12 Interesting Facts About Peru

Peru is a colorful land of textiles, ancient ruins, and incredible culture. It’s also home to one of America’s favorite foods – and an interesting national dish! Check out these 12 interesting facts about Peru to learn more about one of our favorite destinations in South America.

  1. Caral-supe is believed to be the oldest site occupied by humans in the Americas. Its history dates back 5,000 years.
  2. Three-quarters of the world’s alpaca population lives in Peru. The national animal is the vicuña, a small camelid similar to the alpaca. It comes in 22 natural colors and its wool is considered the world’s most luxurious fabric.
  3. Roasted guinea pig – Cuy – is the national dish of Peru. It is served whole – head and feet intact!
  4. Peruvians celebrate New Year’s by gifting one another yellow underpants on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck in the coming year. It is tradition to wear them inside out (underneath clothing) until midnight, then flip them around at the stroke of midnight.
  5. It takes between 500 and 600 hours and up to six months to spin, dye, and weave a traditional Peruvian poncho. Peruvians generally receive one poncho upon becoming an adult and it is expected to last a lifetime. Nearly every weaving technique known today was invented by Peruvians – and all of them were invented by 3000 B.C..
  6. The highest sand dune in the world, Cerro Blanco, can be found in Peru. It is located in the Sechura Desert and stands 3,860 feet from base to summit.
  7. The deepest canyon in the world, Cotahuasi Canyon, is also found in Peru. At 11,004 feet deep, it is almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.
  8. The Incan Empire was larger than imperial Rome at its peak. It included 24,855 miles of roads and relied on a network of chasquis (runners) to keep the kingdom connected.
  9. Soccer player Teófilo “El Nene” Cubillas is considered Peru’s greatest athlete. From 1966 to 1991, he played in 513 games and scored 303 goals. He received only one yellow card over the course of his career.
  10. The potato originated in Peru and today, there are over 3,000 varieties grown in the country. Peruvians like to say “Soy mas Peruano que la papa” which means “I am more Peruvian than the potato.”
  11. The first census was created by Ancient Incas. They had no formal system of writing, and so developed a system of record-keeping using knots called “quipus” made from wool or cotton strings fastened at one end to a cross cord. Each quipus was different in size or color to represent details like crop measures, thefts, debts, and other events.
  12. The Incas were the only ancient culture in the world to define constellations of both dark and light. Some of the main streets in Cuzco are designed to align with the stars at certain points of the year. At Machu Picchu, each sun temple and ritual stone lines up perfectly with the sun for their assigned solstice.

We recently traveled to Peru with administrators and faculty from several universities to experience the country and assess it as a learning opportunity for students. We loved the country, its people, and the culture we experienced. See photos from our trip on Facebook!

Ready to try roasted guinea pig (or maybe not…) and see the “out of this world” streets of Cuzco? Learn about our travel programs to Peru!

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