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Peru: 5 Facts About the Land of Secret Cities

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Capital Lima

Type of Government Constitutional republic

Population 32,97 million

Currency Neuvo Sol

Official Languages Quechua, Spanish

Area 1,285,216 km2

Few countries can boast a topography as diverse as Peru; a land covered in mountains, deserts, beaches and rainforest.

Among its iconic geological features are the world's second-highest mountain range (the Andes), the highest navigable lake (Lake Titicaca), and two of the world's deepest canyons (Cotahuasi Canyon and the Colca Canyon).

5 Facts about Peru:

1. The source of the Amazon River is located in Peru.

2. Potatoes originated in Peru.

3. It was the location of the mighty Inca Empire.

4. Mysterious skulls believed to belong to aliens were discovered in Peru.

5. Ancient Peruvians surfed the waves over 4 000 years ago.


The Mantaro River in Peru has been pinpointed by geologists as the source of the Amazon.

The Mantaro River in Peru has been pinpointed by geologists as the source of the Amazon.

1. The Source of the Amazon River

Geologists have identified several candidates for the source of the world's second-longest river, but settled on the Mantaro River in southwestern Peru due to it being the most distant point of the river's longest tributary that flows continuously.

The Quechua name for the Mantaro, Hatunmayu, translates to "great river", but the official name "Mantaro" may have originated in the language of the Ashánink, an indigenous tribe native to Peru and Brazil.

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Although the Amazon rainforest is generally associated with Brazil, the Peruvian portion covers half the country and contains the highest level of biodiversity. In the depths of the rainforest lies the city of Iquitos, which can only be accessed by air or river.

A potato stall at the Puno market in Peru.

A potato stall at the Puno market in Peru.

2. The Origin of Potatoes

One of the world's most popular vegetables has been cultivated in Peru for at least 10 000 years. Spanish Conquistadors, realising that the vegetable was easy to farm, easy to store, and effective at preventing scurvy, began exporting it to Europe in the 17th century.

Who knew that the humble potato, which began its journey on the shores of Lake Titicaca, would one day become the first vegetable to be grown in space?

Aside from being a staple of the Peruvian diet, potatoes are used as a medicine for conditions such as headaches and skin irritation. Ancient Incas even used them to predict the weather.

Papa a la Huancaína is a popular dish in Peru, made of boiled potatoes mixed with cheese sauce and Peruvian peppers.

Moray is an archaeological site west of the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco. The purpose of the site is unclear, although it's believed the Incas used it to test the effects of different climatic conditions on crops.

Moray is an archaeological site west of the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco. The purpose of the site is unclear, although it's believed the Incas used it to test the effects of different climatic conditions on crops.

3. The Inca Civilization

The Incas established their capital of Cuzco in the 12th century, expanding their empire until they reigned over a population of at least 12 million people.

They cultivated a sophisticated agricultural economy based on crops such as corn, potatoes and squash; while domesticating alpacas, llamas and dogs.

The Incas regarded themselves as the chosen people of the sun god Inti, but subjugated peoples chafed under their oppressive regime. The Spanish, upon their arrival in the 16th century, took advantage of this, fermenting rebellions and playing the various peoples against each other.

But the primary factor in the Inca collapse was the contraction of European diseases to which they had no immunity.

However their legacy lives on in their descendants, the Quechua-speaking people of the Andes Mountains.

Machu Picchu

This secret city, built in the 12th century at 2 450 meters above sea level, is the Incas' most iconic achievement. In the Quechua language, its name translates as "old mountain".

The construction of the city was guided by the stars. It contains an intihuatana a kind of ritual stone — that casts no shadow during noon on the spring and fall equinoxes.

The Spanish invaders never discovered the city, but today it functions as a major tourist attraction. In 2007, it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the world.

The mysterious skulls discovered in Paracas.

The mysterious skulls discovered in Paracas.

4. Mysterious Skulls

In 1928, native archaeologist Julio Tello discovered a mass grave on the desert peninsula of Paracas. Here were found hundreds of strange skulls, elongated and cone-shaped.

Some have suggested that these skulls belong to alien species. As intriguing as that possibility may be, archaeologists believe they're more likely the skulls of an indigenous tribe that engaged in artificial cranial deformation, which certain tribes have been known to do.

Traditional Peruvian small Reed Boats (Caballitos de Totora), used by Peruvian fishermen for thousands of years.

Traditional Peruvian small Reed Boats (Caballitos de Totora), used by Peruvian fishermen for thousands of years.

5. Ancient Surfers

Hawaii may be the world surfing capital, but there's evidence ancient Peruvians were surfing the waves over 4 000 years ago. The act is depicted on Peruvian pottery dating back 2000 years.

That said, the ancient Peruvians weren't doing it for recreational purposes, but rather as a way for fishermen to carry their hauls to the shore. They accomplished this using boats made of reed stems and leaves, which the Spanish called caballitos de totora ("little reed horses").

The country's surfing tradition continues to this day, with Peruvian Sofía Mulánovich being crowned World Surfing Champion on three occasions.

References

12 February 2020. 15 fascinating facts about Peru. Bunnik Tours.

Jane J. Lee. 16 February 2014. Where Does the Amazon River Begin? National Geographic.

Brandon Dupre. 2 August 2017. Peru vs Hawaii: Where Did Surfing Really Originate? Culture Trip.

Mark Cartwright. 15 September 2014. Inca Civilization. World History Encyclopedia.

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