Physical geography

Western South America, bordering the South Pacific Ocean, between Chile and Ecuador. Total area: 1,285,220 sq km. Land area: 1.28 million sq km.

Land boundaries: total 6,940km, Bolivia 900km, Brazil 1,560km, Chile 160km, Colombia 2,900 km, Ecuador 1,420km. Coastline: 2,414km. Terrain: western coastal plain (costa), high and rugged Andes in the centre (sierra), eastern lowland jungle of Amazon Basin (selva).


Climate varies from tropical in east to dry desert in west.

Economic geography

Natural resources: copper, silver, gold, petroleum, timber, fish, iron ore, coal, phosphate, potash.

Exports: $4.1 billion (f.o.b., 1994 est.) Commodities: copper, zinc, fishmeal, crude petroleum and byproducts, lead, refined silver, coffee, cotton.

Imports: $5.1 billion (f.o.b., 1994 est.) Commodities: machinery, transport equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum, iron and steel, chemicals, pharmaceuticals.

Industries: mining of metals, petroleum, fishing, textiles, clothing, food processing, cement, auto assembly, steel, shipbuilding, metal fabrication.

Agriculture: accounts for 12 per cent of GDP, about 35 per cent of labour force; commercial crops - coffee, cotton, sugarcane; other crops - rice, wheat, potatoes, plantains, coca; animal products - poultry, red meats, dairy, wool; not self-sufficient in grain or vegetable oil; fish catch of 6.9 million metric tons (1990).

A brief history

The first inhabitants of Peru were nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in caves in Peru's coastal regions. Advanced cultures such as the Chavín introduced weaving, agriculture and religion to the country. Around 300 BC, the Chavín inexplicably disappeared and other cultures became locally important. By the early 15th century, the Inca empire had control of much of the area, even extending its influence into Colombia and Chile.

Between 1526-28, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro explored Peru's coastal regions and decided to returned. He did so and arrived at Cajamarca, in northern Peru, capturing, ransoming and executing the Inca emperor Atahualpa in 1533. Pizarro subsequently founded the city of Lima in 1535, but was assassinated six years later. The rebellion of the last Inca leader, Manco Inca, ended ingloriously with his beheading in 1572.

The next 200 years proved peaceful, with Lima becoming the major political, social and commercial centre of the Andean nations. However, the exploitation of Indians by their colonial masters led to an uprising in 1780 under the self-styled Inca Tupac Amaru II. The rebellion was shortlived and most of the leaders were rounded up and executed. Peru continued to remain loyal to Spain until 1824 when the country was liberated by the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar and the Argentinian José de San Martín. In 1866, Peru won a brief war with Spain but was lost to Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-83), which resulted in the loss of lucrative nitrate fields in the northern Atacama Desert. Peru also went to war with Ecuador over a border dispute in 1941. The 1942 treaty of Rio de Janeiro ceded the area north of the Río Marañón to Peru, but the decision was fiercely contested by Ecuador. Cuban-inspired guerrilla uprisings in 1965 led by the National Liberation Army were unsuccessful, but a series of nationwide strikes coupled with a violent insurgency by the Maoist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrillas caused political instability in the 1980s. Another guerilla group - the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) - also gained in strength during this time. However, the 1990 presidential election victory of Alberto Fujimori (erroneously known as El Chino because of his Japanese parentage) over Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa and the capture in 1992 of inspirational MRTA and Sendero Luminoso leaders buoyed hopes for a sustained period of peace. Unfortunately, recent flare-ups with Ecuador over long-standing border disputes has meant the enlistment of international observers to monitor the troubled area.


Population: 24,087,372 (July 1995 est.).


Roman Catholic.


Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara.


The official currency is the new sol.


Five hours earlier than GMT.

Official holidays

1 Jan: New Year's Days, (March or April) Holy Week - 1 May: Labour Day - 29 Jun: St. Peter and Paul - 28-29 Jul: Independence Day - 30 Aug: St. Rosa of Lima - 8 Oct: Battle of Angamos - 1 Nov: All Saints'Day - 8 Dec: Immaculate Conception - 25 Dec: Christmas Day.

What one should not fail to see

Lima: Founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistadores, the caital includes Plaza San Martin', a bustling colonial-style square, 'Plaza de Armas', sister to this one, just a stone's throw from here, where you can find the government house, called 'Palacio de Gobierno'; Lima's main Catholic temple 'La Catedral de Lima'; and the major's house or city council.

See the stunning peaks at Machu Picchu, lie in hot mineral baths of Agua Calientes, Visit Andean Indian Markets and see how native weavings are made in the village of Chincheros. Tour the amazing Amazon river or go on a guided tour of the ancient Inca ruins and sites in the Sacred Valley and Cusco, Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, Pisac and Urubamba.

In the south there is Arequipa, surrounded by spectacular mountains, including the volcano El Misti, and Lake Titicaca.

Main holiday sports

Hiking, trekking, climbing, birdwatching, canoeing.

Main travel routes

Lima's international airport, Jorge Chavez, is the main hub for flights to the Andean countries from North America and Europe, and has plenty of connections to neighbouring countries. Some international flights land at Iquitos, in Peru's Amazon region.

There are overland border crossings between Peru and Bolivia at Desaguadero and nearby Yunguyo on the shores of Lake Titicaca; between Peru and Chile at Tacna; and between Peru and Ecuador at Tumbes. It is possible to travel by river from Colombia and Brazil to Iquitos.

Public buses are the usual mode of transport over long distances within the country and Peruvian railways go from the coast to the highlands.

Frontier formalities

Visitors must have a valid passport but most do not need a visa for tourist visits of up to 90 days. Visitors for other purposes must obtain a visa. Most travellers do not need visas; notable exceptions are New Zealanders and Spaniards.

Health regulations

Altitude sickness, cholera, hepatitis, malaria (in the lowlands), rabies and typhoid. A yellow fever vaccination is essential if you plan to visit the eastern slopes of the Andes or the Amazonian Basin.


The following items may be imported into Peru without incurring customs duty: 400 cigarretes or 50 cigars or 250 grs. of tobacco, three litres of spirits or three litres of wine, a reasonable amount of perfume for personal use.


Telex/Telegrams: Facilities area available at Lima and main hotels (for their passengers) with services run by Telefonica del Peru. This Company run 07.00-23.00 hours. Offices at Av. Bolivia 347, Jr. Cusco 303 Lima and the airport . These offices are open every day of the year. Country code is PE.

Post: Airmail to Western Europe takes up to one week. Postal facilities are limited outside Lima. First -Class airmail from Europe or North America and addressed to PO boxes in Peru usually takes four days, but may be subject to delay. The main post office (Correo Central de Lima) is near the Plaza de Armas and opens 08.00-20.00 Monday to Saturday, 09.00-14.00 Sunday.

Health regulations

Yellow Fever: A vaccination certificate is required of travellers over six months of age arriving from infected areas. Travellers arriving from non-endemic zones should note vaccination is recommended for travel outside the urban areas, even if outbreak has not been reported and they would normally not require a vaccination certificated to enter the country.

Malaria almost exclusively in the benign vivax form, exists throughout the year in rural areas below 1,500m. (4,922 feet). Falciparum malaria occurs sporadically in areas bordering Bolivia (Madre de Dios), Brazil (Yaravi and Acre River), Colombia (Putumayo River), Ecuador (Napo River) and in Zarumilla Province (Tumbes Dep.) and in areas where petroleum deposits are being exploited. Resistance to chloroquine and sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine of the falciparum strain has been reported.