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It’s true that Peruvians are always very proud when talking about their cultures. It’s because they’ve always known that their land and traditions are so special that they feel an urge to show it off anywhere in the world. They’re right – here’s a list is to give just a flavour of what Peru is all about.
The fact that Peru has these three geographical features makes it a country full of cultural diversity. Not one region is the same. Peru is not just Cusco and the Andes, it’s also the virgin paradise of the Manu National Park in the Amazon, Arequipa and its colonial architecture facing a volcano, or Uro people’s floating island in Puno. From historical to active and adventurous tourism, Peru offers many options for visitors who come for different reasons. This diversity also means a great variety of cuisine that uses different ingredients belonging to each of the 24 regions that make up the country.
The gastronomic boom in Peru meant the country’s cuisine got to travel everywhere in the world. Although you can most likely find a Peruvian restaurants in any big city around the globe, there’s nothing like eating a fresh and traditional ceviche or a lomo saltado that only locals know how to cook using products from Peru, like tradition dictates.
Cusco was the capital of the the Inca empire known as Tahuantinsuyo. It stretched from Colombia to Chile, but the Inca chose to rule from Cusco. Since the Incas conquered smaller or dying cultures everywhere they went, they were able to leave their trace in archeological wonders that can be found all over the country. But there is one that stands the most because it beat the test of time…
Machu Picchu is Peru’s most important archeological complex, and was found intact in the 20th century due in large part to Spanish colonizers having little idea a city could be resting on top of a steep mountain in the middle of the Andes. Its architectural perfection and astonishing landscapes continue to attract tourists from all the over the world, making this sacred location the most visited place in South America.
At the same time that the Egyptians were building their pyramids, a Peruvian civilization was busy building their own in a city called Caral. This 5,000 year old city is still standing and is considered by the UNESCO as the oldest centre of civilization in the Americas. Believed to be a sacred city, this ancient wonder is in the middle of a desert just three hours away from Lima.
It doesn’t matter where on the coast of Peru you travel, you will always find a beautiful and sometimes empty beach. The northern region of Peru is known for having some of the best waves for surfers and overall good atmosphere for people looking to get away from technology and Lima’s chaos. Even Ernest Hemingway was said to have felt inspired to write his novel The Old Man and the Sea after visiting a Peruvian beach in the north.
Like any other civilization, those found in Peru created myths that explained their world. Many traditions nowadays come directly from ancient beliefs and some were born out of the culture clash with Western civilization. Both cultures are represented in artistic expressions, keeping thousands of years of beliefs alive through dances, clothing, food or celebrations.
Peru’s history dates thousands of years before Columbus arrived in the Americas. Fortunately, some of it has been preserved through ruins and other customs that can be used to decipher ancient history. Peru is a country where all cultures (including Andean, African, Asian and European) mixed at some point, making its history diverse and unique.
Did you know the world’s best building is located in Lima? This vertical building houses Lima’s specialist engineering university and last year it won the RIBA International Prize for being an exceptional example of civil engineering (and because the judges saw it as a modern Machu Picchu). Aside from this building, Lima is full of cutting edge buildings influenced by the latest architectural trends that continue to modernize the city.
Peru’s Amazon region is home to some of the most biodiverse places in the world and it’s only an hour flight from Lima. Live cultures, exotic animals, legends, a unique cuisine and traditions are just a gist of this paradise that is still mostly unexplored. Heard of ayahuasca? Locals say it changes your life in three hours and that the best place to try it is in the jungle, where it grows. Geographically speaking, Peru is not an Andean country, but an Amazonian country.
The Titicaca lake is South America’s largest lake and the world’s highest navigable body of water. It’s so big even indigenous cultures have built floating islands made of sedge. Although the Titicaca lake is shared with Bolivia, its importance relays on its origins, which are also the origins of the Inca empire and Andean civilizations.
Peru has 82 autochthonous native cultures and 47 languages (43 of them are found in the jungle region). From the Bora tribe in the Amazon, to the Quechua people in Q’ero, being able to learn from ancient cultures and their relationship with nature will give any visitor a great lesson on how to live well and in peace with Mother Earth.
Ancient Peruvians saw certain mountains as divinities and called them Apus. For example, the Ausangate mountain, Peru’s fifth highest mountain, continues to be a place of pilgrimage every year for the Corpus Christi celebrations. A trek through the Andean mountain range is full of unbelievable landscapes, endangered animals sighting and even forgotten ruins in locations so remote only locals know about them (said to be how Machu Picchu was found again).
Peruvians know a good party will bring balance to their lives. Nightlife in Lima or any other big city can range from fancy clubs where you’ll need to reserve a box ahead of time, or in a canteen with live musicians playing old criolla music hits. But nightlife isn’t just a cosmopolitan concept. Some of the best partying occurs in smaller towns, where traditions take over and give the idea of partying a whole different cultural context.
Peruvians are famous for promoting their pisco, a brandy-like liquor, everywhere they go in the world. Listen to them because they’re often right, pisco is worth a try! By now you might’ve heard about the mighty pisco sour. Orson Welles was so impressed with the drink he had 42 in night (don’t try this). From citrus sours to coca leaf sour, there’s always room for a new creative endeavor when it comes to pisco – nothing beats a pisco sour in downtown Lima or next to the beach in Barranco.