Driving Directions Peru

PERU is located just south of the Equator, on the Pacific coast of South America. The country has four topographical regions that run mainly north to south: the Costa, the high Sierra, Montana, and the Selva.

The Costa is a narrow coastal belt that varies in width between about 56-160 kilometers or 35-100 miles. It is mainly a desert region except were traversed by rivers flowing westwards to the Pacific. The valleys of these rivers cultivated for rice, cotton, and sugar cane.

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The land rises to the high Sierra of the Andes behind the coastal belt, whose main ranges are the Cordillera Occidental, the Cordillera Central, and the Cordillera Oriental. This Sierra region has peaks that average 3,657 meters or 12,000 feet in height but also cut by steep-sided gorges interspersed with plateaux. Most of Peru’s native Indian peoples live in this region. On the Andes’ lower western slopes, some cultivation is possible, notably maize and potatoes, and the higher areas provide grazing for llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicunas.

On the eastern side of the Andes lies the Montana region, an area of subtropical jungle and cloud forest that remains virtually impenetrable in some places. To the east and north, the land flattens to form the Selva, a part of the Amazon river basin covered with dense tropical jungle.

Most large-scale agriculture is in the oases and fertile, irrigated river valleys that cut across the coastal desert. Sugar and cotton are the main exports. Sheep, llamas, vicunas, and alpacas are kept for wool.

The fishing industry was once the largest in the world, but recently the shoals have become depleted. Anchovies form the bulk of the catch and are used to make the fish meal. Minerals, such as iron ore, silver, copper, lead, natural gas, and petroleum, are extracted in large quantities and vital to the economy.

Peru is not yet a fully industrialized country. Still, the majority of its 22 million population have moved to urban areas in the hope of finding work and live there in extreme poverty. The late 1980s were damaged due to the declining value of exports, inflation, drought, and guerrilla warfare, making the government introduce an austerity program in the 1990s.

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Peru is a country of geographic extremes. Consider, for example, that two canyons in Peru are twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States. Peru also has the highest navigable lake globally and has some of the world’s highest and most spectacular mountains. Off the Pacific, Ocean shoreline is a trench as deep as the Andes Mountains are high, and the driest desert on earth is located in Peru.

Peru has three major topographic regions running from north to south: La Costa, La Sierra, and La Selva. La Costa, bordering the Pacific Ocean, is a 2,414-kilometer – (1,500-mile-) long desert; it is only 16 kilometers (10 miles) wide at one point, but it widens to about 160 kilometers (100 miles) in both the north and the south. La Sierra is the Peruvian portion of the Andes, a vast mountain range crossing Peru and Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador. La Selva covers roughly 60 percent of Peru. It is the Amazon Basin’s rainforest region, between the mountains of La Sierra and the eastern foothills.

Peru has occasional volcanic activity and earthquakes from the effect of the offshore Nazca Tectonic Plate moving under the South American Plate, on which Peru sits.

The western border of Peru in the Pacific Ocean. Offshore, the ocean floor drops quickly into the Peru-Chile Trench, a trench that is 1,770 kilometers (1,100 miles) long and averages a depth of 5,000 meters (16,400 feet), as deep as the Andes Mountains are tall. Coldwater rising in the underwater trench generates the chilly coastal winds named the Peru Current.

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The Nazca lines, created by the ancient Nazca people of southern Peru, continue to mystify archaeologists. The elegant lines are really a series of over three hundred pictures or drawings of animal and plant figures (called biomorphs) and geometric figures (also called geoglyphs) created in the desert plains on the southern coast of Peru, about 400 kilometers south of Lima. Since the pictures’ lines extend for hundreds of meters, the images are only completely recognizable from the air; because of this, they were not discovered until the 1920s as airplanes began to fly over the area. The Nazca people created the lines by moving aside the desert’s dark stones to reveal the lighter-colored sands beneath. Since the climate there is very dry and relatively windless, the pictures have remained for centuries. Archaeologists have not yet agreed on why the Nazca people drew the pictures. One theory indicates that the images were created as rituals involving sky gods’ worship and ancient astronomy or astrology practices.

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