Welcome to Peru! If you’re about to jump on your plane to Lima, or on your bus to cross the border, you’re still in time to learn a thing or two about the country. What’s the capital city? Not bad. What does the flag look like? Mm… nope. Well, all that’s down here to help you prep your arrival. You’ll discover also a couple of things about the landscapes in Peru, the weather, altitude and the country flag. And the coolest part: at the bottom, you’ll find all Green Mochila posts to plan your travel in Peru.
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Why visit Peru
Peru doesn’t need an introduction anymore. Although, all things considered, it’s not as well known as we might think. What’s to see in Peru besides the infamous Machu Picchu and a few more old stones anyway?
Well if you’re in awe at ancient sites, Peru has enough to fill your soul, from north to south. If you’re up for some hikes, the mountains are calling; but also the vast Amazon jungle, the sand dunes of the south, a myriad of lakes and the stretch of the coast.
Peru is also a wealth of street food and exotic fruits, colonial buildings and lively street life, Indigenous traditions and history and wildlife and outdoor activities. The best Peru itinerary is one that mixes a bit of it all. So don’t stop at a pile of mossy stones up a mountain; whatever traveller you are, there’s something for you in Peru.
Already set on visiting Peru? Find more travel tips in our backpacking guide.
Weather & Climate in Peru
Few are the countries that are small enough to have only 1 climate, and Peru isn’t one of them. In fact, the country seems to be showcasing 28 of the 32 climates that exist in the world. Not bad.
The coast is rather arid, with very little rain and steady temperatures year round. Temperatures range from 15°C to 24°C (59 to 75°F), a couple more in the north compared to the south.
The Andes offer a rainy season (September-May) and a dry season (June-August), but the climate varies with altitude. Up there, days can be very warm and nights very cold.
The Amazon jungle can be divided into 2 climates. The north is hot and humid with frequent rainfall all year round; the south is rather tropical, with a winter that is relatively dry.
Discover the landscapes in Peru
Peru’s territory, like the one of Ecuador, is divided between coast, sierra (mountainous area) and jungle.
The coast of Peru offers some of the greatest surfing spots within South America and a chilled atmosphere. Don’t miss the sandy dunes near Ica, in the south of Lima.
-> Highlights: Huanchaco & Paracas
In the high Andes of Peru, you’ll discover scenic hikes to pristine lagoons or to Inca archaeological sites. It’s a majestic area where the mountains kiss the rainforest, creating some spectacular ecosystems.
The Amazon rainforest covers the whole eastern part of the country, from north to south. Beautiful lush forests, crazy wildlife and wild waterfalls are awaiting! (Illegal mining camps too, unfortunately.)
-> Highlights: the Amazon around Tarapoto or the secluded Iquitos
Altitude in Peru
The coast and the rain forest are at low altitude, but it gets funky in the middle corridor of Peru. Everything there is at high altitude. When we say ‘high altitude’, we mean the one that disturbs your body, gives you headache and makes you puke. The nasty one.
We won’t repeat it enough; it’s important that you don’t run head first into a hike up the mountains without acclimatising first. Even the most experienced mountaineers acclimatise before every new ascent. And when you ascend Cusco (3,399 m / 11,152 ft), Choquequirao (3,000 m / 9,842 ft) or even the Machu Picchu (2,430 metres / 7,970 ft), we swear you will feel it.
Name & capital of Peru
As a matter of fact, nobody knows where the Republic of Peru got its name from. There are several theories, most of which involve some random local “Indian” named Perú, Birú, Virú, Pirú or Berú. In Spanish, the name is emphasised on the -u and receives an accent: Perú.
The capital, Lima, seems to take its name from an Indigenous oracle called Limaq. Here, like everywhere in the colonial world, the colons destroyed the Indigenous shrine and built a church in its stead. Tsk tsk…
Flag of Peru
The flag of Peru is a vertical tricolour of red-white-red. The red, like in many South American flags, represents the blood spilled for the independence from the Spanish crown. The white is a symbol of peace and purity.
The state flag (the one we’re showing here) adds the coat of arms of Peru in the centre. We can see the vicuña, the national animal and a relative of the llama, representing Peru’s rich fauna. The country’s flora is represented by the cinchona tree (of which we make quinine, an anti-malaria medicine). At the bottom stands a cornucopia, symbol of Peru’s wealthy mineral resources.
Languages in Peru
Spanish isn’t the only official language in Peru: several Indigenous languages are also official in the regions where they’re in use. The main ones are Quechua, that you will surely hear when you explore the Sacred Valley around Cusco; and Aymara, spoken by the people who live on and around Lake Titicaca.
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