve. However, the area is much less visited than the more famous Colca Canyon in Peru and accommodation and restaurants in nearby Cotahausi town are more limited. 

Colca Canyon hiking
If you think Colca Canyon is deep, wait until you see Cotahuasi!

4. The Pisco Sour is the national drink of Peru

If you’re visiting Peru (or Chile for that matter), it is only a matter of time until you try Pisco. This spirit, most similar to brandy, is the national drink of both countries with disagreement still raging as to where it originated.

Head to Peru and you are most likely to sample this spirit in the cocktail known as the Pisco Sour. Made with a mix of pisco, sugar syrup, lime juice, bitters and an egg white, it might not sound appealing but is sure to get your lips smacking. Beware, Pisco Sour hangovers can be pretty intense..! 

Free pisco tasting board in Lima
Don’t miss the opportunity to try some Pisco Sours in Lima!

5. Machu Picchu is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World

Whether you hike the Inca Trail, head over the Salkantay Pass or simply get the train there, no trip to Peru is complete without a visit to Machu Picchu. Although known locally for centuries, it was the rediscovery of the site by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911 which catapulted this ancient citadel into public consciousness. 

Machu Picchu is one of the most intact pre-Colombian ruins ever discovered. As a result, the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ was added to the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007, which has only increased its evergrowing popularity. 

Inside Machu Picchu, there are a number of rules that you must follow and a long list of things you’re not allowed to do. A few of the most novel include undressing, clapping, leaning on walls, feeding the animals and singing.  

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu sign
Tourists visit the Inca Trail from all over the world so you are sure to make plenty of friends.

6. Peru is home to a super fruit

Peruvian fruit is the gift that just keeps on giving. Fancy something sweet? Not a problem. Looking for a citrus bite? Sorted. 

Native to the Amazon regions, camu camu is more than your average fruit. This sour berry is usually red or yellow and is said to taste like a mix of grapefruit, lime and cherry. It isn’t its deliciousness that makes it so interesting though. Camu camu is actually a superfood. 

It is believed to be an antioxidant and contains a staggering amount of vitamin C – 60 times more than you’ll find in an orange!

Ladies selling Peruvian fruit
Local fruit can be found all over the country so be sure to try as many as you can!

7. Local sales of Inca Kola outstripped Coca Cola for a while

Love it or loathe it, Peru’s lurid yellow soda is going nowhere. This quirky soda has become so popular with the Peruvians that at one point, local sales of Inca Kola actually outstripped fizzy drink giant Coca Cola!

Not enjoying the feeling of being left outside in the cold, Coca Cola struck up a deal with the owners of Inca Kola. Under this agreement, the Inca Kola Corporation would remain the sole owner of the trademark outside of Peru. However, in the motherland, they would team up with Coca Cola to produce the drink in partnership. 

Well if you can’t beat them, all that’s left to do is join them!

You’ll find Inca Kola advertisements everywhere in Peru!

8. The national animal of Peru is the vicuña

Due to their abundance in Peru, it would be fair to assume that alpacas are Peru’snational animal – especially when you see them adorned in brightly coloured bells and ribbons in every town and city! However, it’s actually the vicuña, a close cousin of the alpaca, that takes this accolade. 

This undomesticated animal looks similar to a llama, however, it is much smaller and sleeker. Appearing on the flag of Peru, the vicuña is best known for its soft wool which fetches hefty prices. As the most expensive wool in the world, you can expect to pay thousands of dollars for a jumper. We’ll stick to our baby alpaca market knock offs, thanks very much. 

Vicuna and Alpaca
Vicuña enjoying the serenity.

9. There are real rainbow mountains in Peru

You may have seen the colourful snapshots of tourists at Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain on Instagram. However, this is just one of many rainbow mountains in Peru! While it is true that the saturation on these photos is nearly always turned up, these Rainbow Mountains still need to be seen to be believed. 

Getting their colour from the variety of minerals that form them, Peru’s Red Valley and surrounding rainbow mountains are a must-see for any visitor to the country. Be warned though, the most famous mountain Vinicunca is a popular spot which you are unlikely to get to yourself. 

Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain sees far fewer tourists and offers a much more chilled, quiet experience. If the ‘Mountain of Colours’ is on your bucket list, bear in mind that all of these spots are located at extremely high altitudes and allow yourself time to acclimatise. 

Still not sure which rainbow mountain to choose? Check out our guide: Palccoyo vs Vinicunca.

Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain
Posing at the amazing Rainbow Mountain!

10. Peruvian Inca Orchid dogs are usually hairless

If you’ve visited Peru in the past, you may be familiar with this hairless dog. Usually ranging from black to a pinkish colour, these dogs nearly always have no hair. When hair does appear, it tends to form a cool looking mohawk on their heads or covers the tail and feet area. Now and then, a Peruvian Inca Orchid is born with hair but this is not the norm! 

Dating back to pre-Incan times, it is thought that these dogs were first used as hunters. However, once the Incas took power, it has been suggested that royalty used the dogs as bed warmers. Even though the body temperature of the Peruvian Inca Orchid is no higher than a normal dog, the hairless skin radiates heat, essentially turning them into a big hot water bottle! Who needs a microwave bear, hey? 

Peruvian Hairless Dog
What do you think? Are they cute?

11. People live on floating reed islands in Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia. It is a hugely touristy area and everyday travellers head there to check out the islands just off the coast.

One of the most popular day tours is a trip to the Uros floating islands. Made from totora reeds, these manmade islands were originally constructed to provide a safe haven to their inhabitants. Living on islands in the lake meant they would be able to easily flee if incomers pursued them.  

Although many assume that these islands are a throwback to a bygone time, this is not actually the case. The residents of Uros have televisions, solar panels and even mobile phones! 

Uros Islands
The Uro or Uros people live across 120 self-made floating islands!

Read more: Breathtaking islands in South America.

12. Ceviche is the national dish

Raw fish cured with lime juice and salt? It might not sound super appealing but we guarantee that it won’t be long before you’re eating it! Ceviche is a wonderfully simple dish, consisting of raw fish, lime juice, chilli peppers, onions and coriander.

There has long been debate as to the origin of ceviche but despite it being a favoured dish by the Peruvians, it looks like it originated in Ecuador. Easily the dish that Peru is most famous for, ceviche has gone global and can now be found all over the world. 

Best Street Food to Try in South America
In Peru, ceviche is served with slices of cold sweet potatoes and lots of fresh lime.

13. Machu Picchu is home to an astronomical observator

Although this ancient site of Machu Picchu is considered to be the main ‘must-do’ activity when visiting Peru, surprisingly few people know what purpose this area would have served in the time of the Incas. Luckily for you dear reader, we’re about to fill you in! 

Archaeologists believe that the Machu Picchu site was fit to serve a number of purposes. Partly a consecrated ceremonial site, the area also housed an agricultural centre and even an observatory. The evidence for the latter comes in the form of the sacred Intihuatana stone. This ritual stone indicates the two equinoxes. On these occasions, the sun sits directly above the stone, forming no shadow. 

The views of Machu Picchu are worth every step to the top.

14. The largest flying bird lives in Peru

Although the Andean Condor can be found in various countries throughout South America, Peru is arguably one of the best places to see it in the wild. Considered to be the world’s largest flying bird (when taking into account a combined measurement of wingspan and weight), this epic creature can be seen soaring through the skies across the country.

Sadly, this magical bird has been classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Because it is a scavenger, it regularly suffers secondary poisoning by eating infected carcasses killed by hunters. Loss of habitat is also a serious contributor to its decline. 

Andean Condors
Andean condors have excellent eyesight because they are scavengers.

15. The Incas created the first-ever census

Back in the 1400s, the Incas didn’t have a written language. As a result, they used knots to record information. This ingenious record-keeping system worked using a ‘quipus’. Essentially a rope made from cotton or animal hair, it was used to make a census of the population. 

Using different size and coloured quipu, the government were able to record the jobs, property and ages of their citizens by making knots in the quipus. 

Drink in Peruvian cafe
Thankfully, the language is universal when it comes to coffee!

16. The Amazon River begins in Peru

The mighty Amazon River is one of the first things likely to spring to mind when you think of South America. But did you know that it actually starts in Peru? 

There are currently three headwaters high up in the Andes mountains which have been deemed by scientists and geologists to be the starting point of the Amazon River. They are the Mantaro, Marañón and Apurímac. 

Amazon river
The natural beauty of the Amazon River awaits you in Peru.

17. Elongated skulls discovered in Paracas sparked an alien conspiracy

When the photos of the newly-discovered skulls in Paracas first hit the news, it was obvious something wasn’t quite right. Unlike a normal human skull, these skulls were abnormally long, leading some to claim they that were proof of alien existence. 

skull Paracas heads peru
Aliens, genetic disease, cultural practice? What do you think of the Paracas skulls?

18. Peru has the second-largest number of shamans in the world

The old traditions are still alive and well in Peru which can be seen in its shaman community. These healers and shamans have largely descended from the Andean and jungle communities, preserving ancient teachings and culture. 

Shamanic tourism is big business in the country and every year, flocks of travellers head to the jungle to take part in San Pedro and Ayahuasca ceremonies. While traditionally used as plant medicine, these hallucinogens are still very powerful and can be dangerous.  

San Pedro For Sale In A Market
San Pedro ceremonies are an ancient tradition in Peru.

19. Guinea pigs are a delicacy in Peru

Guinea pigs may be a pet in some parts of the world but in Peru, along with a handful of other South American countries, they are considered to be food. This little rodent is regularly consumed in Andean regions, where it is usually roasted on a spit.

Known locally as ‘cuy’, guinea pigs are eaten as a delicacy. They usually come with all the trimmings too, by which we mean, teeth and feet. Eeek! 

Travellers are pretty split on the idea of eating guinea pig and ultimately, the decision whether to partake in this local nibble is yours. However, those that have tried it say it tastes a lot like game with a really salty, crispy skin like chicken. 

Guinea Pig Peru Challenge!
When in Peru…

20. The world’s highest sand dune is in Peru

Cerro Blanco in the Nasca Valley is the highest sand dune in the entire world. This natural beast, considered to be ‘The Everest of the Desert’ is one of Peru’s best sandboarding destinations. The sand dune stands at 3,860 feet (1,176 meters) from base to tip and is taller than the largest mountain in England and Wales! 

If you’re interested in sandboarding Peru’s dunes, check out this traveller review! 

Sandboarding in Huacachina Peru!
Sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru is an epic experience!

21. There are nearly 4,000 types of potato in Peru

Peru is the potato capital of the world! Domesticated up to 10,000 years ago in the Andean region, potatoes quickly became a staple of Peruvian cuisine. While none of us are strangers to this starchy superstar, few of us are probably aware of just how many different types of potatoes actually exist.

Peru’s potatoes range across the entire colour wheel, from yellow to black and all colours in between. They also come in all different shapes and sizes. And the coolest thing? Many varieties are only available in Peru! What are you waiting for? Get carb chomping!

A variety of potatoes for sale at Cusco Market
A small selection of Peru’s potatoes for sale at San Pedro market.

Got a great Peru fact to add to our list? Let us know what it is in the comments below!

Sheree Hooker Bio Pic
Sheree Hooker | Editor @ South America Backpacker + Winging The World

Sheree is the awkward British wanderluster behind wingingtheworld.com, a travel blog designed to show that even the most useless of us can travel. Follow Sheree’s adventures as she blunders around the globe, falling into squat toilets, getting into cars with machete men and running away from angry peacocks.

Find her on: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Sheree Hooker Bio Pic
Sheree Hooker | Editor @ South America Backpacker + Winging The World

Sheree is the awkward British wanderluster behind wingingtheworld.com, a travel blog designed to show that even the most useless of us can travel. Follow Sheree’s adventures as she blunders around the globe, falling into squat toilets, getting into cars with machete men and running away from angry peacocks.

Find her on: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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